Mike McCarthy isn’t big on lists and comparing one generation to another.
Remember this: “This offensive line, in my opinion, in my time here, has the chance to be the best offensive line that we’ve had.”
That was a proud and boastful McCarthy on July 25, 2014 — one day before starting his ninth training camp.
After the Packers re-signed one of the game’s most expensive right tackles in Bryan Bulaga in the offseason, McCarthy may have been right.
Success and failure is made and lost at the quarterback position. But the framework for that success is built around a quality and cohesive offensive line.
In the final 16 games, Green Bay’s offensive line never changed. The 112 quarterback pressures were the lowest since 2007, which is why Aaron Rodgers was only sacked 28 times last year.
The biggest surprise was easily center Corey Linsley. It’s not easy for a rookie to step in and play the first game of the year in Seattle — home of the most rabid fan base in the NFL. But he quickly was able to not only play well, but he morphed into the leader the unit desperately needed.
Everyone talks about Rodgers, Eddie Lacy, Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson. But none of those guys do anything if the offensive line doesn’t hit its stride.
This is the same line that took the Packers within a whisper of a Super Bowl appearance last year. And now they’ve got a year to grow and get even better.
I’m not sure how much better Josh Sitton can be. He reminds me of the former Cowboys’ road grader Nate Newton. Newton didn’t earn a Pro Bowl invitation until 1992, when Dallas went on a string of winning three Super Bowls in four years. Sitton is a two-time Pro Bowler that has started every game since 2011. Sitton is three years younger than Newton was in 1992 and ready for a long run of consistency.
This team really does have all the tools. The defense got better with the news that Clay Matthews will be allowed to roam more often, and Seattle notwithstanding, the safety position could be the best in the NFC.
But none of those things matter without the benefit of a smart and functional offensive line. The Packers play Seattle, Kansas City and St. Louis in the first five games. It usually takes an NFL team four or five games to get going in order to really find out who they are. Those three teams averaged 41 sacks last year, which is why it’s even more important that the entire unit is coming back.
That means not just a lot more time for Rodgers — who can throw heat-seeking missiles anyway — but it also means that his confidence is going to skyrocket. His first two years as a starter he was sacked 84 times. The last two years Rodgers has been sacked 49 times.
That’s a Grand Canyon of disparity. That’s the difference between picking up a couple more 3rd-and-7s or locating a third receiver on 2nd-and-goal for a touchdown. And it’s the combination of all those little plays that may seem insignificant that are the difference between winning and losing.
Offensive linemen are easily the most unheralded group of guys in the NFL. Many of them barely get any media attention, and even when they do the majority of them ignore it.
But don’t ignore this Packers’ group. In the past, it’s always been a bunch of Misfit Toys, but not anymore. This line will lead an offense that will come close to breaking the efficiency barrier.
Cory Jennerjohn is from Wisconsin and has been in sports media for over 10 years. To contact Cory e-mail him at jeobs -at- yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter: Cory Jennerjohn