Rookie offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga was thrust into his first regular season action at left tackle on Sunday after long-time starter Chad Clifton was pulled from the game after it was clear that he was struggling mightily.
Bulaga proceeded to play some very good football in his stead, leading to the obvious question:
Is it time for Bryan Bulaga to be the starter?
After the game, McCarthy addressed the situation. Kind of:
Chad Clifton did not practice twice this week. He has an issue with his knee. I felt that he just didn’t look like he was fully recovered, so I thought it was important to get Bryan in there.
He didn’t look good today. He didn’t look like he was healthy. He struggled last week through the Philadelphia game so that’s why Bryan played today. We’ll assess it in the morning and set our plan for next week.
That plan should call for Bulaga to be named the starter and for Clifton to transition into the role that Bruce Wilkerson played in 1996 - that of veteran safety net. Yes, an expensive safety net, but a reassurance nonetheless.
Clifton needs time to get his knees right, that is clear. He was overmatched throughout the Eagles game and looked even worse yesterday. Bulaga wasn't perfect but he was an instant upgrade from what the Packers were getting at left tackle up to that point. He set the edge in pass protection and got great push in the running game.
If the Packers are serious about Bulaga being their left tackle of the future - and word from inside the organization is that they are - then its better they get him on the field now and let him work through what will no doubt be some growing pains, starting with Monday nights matchup with the Bears and their offseason prize Julius Peppers.Yes, it could be overwhelming for the rookie - but I get the sense that he'd be more than up to the challenge.
Chad Clifton has a good history against Peppers. Carolina had to move him over to the other side when they came to Lambeau in 2008 because he was getting absolutley nowhere against the veteran tackle. But that was two years and many surgeries ago. Peppers would run roughshod over the Chad Clifton we've seen the last two weeks.
Head coach Mike McCarthy indicated at his press conference this afternoon that Clifton is rehabing today and that "If he can go, he'll go. He's our starting left tackle." My hunch is that this is a coach protecting a long-time veteran who, as Greg Bedard is fond of saying, has a lot of pelts hanging on the wall.
But the right play for the Packers is for Bulaga to get the start on Monday night and, hopefully, never look back.
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