Going into this year’s training camp, Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy decided to shake things up on an offensive line that allowed more sacks than any other team in the league; he flipped the line, switching Bryan Bulaga and Josh Sitton to left tackle and left guard, respectively, while T.J. Lang and Marshall Newhouse have moved to right guard and right tackle, respectively. The flip was supposed to take full advantage of Bulaga’s ability to protect Aaron Rodgers‘ blind side, but a wrench may have been thrown in that scheme Saturday night when Bulaga injured his knee. Sources say it might be a torn ACL, which would sideline the left tackle for the whole season.
This is exactly what the Packers didn’t need. Doing a better job of protecting Rodgers and improving the running game were two of the team’s top three priorities heading into this season, the third being an answer to the read-option offense. Bulaga’s injury impedes progress on both of those fronts, and it sends Green Bay right back to square one.
How do they recover from this? They have a few replacement possibilities, none of whom are as capable as Bulaga. Rookie fourth-round draft pick David Bakhtiari has shown promise in training camp so far, but he is unproven and still learning the Packer offense. Derek Sherrod is another possibility, but he’s been plagued by injuries for the last two seasons and is another unknown quantity. The last possibility would be moving Newhouse back to the left side and putting either Bakhtiari or Don Barclay at right tackle, but the whole reason McCarthy switched the line in the first place is because Newhouse was a subpar left tackle.
Green Bay will still be an elite NFL team this season no matter who is on the o-line. If Rodgers were to start for the Kansas City Chiefs tomorrow, they would instantly become a playoff team. That’s the luxury of having the best player in the game. It’s just that his job will be a little more difficult now.
Tony Baker is a Los Angeles Angels writer for Rant Sports. You can follow him on Twitter at @tonloc_baker.