DALLAS – It almost seemed like a backhanded compliment.
When Green Bay Packers offensive line coach James Campen was asked what starting left guard Daryn Colledge’s best quality, best attribute is, he replied, “The best thing that he does is communication skills.”
Uh oh. Raise the red flags.
Being the best communicator among NFL offensive linemen might be comparable to being the best blocking wide receiver in the NFL. Sure it’s nice, but it’s also not exactly at the top of the list of characteristics one is looking for in a football player.
How about being a punishing run blocker? How about latching onto a defender and not letting go? How about the ability to neutralize a defensive lineman? Communication could probably be overlooked if he is superior at any of these aforementioned qualities.
Okay. Let’s put that aside for right now and hear Campen out.
The Packers are in the Super Bowl for a reason. The offensive line may not be the team’s greatest strength, but they must be doing something right to advance as far as they have.
“He is very, very smart,” said Campen. “You can put a player in the right or left of him, if he’s playing at left guard, and he can get you in the right position.
“He handles a lot of things when we go in silent count. He has to identify things for the center because his head’s between his legs in silent count. I would definitely say that his biggest thing is that he’s an unbelievable communicator, and you don’t worry about him having mental errors or anything like that.”
College, for his part, is a straight shooter.
Ask him the same question, what’s his best quality, and you’ll get an acceptable answer. But he’ll also address his weakness… and expand upon it… and actually tell you more about his weakness than his strength.
“I think most people, scouts in general and even coaches, will tell you I’m a better pass blocker than I am a run blocker,” said Colledge. “For me run blocking is one of those things where I have to consistently work my butt off in the offseason to try to get better.
“I did a little better this year at it, and hopefully next year I’ll take another step forward, but making the transition from tackle and guard, the run game’s probably been the most difficult transition of all.”
Still, there’s value to these qualities possessed by Colledge. He may not be a Mack truck in the run game, but he’s probably average to above average as a pass protector, a precious feature in Green Bay’s pass-first offense.
And there’s something to be said about his consistency, his ability to play in nearly every game and participate in nearly every practice.
“He’s a very accountable person; he’s available,” said Campen. “He doesn’t miss practice. Jeez, I couldn’t tell you how many practices maybe he’s missed. He’s probably missed, I’d probably say 10 practices in five years. So I mean, very durable.”
Colledge has pretty much been a starter from Day 1 in NFL. As a rookie he started 15 out of 16 regular season games. And he’s started all 16 games for past three consecutive seasons.
This current season stands out for one reason in Colledge’s mind, however.
“This is actually the first year I’ve had the opportunity to play all 16 games at left guard,” said Colledge. “I’ve had to play right tackle, left tackle, right guard due to injuries along the offensive line, and I’ve struggled at times moving and moving back and forth.
“So this year’s probably been my most consistent year, and I feel like if I can continue to stay at left guard, maybe some of those accolades will come, and I’ll become an even better player than I will today.”
Despite not being an All-Pro, a Pro Bowler or anything of that nature, Colledge is a smart and durable pass blocker who’s making progress year after year and is also an effective communicator on a Super Bowl team.
As part of an offensive line where he’s only one of five moving parts, there’s room for one of those types of players.
“I just want to be a guy that this team can rely on,” said Colledge. “I want my coaches to be able to look at me and say, ‘Alright, our left guard situation we’re good at. If something needs to be worked on elsewhere, let’s take care of that.’”
That’s exactly what he did during the preseason when facing competition from rookie Bryan Bulaga for the starting left guard position.
Colledge is a free agent after this season, and while he may not be the pick of the litter, his résumé will read “starting offensive lineman on a Super Bowl team.”
And many teams are in the market for one of those.