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Barclay States a Strong Case to Remain Packers Right Tackle

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Barclay States a Strong Case to Remain Packers Right Tackle

Believe it or not, but an injury during Sunday's 23-14 win over the Minnesota Vikings may have allowed the Green Bay Packers to find their starting five offensive linemen for the rest of the 2012 season.

When right tackle T.J. Lang rolled his ankle with a little over six minutes to go in the second quarter, Packers head coach Mike McCarthy was forced to summon undrafted rookie Don Barclay to play alongside right guard Josh Sitton.

Once considered a worst case scenario, Barclay's 2.5 quarters protecting the right side for Aaron Rodgers were more than enough for McCarthy to strongly consider starting the 23-year-old at right tackle for the remainder of the season.

In fact, his performance Sunday against Brian Robison—an underrated defensive end with 13.5 sacks over the last two seasons—ranks alongside any that a Packers right tackle has put together over 12 games in 2012.

Thrown head-first into a difficult situation, Barclay delivered. And what could have turned into an unmitigated disaster ended with an inspiring performance worthy of the Packers' "Next Man Up" mantra.

Any questions about how confident McCarthy would be in Barclay were answered early. On the first play with Barclay in the game, McCarthy called a run behind the 6-4, 305-pound tackle. Alex Green gained three yards.

Barclay's worst look of the day came two plays later, when Robison bounced off a chip block from John Kuhn and beat Barclay inside, prompting a holding call and a mess of a play that luckily resulted in offsetting penalties.

From there, Barclay was rarely heard from. In terms of offensive line play, that's all you can ask for. Another look at his performance spoke volumes.

Barclay's play at right tackle was the sole focus of my second watching of Sunday's game. Here are some of my own notes:

  • On the first play of Barclay's second series, McCarthy again showed that the playcalling wouldn't change with the rookie in the game. Thanks to a bad decision from Randall Cobb to run east-west instead of north-south on a punt return, the Packers found themselves pinned inside the 10-yard line. Instead of calling a run or two to escape the shadow of their own goalposts, McCarty dropped Rodgers back on first down. You probably don't ask your quarterback to throw from the end zone unless there's a semblance of confidence in your right tackle. Left on an island against Robison, Barclay handled the situation fine.
  • By my count, only one hurry could be assigned to Barclay in nearly 20-pass blocking snaps. It came on his third snap.
  • The Packers didn't have a negative play when running behind Barclay. Six of the 10 runs, however, went for five or more yards, including Starks' 22-yard touchdown.
  • On 12 different occasions—yes, 12—Rodgers was able to buy time by escaping the pocket to the right of the formation. On the game's biggest play—a 33-yard completion to Randall Cobb late in the fourth quarter—Barclay helped clear the right side for Rodgers to buy time and find Cobb, who ran a drag route across the entire field.
  • A big reason for Barclay's success in giving Rodgers a lane to buy time was his ability to drive Robison up field on speed rushes. On several plays, Barclay did a strong job of moving his feet and getting his hands on Robison as he tried to turn the corner. Lang struggled with this in two games against speed rushers.
  • McCarthy left Barclay on an island against Robison on a majority of the passing plays. When he did get help, it was in the form of chip blocks from the backs. There was no coddling of the inexperienced tackle Sunday.
  • The play ended in an interception, but Barclay's hustle and clear-out block on Robison allowed Rodgers to step into a deep ball on the throw-back pass. If the play goes for the touchdown, Barclay is a hero.
  • On Starks' 22-yard touchdown, Barclay pulled outside in front of the sweep and did just enough on linebacker Erin Henderson to open up the play. It wasn't picture-perfect, but Barclay accomplished his job in front of the run.
  • One area where Barclay struggled was finishing blocks on the second level. Chad Greenway shed a pair of block attempts when Barclay either pulled inside or got to disengage into the second level.
  • Barclay's second holding call was ticky-tack. The original block was perfect, but he got a little tug in as Rodgers (again) escaped the pocket to his right. Good call by the book, but Barclay briefly getting his hands outside Robison's pads had no effect on the play.

The Packers don't have a timetable on Lang's injury yet, but the ankle was obviously in bad enough shape that he couldn't return Sunday. For all we know, Lang's injury status could force Barclay into the starting role at right tackle whether McCarthy wants to or not.

The Packers host the Detroit Lions Sunday night.

But if Lang is healthy, McCarthy will need to think long and hard about plugging Barclay into the starting lineup on the right side and returning Lang to his more natural spot at left guard.

While young, inexperienced and lacking any clout in terms of draft status, Barclay showed more in 2.5 quarters Sunday than Lang did in 9.5 over the the last three weeks. Overall, Barclay is simply a better athlete in space and has more feel for the position.

Lang, more of a mauler who is comfortable mixing it up inside, provides a big upgrade over Evan Dietrich-Smith at left guard.

The results Sunday are enough to at least force McCarthy into considering the move.

The Packers allowed just two sacks and rushed for 152 yards, the second-most in a game this season. Barclay's play on the right side played an important role in each.

Now, Green Bay must decide if Barclay's emergency promotion Sunday should remain a long-term option. Judging by what Barclay put on film against the Vikings, McCarthy might be hard-pressed to return to an offensive line without the 23-year-old rookie on the right side.

Zach Kruse is a 24-year-old sports writer who contributes to Cheesehead TV, Bleacher Report and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He also covers prep sports for the Dunn Co. News. You can reach him on Twitter @zachkruse2 or by email at zachkruse2@gmail.com.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (35) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

PackerPete's picture

Thank you Zach for making a good argument. I am thinking exactly the same after watching the game yesterday. TJ would be much better inside at LG, a clear upgrade over EDS, and Don seemed to hold up fine. We'll see how that goes in the coming 2 weeks with good DLs on the schedule, but this was an encouraging start.

Tony's picture

Ehhh.... I dunno about this. I must admit, though, after the initial shock and horror of seeing Barclay on the field, he did hold his own. He deserves the praise he's received. But I think it's a bit early to say this guy should start now. If Lang is healthy, he needs to be the RT, especially with the upcoming opponents. But, it was good to see these UDFAs can step in and contribute, so that's good. But I dunno if this guy's capable of starting for the long haul.

Mark's picture

Totally disagree, he had help the whole game. Anyone looks good when a TE/RB/FB is helping you block.

Watch the film and see how the motioned a TE/RB to that side once he came in.

When and if he plays a full game solo and handles the DE then you can say" hey this guy should start"

Right now he is a fill in player nothing more.

Zach Kruse's picture

We must have been watching different games then. The majority of the time, Barclay was blocking Brian Robison with zero help. Only on a handful of snaps did a back double or provide a chip.

some guy's picture

i've watched the game film a couple of times and I think you both have arguments.

Barclay struggled at times and did get plenty of help. he also had his good moments, especially on running plays.

FYI the big play where Rodgers found Cobb rolling to his right was all about the Chip Finley got on Robison. Finley, not Barclay, put him on the ground and cleared out the side.

I'm not sold on Barclay yet, but i'm not sure if its better to keep Lang at Tackle or move him to his natural position to strengthen the inside. tough call

Barclay had a nice block alone on a 3rd and 9 to Finley for a big first down early in the third.

Overall, good analysis Zach.

PackerPete's picture

Mark: Both McCarthy and Rodgers said that the Packers didn't have to change their play-calling at all. I think that says it all. I also didn't see that he received much help. In any way, I am not saying that he is the answer at RT, but from what I saw yesterday, I have to say the OL looked better with Don in at RT than with TJ Lang. TJ is also clearly better inside.

RC Packer Fan's picture

To me while looking at it you have to look at it like this. Is Barclay better then EDS? I say yes. Lang is better inside then out, and if you need to help someone in protection, its easier to protect a Tackle then Guard.
I just think moving Lang back to Guard it keeps your starters together at 4 position from the start of the year. only RT has changed and you can put a TE or put your RB on that side to help in protection.

Mel's picture

Plus you got a guy who probably has zero or very little first team reps. Give him a week with the starters and he will be fine!! I think he might give the packers a chance of moving Bulaga to the Left and move newhouse out!!

RC Packer Fan's picture

Thank you Zach for this, because it confirms exactly what I saw.

I am not a fan of EDS, never really have been. I personally feel that they should put Barclay at RT and put lang back at LG. I thought that Barclay provided the nastiness and toughness that hasn't been there lately especially in the run game.

I was very impressed with him and I feel that the play calling suggested that McCarthy was impressed with him as well.

I would rather put Lang back at LG and then you have 4 of your normal starters in position. 2 positions aren't affected by an injury.

KennyPayne's picture

Whether or not Barclay is the answer at RT remains to be seen. What cannot be disputed is that EDS is NOT the answer at LG.

He was awful for a 3rd straight week yesterday.

Mike's picture

Definitely agree Zach. What everyone also forgets is Barclay provides the offense an option at RT who has two fully functioning arms! Not having full strength and motion in an arm is huge for an OT. I think that elbow injury has contributed to Lang's observed issues in riding opposing pass rusher past the pocket. Lang can compensate when he's at guard because there's less space for a defender to try and maneuver around the side of his weak arm.

Barclay was pretty good, and what was pretty impressive was he got help - mainly chip blocks - on about 33% of his pass snaps (from what I remember seeing, not true stats). I like moving Lang back to guard also because you have four of the five week 1 starters back in their original positions as opposed to shuffling the deck with two guys in new places. Instead of two guys struggling in two places, placing Barclay at RT makes only one new starter who needs help. Unless Newhouse is having one of THOSE games...

bryce's picture

Teams are gonna get some film on him and then he'll start to get eaten alive.

Evan's picture

There is probably some truth to this.

I remember when Bulaga first went down and Lang moved over - I was shocked at how good he looked for the remainder of the game. The offense didn't miss a beat. But in the subsequent games, Lang started to get exposed.

I'm crossing my fingers, though, that Barclay can keep it up.

Mike's picture

Don't forget - Barclay has full strength and motion in BOTH his arms. Lang can be productive at LG and compensate there, but pass rushers can basicall run around him at OT because he doesn't have the flexibility or strength to effectively push them past the pocket. Not saying Barclay will be Tauscher 2.0. I just believe the oline will be far more effective with Lang back at LG and Barclay at RT.

Lou's picture

It was refreshing to see Barclay play well in his first snaps with the starters. What made the entire O-Line better overall was the fact that both backs were decisive and attacked (did not read) at the line which resulted in a balanced attack for the 1st time this year. It appears that this was the plan and if it is practiced and then committed to in the game it can work. The surprise is that McCarthy practiced it and stayed with it which is usually not the case, a huge dose of Cover 2 has made him do it.

I bleed Green More's picture

Barclay looked good to me, will he play next week is up to coach. I did like his play, to me they looked better in the run game.

Bob Tundra's picture

I liked what I saw of Barclay. He looked pretty decent against Robison, a seasoned pass rusher. I think he only got beat once all the time he was in the game. Didn't Rodgers praise Barclay's play when he was interviewed after the game? I think Saturday played better this week, as well.

Tony's picture

Vanden Bosch/Avril, Peppers/Idonije/Wootton, and Allen/Robison again... We've seen what the Bears can do to an inexperienced lineman (see: Allen Barbre). Kind of a tall task, in my opinion.

Mike's picture

Yeah...but I'm pretty sure Barclay is better than Barbre the Human Turnstile. He's at least tougher, both mentally and physically, which is huge for olinemen. Barbre would get discouraged far too easily and become inept for the rest of the game. Barclay got beat on his 3rd play but followed up by providing solid pass pro and pretty good run blocking the rest of the game.

The poster formerly known as Bearmeat's picture

Your 2013 Line:

Newhouse, Lang, EDS, Sitton, Bulaga.

Backups: Sherrod, Barclay, Van Routen.

Not. Bad.

Evan's picture

I imagine there will be a relatively high draft pick mixed in there as well.

Mike's picture

Hoping Sherrod beats Newhouse...

redlights's picture

+1

The poster formerly known as Bearmeat's picture

If a highly rated C is there, fine. But don't reach.

There's enough quality and depth there right now.

Evan's picture

From what I gather, there isn't a highly rated C anywhere next year in the draft. But I'd be surprised if TT didn't pick up a T or G within the first 3 rounds.

Sherrod coming back healthy and ready to contribute will go a long way toward shoring up the depth, though.

Point Packer's picture

Sure, if that ever happens.

fipp's picture

Barrett Jones from 'bama seems to be the top center prospect in the coming draft. Can play nearly every pos on the line. The dude looks really good.

Glorious80s's picture

I wonder what Van Routen and Datko could do? Any information on them?

Clay's picture

Tentatively enthused about this change guys (Lang back to guard, Barclay at Tackle with some help).

Funny how Bob McGinn "called it" with his article suggesting to make the change of inserting Barclay at RT and Lang back to guard before the game!

Can someone comment on the following thought I have had but not seen suggested by anyone else?

Assuming Lang goes back to guard, why not move EDS to center and bench Saturday? EDS is younger and stronger. Rodgers suggested he may be the Pack's "center of the future".

It has been written many times that he is better suited to center.

Would this be an upgrade over Saturday, who according to McGinn overs nothing more than "a good shotgun snap and decisive pre-snap line calls"?

I am just picturing (if we get that far) the 49rs D bearing down on the middle of the Packers line in the playoffs, going right through Saturday.

AT LEAST EDS is more physical and can hold up????

Am I off my rocker on this one? Thoughts?

Mike's picture

Agree, but I think it would take an injury to Saturday for MM to take such action. MM has shown to be pretty partial to vets, especially those in important positions of communication. The thing that would give MM greatest pause is EDS has never made the line calls in a regular season game...

Nerd's Laptop's picture

Ever since the situation with Brent, Ted has gone out of his way to show homage and respect to veteran players.

We've seen it with Kampman, Tauscher, and now we're seeing it with Driver.

It's been something they've done, imo.

woodson4president's picture

Let's goooooo Mountaineers!

Nerd's Laptop's picture

One thing to keep in mind is that OTHER tackles get a little help too from time to time.

It's not as if Lang or even Bulaga never had a guy motion to their side or chip a DE.

Fact is, Barclay showed that even without Lang, the season is not over.

The lack of depth concerns me, but it's not over yet.

steven's picture

Im really want that center from alabama.

Tundraboy's picture

Nothing to lose hell after times like the 1st half in seattle, NY game etc..... Barclay looked pretty good enough to me in preseason and now to justify putting him in.... a lot, Having someone with a nasty streak is sorely needed I think

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