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Barclay Put into Difficult Position to Compete at Right Tackle, Center at Same Time

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Barclay Put into Difficult Position to Compete at Right Tackle, Center at Same Time

When Aaron Rodgers fumbled back-to-back snaps on the second day of training camp practice in Green Bay on Saturday, it showed the quandary the Packers find themselves at the center position.

Rodgers was on the receiving end of snaps from second-year offensive lineman Don Barclay, who only recently has taken up the center position at a time he's apparently supposed to be competing for the starting gig at right tackle as well.

For the most part, Mike McCarthy gave Barclay a pass on the botched exchanges, acknowledging that he's been put in a tough situation. The Packers head coach went so far as to accepting responsibility himself.

"In fairness to Barclay, it's obviously new for Don working there," said McCarthy following practice. "That particular play, that particular scheme, that's the hardest footwork he has from an assignment standpoint, so I'm a little more irritated in the play selection with the rotation. I think it's something I could probably have done a better job of not asking him to do that right now in live action. That particular scheme is something that just takes reps."

One look at the roster reveals the Packers have plenty of centers on the roster, including incumbent starter Evan Dietrich-Smith.

There's two more true centers on the roster backing him up, but neither of them have ever played so much as a single NFL snap in their lives. First-year player Garth Gerhart was briefly on the practice squad late last season while Patrick Lewis was added as an undrafted rookie this year.

The Packers, no doubt, can see the writing on the wall, knowing that Gerhart and Lewis are long shots to be among the 53 players when they whittle down the roster in late August. Sure, they might be practice squad candidates that the Packers can bring along slowly and develop over time, but that does little to help the team on Sundays during the regular season.

Credit the Packers, they're making the best of a bad situation. They're trying to provide Dietrich-Smith with competition at the position, but at the moment, they're are no serious challengers.

"We think Don Barclay is a heck of a football player, and he's earned the opportunity  to compete for starting positions on our football team," said McCarthy. "With Evan there, I feel like he established himself at the end of the year, but we want to make sure we are creating competition, and frankly you have enough centers, so you're always looking who's going to be your second and third center.

"As you know, when you get into the season carrying seven offensive linemen into the game, so all those elements are part of these decisions on who you rep players and how you create opportunities for each player. So Don's starting point for training camp is the work at center and right tackle."

Players seem to perform their best when they're allowed to get comfortable at one position, take snap after snap at one spot along the offensive line. But the Packers––or really any NFL team––don't have that luxury.

While they can carry 53 players on their roster, only 46 are active on game days, and that means they can only have seven linemen active for any particular game, maybe eight if they're lucky.

The reality of the situation is that the Packers need one of those seven players active on game day to be able to sub in for Dietrich-Smith at a moment's notice. Knock on wood if you need, but football is a violent game and possibility exists that "EDS" is always an injury away from being knocked out of the lineup.

A monkey wrench may have been tossed into the situation when rookie J.C. Tretter went down with a broken ankle during the team's offseason program, a player expected to make the transition to the interior of the offensive line at the professional level.

Muddying the picture even further is the job at right tackle being up for grabs, and Barclay being locked in a battle with Marshall Newhouse for the gig.

It's worth asking if Barclay can adequately be expected to learn the many responsibilities of a center and compete for the right tackle spot all at the same time.

Barclay would appear to have a lot on his plate, in just his second season in professional football. But as McCarthy points out, the Packers don't have much of a choice.

Having Derek Sherrod available at right tackle might alleviate the need to cross-train Barclay at multiple positions, but as it stands, the former first round draft pick is stuck on the active/Physically Unable to Perform list, still recovering from a broken leg suffered two seasons ago.

To add one more layer to Barclay's onion, he also might be the best guard on the team beyond starters Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang.

There's little doubt that Barclay is becoming one of the more versatile players on the team in general and the offensive line in particular, but the coaching staff may have to ask themselves  if they're better off letting Barclay settle in at one spot.

Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor of Cheesehead TV's "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email carriveau@uwalumni.com.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (28) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

I bleed Green More's picture

I like this kid, give it time who knows how good he can become.

Mojo's picture

It's possible he doesn't have the proper butt-height or has too much butt-diaphoresis to play the position. Scott Wells, Jeff Saturday and EDS are all around 6'-2". At 6'-4" it's possible the butt-angle is just too skewed for our diminutive QB1. And the other centers could count on their prolific amounts of buttock foliage to absorb any excess moisture. Rumor has it, Barclay has glistening glutes that spray water much like a cue-ball racing through a water slide.

Seriously though, I think he would make an excellent temporary back-up it they can work out the snap-problems. He seems a little undersized and slow outside, but would be a fierce nice-sized mauler inside(either at center or guard). The Packers obviously want him on the roster and any versatility along the line would increase his value.

JakeK's picture

"Credit the Packers, they’re making the best of a bad situation."

Thompson had all off-season to definitively improve the center position. He didn't.... Barclay, Gerhart & Lewis ?? ... Even EDS is a question mark for an entire season at this point.

Can't believe McCarthy is happy about the situation... Two new RBs, flip-flopping the OL and a questionable center position ... Not good at all.... On a team where the offense is the key to winning ... ouch!

Stroh's picture

You don't get it do you? McCarthy and Thompson share the same draft and develop philosophy! Otherwise Thompson wouldn't have hired him. Sherman was the guy that loved FA and didn't mesh w/ Thompson's philosophy, hence the reason he was fired. McCarthy has no worries about the Center position.

EDS had to practice 3 positions for the past few years, this year he'll get all his reps at Center, and Center only. He'll be much better than last year, when he played well after taking over for Saturday.

McCarren 12th rd pick became a pro bowl Center.
Winters 10th round pick, Plan B FA, became a Pro bowl Center.
Saturday Undrafted became a Pro Bowl Center
Wells 7th round pick became a Pro Bowl Center
Only Flanagan who was a 3rd rd pick was drafted relatively high.

Now its EDS who gets his chance. He'll be fine and McCarthy has no worries about him. ANd Rodgers like EDS a lot. Maybe you should trust the 3 most important decision makers in the Packers to make the correct decision, instead of spewing forth w/o knowing what the hell your talking about!

JakeK's picture

Your hopes and dreams. ... I love it. ... EDS will be a good center because of McCarren, Winters, Saturday, Wells, etc. ... Get real. There is zero correlation between how EDS will play and any other former player.... What are you, 12 years old?

Stroh's picture

No I didn't say EDS would be a good center bucuz of the others. I did say he'll be fine and used multiple other examples of Very successful centers that weren't draft or were late round picks. Only an idiot would make it a correlation like you just did!

Nice to see your still trolling for arguments. Try again infant.

Chad Toporski's picture

"Thompson had all off-season to definitively improve the center position. He didn’t."

Okay, Jake... Then tell us who Thompson should have acquired, for how much, and why.

JakeK's picture

That's Thompson's job, not mine.

Guess what? ... I'm not applying for the back-up QB spot either. That's Coleman or Harrell. ... It's a pretty simple concept.... It's called being a fan.

UP-Packer's picture

That's cruel sarcasm. But I can understand. Some of these dudes aren't ever happy with just a fan's perspective. Especially, if TT is part of the discussion.

Chad Toporski's picture

Gotcha. Not your job to critique someone's performance of their job without any substance to back it up.

Whatever... Go ahead and be the ignorant fan who complains about the GM, when you have no clue what his options are or were. No skin off my nose.

JakeK's picture

Gotcha. Just what this place needs is one more poster who thinks he determines the rules. ... However, no problem. No skin off my nose. ... Your best bet is to just ignore my posts. ... Capeesh?

VApackerfan's picture

Mojo, I agree with your butt analysis. I hope these guys are getting their butts measured at the combine to help with future situations such as this. Rumor has it, Barclay has a perfect ass and was known to shake it at West Virginia parties. Question is, can he he shake it at center? Time will tell....time will tell.

Kevin's picture

I agree the Tretter injury hurt us a lot depth wise. Is it crazy to think maybe Bakhtiari should get this assignment?

Stroh's picture

Barclay might have a lot on his plate, but its certainly better than not have an NFL plate to speak of. He simply doesn't have the luxury of being locked in at one position if he wants to be active on game day. So regardless of if its a lot for him, he better suck it up and make the most of it. Otherwise Van Roten and Sherrod might be better options to be active for games. Simply no way to have a backup active that can play only one position.

Al Dante's picture

Not to want to rain on the parade but hey, the Lions are boasting how good Fairley and Suh look and the new kid Ansah is supposed to be a speed demon rusher.
So just how thrilled can Max be knowing he has an un-defined O line, of mix and match players, with not a lot of cohesiveness and playing time together and we don't know who can and can't contribute.
Sounds to be like sack city again for Rogers. Maybe Braun will visit him the the hospital.
I see zero silver lining here.

Stroh's picture

The cohesion still exist and is why both players on each side changed. Sitton is still next to bulaga and EDS and Lang is still next to Newhouse. That maintains cohesion. I'm not a big fan of the change, but while its a little unusual, its not that hard to just change sides. If Bulaga proves to be dramatically better than Newhouse at LT, which I'm not certain of, it'll turn out to be a good move. Improving the most important position (LT) can have a settling effect on the OL as a whole.

Lou's picture

Give McCarthy credit for re-making the offensive line, the production the last two years in regards to sacks and near the bottom of the league in rushing were red flags. When he went to the 3-4 and fired almost the entire defensive coaching staff he was basically betting his job, that takes guts but a major move needed to be made. Lets just hope Bulaga's hip is as good as they say, it would be tough to have a kid that good and all business have his career shortened, it is hard enough to find guys like him.

Stroh's picture

I give McCarthy credit for trying to find a solution and thinking outside the box. I don't know if it will work... Im just not sold that Bulaga will be an upgrade over Newhouse at LT. Not that I think Newhouse is the answer either. I hope Sherrod can return soon and win the RT job from Newhouse and then next year the OL will be much improved and settled.

Jake's picture

I think people forget that we finished the season and walked into the playoffs last year with a patched up o-line. An O-line missing it's best tackle, and starting an undrafted free agent at right tackle. Just having Bulaga back makes the line loads better IMO. That puts our best tackle back on the field (now protecting Rodgers' blindside, which I think is for the best). I think the line has to be better.

Evan's picture

Seriously, you're worried because the Lions are boasting about their players three days into camp...

hayward4president's picture

Let's goooo mountaineers?

Grant County Says's picture

Nice article good insight, don't know if it's Macarthy or Campen or Thompson who should be blamed for the 51 sacks. And the solution is to flip the line (REALLY)! Here's hoping it works (crossed fingers, rabbits foot, horse shoe......). instead of evaluating people fairly. Newhouse and Lang stunk last year putting them on the right side isn't going to solve anything. They talk about getting the best 5 out there playing. Last year preseason. games 3 & 4 Datko was dominating at RT and Barclay filled in for Bulaga at RT and did well. So maybe the line should be LT Bulaga LG Sitton C Smith RG BARCLAY RT DATKO then next one in Lang replacing anyone along the line C G T then Bakhtiari LT, RT then Roten C G. Trade Newhouse and maybe Sherrod for draft picks. Make Lang learn the C Position he could play all 5 positions on the line and fill in in a pinch. Instead of Barclay learning the C he should learn RG. If Lang learns C maybe he could be the starter at C next year.

PaulRosik's picture

I have hopes Datko can deliver to that level. It leaves a lot of possibilities and depth if Datko or Bakhtiari are the real deal at tackle.

Stroh's picture

Packers seem to have given up on Datko at OT. He's been getting all his reps at OG from what I've heard/read. Was hoping he would be the backup OT and even push Newhouse. The fact he's not basically tells you what you need to know about him at OT. Maybe he can turn it around, but if he was good at OT I'm sure they would be in competition w/ Newhouse at RT.

PaulRosik's picture

Letting Barclay train at center may mean he is not expected to be the starting tackle. They didn't go out and get anyone to play Center so they are comfortable with EDS and Barclay may be a backup option with Tretter out of the picture. He may become a utility player who can play up and down the line rather than a starter. I hate to think of Newhouse as the best right tackle but he keeps popping in there.

Stroh's picture

What does it tell you if Barclay isn't able to beat out Newhouse? Certainly doesn't mean he's the best option does it?

Lars's picture

Barclay isn't in a competition for the center position with Dietrich Smith; he's being tried as the back-up center and competing with Van Roten for a roster spot. Versatility.

Mike's picture

I have to say, watching video of training camp, I think a good deal of the reason they are letting Barclay be a utility infielder is not Newhouse but Bakhtiari. He looks to be the real deal at the tackle position, and seems like he could push for the starting spot. I would be quite happy with a line of Bulaga,Sitton,EDS,Lang and Bakhtiari. Backups Barclay and Newhouse. That is not a bad game day 7 at all.

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