The Green Bay Packers offensive line was a concern throughout the season. Not only did they allow Aaron Rodgers to be the most sacked quarterback in the league, but they also struggled for most of the year in run blocking.
The offensive flaws certainly don’t fall exclusively on the offensive line’s shoulders; Rodgers was responsible for a portion of his sacks, and the Packers running backs certainly share blame for a stagnant run game. But as the Packers go into the off-season, the offensive line jumps out as an area that could use a little work.
They will lose center Jeff Saturday, who announced his retirement, but that will have a minimal effect as Saturday was replaced late in the season. Green Bay finished the year with Marshall Newhouse at left tackle, T.J. Lang at left guard, Evan Dietrich-Smith at center, Josh Sitton at right guard and backup Don Barclay at right tackle. The 2013 season should bring the return of starting right tackle Bryan Bulaga, as well as the return of Derek Sherrod, the Packers’ 2011 draft pick who suffered a gruesome broken leg in December 2011.
Though Barclay has been excellent in the run game, it seems reasonable to expect Bulaga to reclaim the starting position in 2013; the real question mark is Sherrod.
Though his rehabilitation has gone well according to the team, Sherrod was forced to finish this season on the Injured Reserve list because he wasn’t quite ready to return. Drafted as the left tackle of the future, Sherrod struggled playing both at left and right tackle. But that was his rookie year. It’s difficult to get a feel for Sherrod’s ability when he has not played a game in more than a calendar year.
Is the health of Bulaga and Sherrod the answer to the need for improvement in the offensive line? Or do some of these players need to be replaced? Is Newhouse good enough at left tackle to protect the league’s best quarterback’s blind side? If not, has Sherrod improved enough to take on the position?
The injuries on the line this year highlighted the Packers need for depth this season. By the end of the season, the only available backup offensive lineman besides Saturday was undrafted rookie Greg Van Roten. The Packers will definitely be on the lookout for some lineman – particularly tackles – in the draft.
Though the Packers are a patient team that believes in developing talent, they do need to figure the offensive line situation out quickly. They can’t afford to waste – or endanger – Rodgers’ prime years.