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In Praise Of James Campen

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In Praise Of James Campen

When Chad Clifton fell to the turf during last nights game and proceeded to lie on the Georgia Dome carpet while trainers tended to him, the prospects for another Super Bowl run for the Green Bay Packers suddenly felt like they had come to a screeching halt.

Already playing their top backup at the tackle position, Marshall Newhouse, at right tackle for the injured Bryan Bulaga, the Packers were forced to turn to first round pick Derek Sherrod.

With Sherrod manning the right tackle position and Newhouse sliding over to protect quarterback Aaron Rodgers' blind side, it seemed as though head coach Mike McCarthy would have to considerably dial back on what he could call from his playsheet.

Not only were those fears misplaced, the Packers' two young tackles were more than up to the challenge of protecting Rodgers and letting the offense continue in its natural flow. McCarthy certainly gave his young guys help in the form of tight ends and running backs chipping the defensive ends, but nothing more than usual.

Which brings us to the subject of preparedness and Packers offensive line coach James Campen. Jeff Blumb, former head of PR for the Packers, stated it perfectly on Twitter last night after the game:

Hopefully James Campen gets some credit this week since he's everyone's favorite punching bag when things go bad.

I point this out as one of the guilty. The line's display last year in Detroit was enough for me to succumb to my base "Fire the coach!" instincts, something I like to think I have been very good at avoiding. (Unless, of course, we're talking about Bob Sanders...)

But Jeff is absolutely right. To have a second year guy and a rookie step in and not only play, but play well enough to allow Rodgers to operate the offense at such a high level is a testament to Campen and how prepared both of them were when called upon. Sherrod especially deserves praise for stepping into a hostile environment after a week of taking, what can safely be assumed, limited or even no reps with the starters, and playing as well as he did.

Was it a flawless performance? Not by any means. And the Falcons certainly attacked Sherrod in particular with an array of stunts and blitzes designed to confuse the rookie. But Campen's charge was more than up to the challenge.

When McCarthy updates the press on Clifton's status later today, it doesn't figure to be great news. But however long the veteran tackle is out for, the Packers can at least know they will have something more than human turnstiles to fill in during his absence.

Comments (47)

Idiot Fan's picture

Even if Cliffy's injury is only moderately serious, I could see them giving him until after the bye to heal up, which means that somebody young would be blocking Jared Allen in a couple weeks. Here's to hoping for continued quick development on their part...

CSS's picture

No disrespect to Clifton, but a healthy Bulaga is an upgrade at LT over Clifton and Newhouse can win most battles on the right side on Sundays.

Bulaga's the best athlete of the bunch and physically the most dominant. Can't see how they don't move him over if Clifton can't go. Hell, even if he CAN go.

MarkinMadison's picture

Clifton's been struggling a bit this year. Kind of like early last season. I don't know that he can pull the rabbit out of the hat again. I think Bulaga at LT and Newhouse at RT for the short term makes sense. For the long-term I really like Sherrod. He handled himself really well. An off-season in the weight room and he will be the best option for LT next year.

ppabich's picture

Bulaga is the current and future at RT. When he comes back, and Clifton can't play, i'd put Newhouse at LT and keep Bulaga on the right.

CSS's picture

As Rodgers health goes, so goes the Packers season. Newhouse has taken the next step from year 1 to year 2, but every opponents best rusher will be coming at Rodgers blind-side for the remainder of the season. Even more so in the playoffs.

I don't disagree that Bulaga's future is as a perennial pro-bowl RT. That being said, as of right now, he's the most advanced player mentally, physically and technically of either Sherrod or Newhouse.

I want that protecting the blind-side until Newhouse/Sherrod advance with another offseason.

Nononsense's picture

I give Campen credit for moving Newhouse to LT and sticking Sherrod at RT even though he hasn't had much if any practice there through TC and the early part of this season.

Newhouse is very good at LT and Campen is smart enough to see that. I have no apprehension about him filling in for Clifton while he heals up.

NJ's picture

Man I hope Bulaga is ready to go by next week. That's no criticism of Newhouse (wow, he did great switching sides!) and Sherrod, but with the Vikings looming large in a couple of weeks we're really going to need him.

ZaphodBeeblebrox's picture

Don't forget as a rookie, TJ Lang getting the call to replace an injured Chad Clifton in the Metrodome against the Vikes/Favre in October of 2009. He did OK then, with his first "live bullets" in a tough environment. Give Campen some credit for that, too.

nunobow aka Benny's picture

Depending on the update on Cliftons injury, maybe now would be a good time to put Collins on IR and sign a backup lineman...

Makes me a bit nervous how thin we are at OL

DAWG's picture

I give Sherrod credit for doing as good as he did, BUT, Campen? Jury's still out on that one, lets see what happens when we visit the queens.
Rodgers has to scramble way to much, and I don't think he trusts his line yet.

packeraaron's picture

*facepalm*

bryce's picture

c'mon dawg, think it through...gee, why did sherrod perform as well as he did in a hostile road environment after a lockout shortened offseason? other than the grace of God, campen coaching and preparing him. get real, dawg.

Lumpy Gravy's picture

Sounds like you're doing your best Randy Jackson here.

ppabich's picture

lol, dawg.

DAWG's picture

WTF-Face in palm
That's the problem w/ this blog, you disagree, and they blow you up??
Rodgers is worth saving!!!!!!
-last I looked!
BUT NO, don't question Campen!-Slowcom! )facepalm(

packeraaron's picture

So THAT'S the problem with this blog.

bryce's picture

lol

spidey's picture

Time to give Tauscher a call to at least provide some quality backup if Clifton is out indefinitely, and it sure doesn't look good for him.

packeraaron's picture

You're assuming Tauscher is healthy enough to play....

Tommyboy's picture

and "quality" for that matter.

cow42's picture

i don't know why, but it bothers me when people bring up tauscher. that dude is so far behind bulaga, newhouse, and sherrod physically that it's not even funny. tauscher is done. he can't come in and play guard, he can't come in and play tackle, he can't be trained to be a backup center - all things i've read people suggest. he. is. done. he's like 40 with the body of a 50 year old. move on. i'd throw crabtree in at tackle over tuascher right now... and i'm only 1/2 kidding.

Ebongreen's picture

It's tough to have too many offensive linemen who can, ya know, play. ;-) The annoying thing is that we seem to end up NEEDING them all to play, but at least Ted and Mike have stocked the cupboard and found coaches and teammates who can get the job done in a pinch.

Wouldn't it be fab if the Injury Fairy took a vacation for a while? Everyone with a realistic bone in their body didn't expect Clifton to last a whole season, but holy Hannah, between Chad and Mike Neal and Nick Collins and the nicks to CM3/CWood/Tramon, it's getting really old - for the second year running.

bryce's picture

next man up.

Ebongreen's picture

True - but there are only so many men. Starting-caliber offensve tackles or cornerbacks or OLBs don't grow on trees, despite GB's obviously-talented scouts and personnel evaluators. Most of them play for other teams - hence, "starting-caliber". :-)

There are only so many Sam Shields, Erik Waldens and Marshall Newhouses available.

bryce's picture

agreed aaron. i wouldn't mind seeing tauscher get a phone call, but maybe he still wants too much $$ or he isn't in shape to play, so who knows.

PackersRS's picture

We still have Slocum...

NoWayJose's picture

My thoughts exactly. Really, Campen hasn't had the title of "Everyone's Favorite Punching Bag" since 2009 (although its debatable that Jarret Bush shared the title with him that year).

Slocum was the clear winner in 2010, and I think he still holds it until further notice.

PackersRS's picture

Well, to his credit, he does an incredible job. It's a mix of being incompetent and unlucky.

DAWG's picture

And Campen

redlights's picture

Newhouse has been a LT more than RT. He became RT because he was the best backup. Now to LT as the best backup, w/Sherrod the next best. I'd put Bulaga back at RT when ready, until then, keep on the track we're on.

I'm only slightly amused at the nervousness about MN. We've controlled J. Allen before.

Fast forward to next summer camp. Major attraction: Bulaga, Newhouse and Sherrod battle for starting spots! That is a Holy Hannah! Lang looking good at LG (except for a few plays), Sitton in Pro Bowl, Wells a stalwart. We're almost as stocked at OLine, as we are at WR.

Ebongreen's picture

Wells is good, but I believe he's also 30 and a free-agent-to-be. With the Packers being devoted to developing good young players and not paying big money for older guys, it will be interesting to see what sort of contract offer the Packers make and if he signs it.

CSS's picture

"With the Packers being devoted to developing good young players and not paying big money for older guys...."

Normally, this would be accurate. Right now, there's no alternative or young guy even on the roster. Wells has all the leverage and looks like a critical signing. A rookie drafted next year starting is highly unlikely (if not welcoming disaster) and TT would have to pay even more for a competent FA center.

MarkinMadison's picture

The good thing about centers is the best ones are available at the bottom of the first round. Sounds scary, but identifying great young guys and playing them is what the Packers are all about.

CSS's picture

Actually, teams have been reaching for the top centers and guards in the middle of the 1st round recently (which I think is insane), and they continue to get pushed up every year.

I don't doubt they take one, it's just asking an awful lot of a rookie if that's the path they take.

Al's picture

I agree put bulaga back at RT and either Newhouse or Sherrod at LT since one of those guys are Our LT of the future

Bercovici's picture

Our quality depth on the O-line and the way it came into play last night brings to mind another team that took a different approach...a team that made the market for flashy free agents while we were quietly drafting and developing building blocks...a "Dream Team," if you will, that boasts everything except a halfway decent front five.

How are they doing lately, by the way? Has anyone checked? I mean, if we're 5-0, they must be at least, what, 9-0? Did they already win the Super Bowl and I missed it?

wgbeethree's picture

Never been a fan of Campen and probably never will but the line is playing well.
FWIW seems that the young linemen who've been successful are the ones who have the mental part of the game when they got here as opposed to the Barbre, Moll, and Giocomini types who have all the physical talent in the world but needed the mental part. Still don't believe Campen can "turn on the light" for someone with his coaching.

packeraaron's picture

I'd say he helped "turn on the light" for Scott Wells and T.J. Lang. Sitton was pretty much ready when he was drafted. He got as much out of Collegde as could reasonably be expected. He inherited Clifton and Tauscher - both the good and bad parts of their games.

Not really sure what more you expect from the guy.

wgbeethree's picture

Wells has as far as I remember been considered a very smart center. Spitz was played because they wanted to be more physical IIRC. Just pointing out that Bulaga, Newhouse, and Sherrod were all considered more mentally ready than physically ready and seem to be succeeding while Barbre, Moll, and Giocomini were considered more physically ready than mentally ready and failed. I don't think many would argue with those assessments. I'm not trying to draw any definitive conclusions from that just pointing it out. Personally i dont think that it is a coincidence but people can draw their own conclusions.

PackersRS's picture

Really doesn't mask the atrocity that was letting an overwhelmingly underprepared Alan Barbre man the starting RT spot in 09.

Not 100% sure it was his call, but baring being forced to do it and Barbre just being mentally impaired, even if it wasn't he still failed badly at his job.

packeraaron's picture

So because one guy played badly, a guy placed there by a collective of McCarthy, Philbin and Campen, he "failed badly at his job." Never mind any positives that may have come from any other position on the line.

Like I said in the post - he's taken his lumps. God forbid we give him props when his guys do well.

PackersRS's picture

Oh, Nagler, you're so cute when you're angry ;)

I never said this article didn't have merit. It does. Lang's and Well's improvement is clear, though I don't know to what extent Campen was responsible for that.

But the bad outweights the good with Campen IMHO, considering the level of competition.

Ken's picture

"I always knew James would be a good coach from our playing days together, I just thought the fruits of his labor would come sooner." - BLF

BubbaOne's picture

OC Joe Philbin should get some of the kudos as well. MM said earlier this year the ex O-Line coach was helping out Campen.

BubbaOne's picture

Aaron, I was so glad to see the headline after all the abuse Campen has taken the last couple of years. Other "whipping boys:
James Jones: when was the last time we saw 140 yards, 1 TD...yes, Jordy in the SB, except he needed 9 catches unlike JJ's 5.
Mason Crosby: perfect this year in FG's and EP's. Very good kicking off and exceptioanlly good at onside kicks.
Jarrett Bush (Defense): an INT and QB hit in limited action.

And the ultimate "whipping boy" Coach Slocum: Improved kicker and punter who both have said he's helped them; better ST play, including knowing when and where to onside kick and having the team able to execute them.

I look forward to the day you write... "In Praise of Shawn Slocum".

Yokramer's picture

That will not happen until coverage gets better on kick returns.

DAWG's picture

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