At the NFL owners meetings in March, Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy made it abundantly clear that the play from his offensive line in 2012—especially on the left side—wasn’t good enough.
Just a few days into May, and McCarthy is already making the changes he feels will spawn the improvement he’s looking for come September.
According to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, McCarthy will move Bryan Bulaga from right to left tackle, and Josh Sitton from right to left guard. T.J. Lang will slot in as the right guard, with right tackle up for grabs between Marshall Newhouse, Don Barclay and Derek Sherrod, if healthy.
“I sat down with Bryan and Josh on Monday and I told them I wanted to make the move to where they’re on the left side,” McCarthy told Silverstein. “Those two are our most accomplished and experienced players. I told them about the responsibilities and my expectations about playing the left side.”
McCarthy hinted at such a move while in Arizona for the annual owners meetings.
“We need some improvement from the left side of our line,” McCarthy said. “Our left side and the center position, we need improvement there. We need to get the left side to play better.”
Bulaga, a 2010 first-round pick, has made 33 career NFL starts, all on the right side. He played left tackle at the University of Iowa, but found his way into the starting lineup at right tackle when Mark Tauscher went down with a season-ending injury in 2010. Bulaga made 12 starts there his rookie season, and four more in the postseason, and has stuck on the right side ever since.
While Bulaga has steadied right tackle, mediocre play on the left side has plagued the Packers since losing Chad Clifton in 2011.
A fifth-round pick in 2010, Newhouse has started the last 29 regular-season games for the Packers at left tackle, with varied results. In 2011, Newhouse allowed 59 total quarterback disruptions and graded out as NFL’s worth tackle at Pro Football Focus. He improved slightly in 2012, but still ranked 54th out of 80 eligible tackles after allowing 46 more disruptions.
Newhouse will now get a chance to play on the right side, although Barclay, a 2012 undrafted free agent, and Sherrod, who McCarthy expressed optimism for following the draft, will get an equal shot to win the job opposite Bulaga.
Shifting Sitton—a Pro Bowler at right guard—is likely a product of keeping the blindside of Aaron Rodgers, the Packers new $110 million quarterback, better protected in 2013 and beyond. Sitton has graded out as one of the best pass-blocking guards in football in each of the last three seasons, while Lang took a step back in 2012 while fighting through various arm injuries.
After researching the idea, McCarthy said he liked Sitton better on the left side. Lang, more of a power guard, might be better served on the offense’s strong side. He also noted that positional decisions on David Bakhtiari and J.C. Tretter will come following the Packers rookie mini camp next week.
At the very least, McCarthy is taking a radical approach to accomplishing the guarantee he made for the offensive line in 2013.
“We will be a better offensive line next year,” McCarthy said. “You can write that down.”
Time will tell whether better is the right word. But different appears to be a certainty.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.