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Key Matchup On Sunday: Bulaga vs Edwards

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Key Matchup On Sunday: Bulaga vs Edwards

Much was made last year of the monster games Jared Allen had going up against the Green Bay Packers. The defensive end pretty much kept his name in the conversation for Defensive Player of the Year by raking up eight and a half sacks against Daryn Colledge and T.J. Lang.

Sunday night will be quite a different animal when Allen faces off against Chad Clifton. Clifton has more than held his own against Allen throughout his career, especially in games played on grass. The last time the two went head-to-head in the Metrodome in 2008, Allen gave Clifton all sorts of trouble. The deafening noise and the Packers continually finding themselves in 2nd and 3rd and long gave Allen all the advantage he needed to make life miserable for the Packers' left tackle. While Clifton definitely struggled the first few weeks of this season, he has certainly righted the ship the past three weeks. Add in the fact that Allen has put up a whopping one sack so far this season and I think Clifton will more than hold up his end of the bargain on Sunday night.

Where the concern lies is down on the other end of the line at right tackle. Mark Tauscher was very limited in practice yesterday, going through only the lightest of drills. This would seem to suggest that the Packers first round pick Bryan Bulaga would be in line to get his third start in a row. While the rookie out of Iowa has more than held his own at a position he had never played until three weeks ago, going up against Vikings defensive end Ray Edwards will be, by far, the toughest challenge he's faced up to this point.

I made a mistake when I placed Bulaga in the "Bad" category after the Dolphins game. Going back and watching the game again, he actually played quite well. Where he got in trouble with Cameron Wake was getting up and out ahead of his pads when pass blocking, rather than keeping his weight back and anchored. It didn't help that Wake kept setting him up and knocking him down, alternating his speed and bull rushes. Poor Bulaga was just guessing by the end.

The key on Sunday will come in two areas, one which Bulaga can control and one in which he has none. What he can control is staying focused on his fundamentals and his game, and not letting Edwards draw him into any of the nonsense he likes to engage in before the snap. (Bulaga addressed the Vikings tendency to talk between snaps very briefly yesterday.) The thing Bulaga can not control is the amount of help he is given by Mike McCarthy. For whatever reason, McCarthy is loathe to use his backs and tight ends to "chip" or help his tackles out. He will on the very rare occasion, but more often than not, he leaves his tackles to their own fate. It can be maddening when its plain for everyone to see that a guy is struggling in a particular area, as Bulaga was against Wake, yet McCarthy steadfastly refuses to give him much if any help.

Sunday night will be another step in Bulaga's NFL journey. The rookie's play could go a long way in determining the outcome of the game.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (19) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Ryeguy812's picture

Keeping his emotions in check will be key for Bulaga. Edwards is a cheapshot artist and excels at getting under the skin of the offense, BB would do well to focus on his fundamentals like Brian said.

Ryeguy812's picture

Oops, Brian = Aaron

G-Town Mike's picture

If this is his toughest and seeing that he struggled with Wake last week. He will be in trouble. Maybe Mike will get his head out of his a$$ and give Bryan some help on that side. Too many times he was one-on-one and was getting beat. I think he will be a great Tackle in time, just that this is his rookie year and the boy is still learning.

packeraaron's picture

You only say that though because TV focuses on it when he struggles. He had plenty of good plays as well. He wans't Alan Barbre by any stretch of the imagination...

lars's picture

He wasn't Barbre, but you had it right re: "bad," Aaron. The mitigating factor is that he has only played 3 games at that position.

Bulaga is yet another victim of MM's retarded musical chairs OLine game. First, they had him at LT, then LG to light a fire under Colledge's mediocre behind. Now, he's a RT. What's next, center?

That and the fact he's only 21 and had only a few years of college experience before turning pro. As we saw with similar players (Rodgers and Finley) that first year is often better spent on the bench learning and gaining NFL strength.

I think Bulaga's a good player, being compromised by poor handlers.

PackersRS's picture

He started at 17. He played 3 years in college... http://www.hawkeyesports.com/sports/m-footbl/mtt/bulaga_bryan00.html

G-Town Mike's picture

Never said he was comparable to Barbre. Just saying he may need a little assistance on that side. I wish McCarthy would play Bryan at his natural position. Swap with Clifton. Then again, I wish Clifton wasn't on the field. . . . .

PackersRS's picture

McCarthy doesn't do in-game adjustments.
He wait till the next day, when he sees the tape, THEN he tries to adjust for the next opponent.

davyjones's picture

Rodgers can help Bulaga out, by getting ball out quick. Hopefully the playcalling will allow for this.

MSauce's picture

The massive problem for Bulaga last game wasn't the lack of chips, it was the gameplan. Here you have a guy in Cameron Wake who was a phenomenal speed-rusher last year but who Sporano would not let onto the field because he was so terrible in run defense.

His strength is getting sacks, and his glaring weakness is stopping the run. Because he didn't really run the ball at all, McCarthy allowed Wake to pin his ears back and go for sacks. McCarthy, who like many offensive coaches seems to strive to put his offensive guys into situations where they can best succeed, put Wake into a position where he could best succeed. He stacked the odds in Wake's favor by not keeping him honest, and its no accident that Wake seemed to get more pressure as the game went on and McCarthy was running the ball less and less.

McCarthy had a great moment in the last game by calling the final sneak play. That was totally genius. But he really messed up by putting a rookie Tackle out on the field, and then proceeding to put him into the worst possible situation he could be in against Wake. I think Bulaga did well, all things considered--ProFootballFocus credited him with one sack, one hit, and one pressure.

NickGBP's picture

I wouldn't be surprised to see Jared line up on Bulaga's side a few times to test him. Especially if Cliffy shuts him down early.

NickGBP's picture

Also, regarding McC not offering guys to help in protection...that has more to do with Rodgers. He said himself last year that he'd rather there be more options rather than keeping a TE to block or delaying an RB on his route by chipping, which throws off the timing.

At this point though who the hell would listen to what Rodgers says/wants? He needs to be put back on course and I trust McCarthy can do that.

Chris's picture

To add to that: The RB or TE can chip the end and still go out into a pass catching route. That's basically what "chip" means in this context.

NickGBP's picture

I know. But as I mentioned that slows down their routes. You dont want to chip Finley for ex and lose him stretching down the field

DAWG's picture

My big worry is Collage, he gets tossed around like a rag doll every time we play these guys-Bulaga, I bet grows up after this game.

ONeill's picture

Colledge gets tossed around on 80% of the plays he's in on. On the other 20% he gets penalized.

G-Town Mike's picture

Well played sir!

Cole's picture

I wouldnt call Edwards a better pass rusher than Wake

Ron LC's picture

Can someone tell me just what the hell is going on with Lang? TJ is now a D line backup? As I remember 09', he did pretty dman good in his first year. I had assumed that he was Tauscher's backup. Erroneously obviously! MM and Camoen WTF are you doing out there?

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