The playing time given to Marshall Newhouse in Sunday's Bears due to Bryan Bulaga's knee injury game provided an opportunity to revisit the progress of first-round draft choice Derek Sherrod.
After kicking off training camp as the No. 1 left guard, Sherrod not only lost the starting nod to T.J. Lang, he also fell behind Newhouse on the depth chart as the primary backup at both tackle positions.
Sherrod has been inactive the first three games of the regular season as part of an NFL rule that requires teams to have only 46 players active on game days despite a 53-man roster, a necessity to balance the playing field given that injuries are part of the game.
The Packers typically keep only seven offensive lineman active on game days, because it's extremely rare to suffer any more than two injuries to the offensive line in the course of one game. And not only that, because of their large body size, offensive linemen are generally ineffective on special teams––where backups are needed––for anything more than kick protection.
Still, most observers probably wouldn't have guessed that the Packers' top overall draft choice would be inactive on game days when even a seventh-rounder and a couple undrafted rookies are getting more playing time.
Head coach Mike McCarthy was asked about Sherrod on Monday and maintained he's very satisfied with the Mississippi State product and to suggest any disapproval of him would be unwise.
"This is where we are," said McCarthy. "I think it's convenient criticism, questioning when you go after your first round pick. I'm very pleased with Derek where he is in his progress."
McCarthy said experience is the primary factor why Newhouse is getting the first crack as the top backup offensive lineman.
Despite not having much game experience himself, Newhouse did have the benefit of an entire year learning the Packers' offensive system in 2010.
"Marshall is a little ahead of Derek, obviously, in the experience category, and that's why Marshall has this opportunity," said McCarthy. "It's really in his best interests to keep it. I'm very pleased with the way Marshall played, very pleased in his development from year one to year two not having the offseason program. We've got two young tackles we're excited about."
Sherrod, meanwhile, wasn't the beneficiary of an offseason training program like Newhouse was due to the NFL lockout this past spring and summer.
The offseason, when rookie orientation, individual position workouts, organized team activities and minicamp are held, is when a lot of teaching and learning occurs in the NFL, where most practices occur without pads and helmets. Technique and learning the playbook are some of the primary goals. Sherrod didn't have the benefit of any of them.
The Packers are trying to make up for lost time by scheduling extra classroom periods with the rookies and other young players, getting them up to speed.
"Derek is spending the extra time just really like all of our rookie, young players are," said McCarthy. "We're spending more individual meeting time with our young players on Thursdays and Fridays that we have not done in the past. That approach will not change."
With Bulaga's status up in the air for the upcoming game against the Denver Broncos, Sherrod will see an increased workload during the practice week.
"Derek will get more reps with the first group than he has," said McCarthy. "Marshall will get the reps that he'll need to be ready to play if Bryan cannot go."
Newhouse is still ahead of Sherrod on the depth chart, but depending on Bulaga's availability, it's possible Sherrod could be active for the first time on Sunday.
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