The Green Bay Packers will flip their offensive line over heading into the 2013 season. Left guard T.J. Lang and right guard Josh Sitton will switch places while Bryan Bulaga will move from right tackle to starting left. Marshall Newhouse, who has struggled at left tackle in recent years as many in the media questioned his position-fit, must battle for the void left by Bulaga.
“I sat down with Bryan and Josh on Monday and I told them I wanted to make the move to where they’re on the left side,” Packers Coach Mike McCarthy said, via the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “Those two are our most accomplished and experienced players. I told them about the responsibilities and my expectations about playing the left side. Some of the things we’ll want to get into schematically as we move forward. They were excited about it.”
Newhouse’s team-high 11 sacks allowed surely played a major role in this switch, but Pro Football Focus founder Neil Hornsby raised an interesting theory on what else might be a factor: improving the effectiveness of designed roll-out plays for mobile passer Aaron Rodgers.
In his May 6 NFL Daily piece, Hornsby noted how the threat of the run to one side of the line allows you to bootleg out the opposite way; moving the Packers’ best lineman from the right to the left side could aid Rodgers in rolling towards the direction of his throwing arm. He also presented a table that ranked Rodgers just 25th out of 33 qualifying quarterbacks in passer rating on designed rollouts.
Given how much we’ve seen Rodgers tear opposing defenses apart by extending the plays and throwing accurately on the run, I believe there is credence to the idea that this move could be just as much an attempt to improve the play-action/rollout game than it is to protect the blindside. The Packers made an atypical level of investment at tailback in this year’s draft, taking my two top backs in the class with second rounder Eddie Lacy along with Johnathan Franklin.
After all, the San Francisco 49ers showed Green Bay the value of misdirection built from the run game twice last year.