Putting the Packers offensive line under the microscope

If the Packers are going to be an explosive offense, they must protect their QB.
If the Packers are going to be an explosive offense, they must protect their QB.
If the Packers are going to be an explosive offense, they must protect their QB.

Fail Mary. The Inaccurate Reception. Senseless in Seattle.

Whatever you want to call it, the Packers’ Monday Night misfortune has been the topic of the sports world this week. Did the Packers deserve the win at Seattle? Sure, they did. But buried under the outrage surrounding the NFL’s replacement officials are some lingering issues with the Green Bay offense.

Through three games last season, the Packers averaged 33.0 points per game. The wide receivers were constantly making plays, and Aaron Rodgers had racked up eight touchdowns compared to just one interception.

This year, however, the Packers are averaging just 19.0 points per game through three games. Jordy Nelson and Greg Jennings both have yet to catch a touchdown pass, and Rodgers, the reigning MVP, has accounted for only three scores.

So, why such a dramatic decline in production?

Perhaps opposing defenses have caught on to the Packers’ offensive philosophy. Or maybe their lack of a consistent running game has finally caught up to them.

In either case, one thing was quite obvious during Monday night’s game in Seattle–the Packers’ offensive line is struggling mightily.

Rodgers has been sacked 16 times through three games, which is four more times than any other quarterback in the league. Pro Football Focus has only credited the offensive line for allowing nine of the 16 sacks, but the starting line has performed well below league average thus far in 2012.

According to Pro Football Focus, only one of the Packers’ five starting offensive linemen (Josh Sitton) has earned a positive overall grade. The line has featured some pleasant surprises, as well as some major disappointments. Left tackle Marshall Newhouse has been solid in pass protection, while right tackle Bryan Bulaga has struggled in every area.

Let’s take a closer look at the Packers’ offensive line through three games. The five linemen are ranked 1-5, from best to worst, by their overall grade according to Pro Football Focus through three games.

(All stats include players who have played at least 75% of their team’s offensive snaps.)

1) RG Josh Sitton: 0 sacks allowed, 3 QB hurries

*Ranks 11th among 52 guards, (+4.3 overall, +3.6 pass blocking, +0.8 run blocking)

2) LT Marshall Newhouse: 3 sacks allowed, 3 QB hurries

*Ranks 27th among 48 tackles, (-0.3 overall, +3.0 pass blocking, -3.8 run blocking)

3) LG T.J. Lang: 2 sacks allowed, 3 QB hurries

*Ranks 35th among 52 guards, (-2.2 overall, -0.9 pass blocking, -0.2 run blocking)

4) C Jeff Saturday: 1 sack allowed, 2 QB hurries

*Ranks 24th among 27 centers. (-3.5 overall, -0.1 pass blocking, -3.5 run blocking)

5) RT Bryan Bulaga: 3 sacks allowed, 12 QB hurries

*Ranks 44th among 48 tackles, (-8.3 overall, -6.0 pass blocking, -1.8 run blocking)

As you can see, every offensive linemen other than Sitton has allowed a sack this season. Bulaga’s performance thus far has been perplexing, considering he ranked 8th among 56 offensive tackles last season. Suddenly, the coaching staff’s decision not to move Bulaga to Rodgers’s blindside looks pretty darn smart.

The Seahawks sacked Rodgers eight times in the first half on Monday Night. And although Rodgers certainly deserves partial blame for at least a couple of those sacks, eight is simply too many sacks for an offensive line to allow in 30 minutes of play.

Green Bay has faced three stout defenses to start the season in San Francisco, Chicago and Seattle. Each team plays a physical brand of football, which has clearly frustrated the Packers and their spread attack.

While the Packers try to bust out of their current funk on offense, the schedule pays them a favor this week in the New Orleans Saints. Through three games, the Saints’ defense is giving up an average of 34 points per game, while opposing quarterbacks have combined for a passer rating of 101.2.

Defensive ends Cameron Jordan and Will Smith will certainly test the Packers’ offensive line this week, but the Saints’ six sacks rank just 18th in the NFL. Pass rushing specialist Junior Galette leads New Orleans with two sacks on the season.

On paper, this Sunday figures to be the day the Packers’ offense gets back on track. Unless, of course, the quarterback is on his back.


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Marques is a Journalism student, serving as the Sports Editor of UW-Green Bay\'s campus newspaper The Fourth Estate and a Packers writer at Jersey Al\'s AllGBP.com. Follow Marques on Twitter @MJEversoll.


18 thoughts on “Putting the Packers offensive line under the microscope

  1. According to one Bob McGinn…Rons BFF..only kidding…the protection time on the sacks are as follows:
    Is this indictative more of OL or coverage against the WRs or Rodgers regression to 09′..holding on.

    Last year we gave opposing QBs this much time and got chewed up,we are afforded the same and get chewed up.

    To place a blame on anyone position is wrong at the moment but if these protection times are correct,the OL is off the hook as a main reason.

    1. 8 sacks doesn’t get them off the hook. Looking at the time of sack is a limited analysis.

      Even if there were coverage sacks and sacks that were Rodgers’ fault, 8 sacks is way too much. 14 sacks in 3 games, 4 more than any other team, is too much.

      ProFootballFocus has rated every Packers’ OL negatively, both in run and pass, except for Josh Sitton. Don’t remember where I saw it (you can only see it with Premium on PFF) so I can’t link it…

      Granted, their system is highly subjective. But it’s more than judging a problem by time elapsed.

      1. I didn’t say the OL is off the hook,just not the main reason.
        The OL is playing in a negative rating,so are the WRs is getting open,route running,so is Rodgers holding the ball,so is MM with play calling…it’s not just the OL and the bulk of the problem shouldn’t fall on them.

        1. This is 100% correct. Like most issues, there’s nuance as to the ‘why’. McGinn put 2.5 of those sacks on Rodgers, I thought it was 3.

          McCarthy bears responsibility along with Rodgers audibles from run, too.

          The tackles, specifically Bulaga, have no excuse to get beat inside by a speed rusher. Outside, it happens. Inside, no way in hell should a guy like Irvin withstand his initial punch off the snap to do so.

          This offense will click against the Saints, but I hope the staff and Rodgers don’t get too much false bravado should they lay 30 on an awful defense. Not looking past the Saints as a win, they’ll be desperate. But it’s also a great personnel matchup where the Packers can play their spread game and win.

          The Houston game is really going to show if McCarthy and Rodgers are willing to adjust to a 60 minute game where you’re forced to chip away at a condensed field.

          1. If the Packers get handled like they have in the first 3 games on offense against the Texans then I think the Packers are in a world of hurt. It’s just painful to watch and I’m really hoping part of it has been the way the replacement refs have allowed defenses to play the Packers.

  2. I certainly think that Rodgers was holding onto the ball WAY too long on some of those sacks. Let’s cut the O-line some slack.

    On some of the sacks there is no explanation for the O-line getting beat so quickly off the ball.

  3. Here’s what McGinn said about the receivers (I assume he has access to the full-field view tape).

    ” Time after time, CBs Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman manned up against Jordy Nelson, Greg Jennings and James Jones and made them look ordinary. The best by far was Jones, who caught five of his seven targeted throws for 55 yards (four first downs). He handled the tight, aggressive coverage better than his teammates and was much better after the catch, too.”

    Sounds to me like lack of separation is a big contributor to the offensive woes and why the offensive line is being asked to protect so long. Seattle’s CBs are very good – maybe the GB WRs will look better against less physical CBs.

  4. Mc Ginns’ numbers – chalk that up to fairytales. 🙂

    Actually the play calling this year is awful. With the receivers not getting any seperation and no underneath alternatives AR has few if any options. I believe the Focus analysis and give the Oline no excuses. It’s time for those guys to play with aggression. They can’t push the Dline back EVER! I’m not even sure they teach run blocking.

    This week is critical a 1-3 record going on the road for 3 weeks is awful. The season could be over if they don’t turn this ship around.

    The fault is entirely on the offense. That’s MM!

    1. I agree that we dont seem to be able to run block. Even with the game on the line, they couldnt make a 1st down. The play where C-Ben eventually fumbled, he was hit as soon as he got the handoff. Running the ball is about ATTITUDE. Gotta want it more than the other guy.

  5. As much as MM and AR might protest, opponents have ‘figured out’ GB.

    Put both safeties 30 yards back, and play press man up front to disrupt the timing of routes. Deep routes are simply not going to be available against this defense.

    Rush the passer with 4 and stop the run with 7 in the box.

    Until MM and AR ‘get’ that they have to play smashmouth football, and playaction only AFTER the run starts hurting opponents, we are going to suffer through scoring in the teens on a weekly basis.

    Look at AR’s eyes – he’s looking long first, then intermediate, then short, and by that time, he’s running for his life.

    Run the darn ball. And short playaction off of that. It solves everything…

  6. Come on guys, the Packers have played 2 Very Good teams so far (49ers and Seahawks), yes I said the Seahawks, and one good Team (the Bears)and have been put to the test early, and no, we are not in Mid-season form yet. But this year’s Defense is terrific, and the Offense is facing exceptional competition and need to get hungry again! Everyone can become complacent, especially when you read too many articles about last year’s offense statistics and Aaron Rodgers MVP stats.

    This loss to Seattle will wake the Packers up to the fact that the NFC is growing up around them at an alarming rate. They got kicked where it hurts twice already, and my bet is that they don’t like it. I am much more concerned about how they progress through the season and how they end up at season’s end.. The NFC is a very very tough place, and if the Packers want to win it they have to buckle up, and play tough, hard football, which they can do as well as anyone in that league..

  7. Kudos to the defense, that was the first decent game they played. Offense on the other hand was horrid. The O-line got their azzes handed to them. Receivers continue to drop balls, Aaron had the deer in the headlights look, still no running game. Sad that we can’t pick up 1 inch for a first down. Embarassing…
    All of that said we still won the damn game….

    1. Did you miss the Bear game? No one had a right to expect more from the defense then they have given.

  8. Don Coryell never changed, it was Air Coryell or flight delayed. If McCarthy doesn’t change soon the Packers like Don’s Chargers will win more than they loose but no more Big Ones. It took a the entire 49er game and one half Monday night for him to get a CLUE ?

  9. Let’s go at the golden calf. No one on the offense is doing anything. IMO, the chief culprits are the coaches and Rodgers. Clemons was criminally slow to adjust to the Seattle defense. Rodgers is tentative and missing wide open receivers. Then there are the key drops at horrible times. But withstanding that, it’s Rodgers who’s game and decisions that have regressed.

  10. The MNF debacle is primarily on the GB coaching staff and of course on AR. It has little to do with refs, replacement or otherwise.

    On MNF AR showed himself to be overconfident at the start of the game, a bit arrogant in fact, based on that smug smile he displayed. As the game went on he was astounded, shocked maybe, by not being able to hit his receivers even though they were in single coverage, a fact that reflected clearly to his lack of lack of respect for the team he was playing.

    I’d say the GB coaches needs to do a better job of mentally preparing the team and especially the QB, and to make sure they do not underestimate any other team regardless of what the prognosticators say.

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