When recording today's Packers Minute, I talked about Mason Crosby's early-season success and how he's performing up to his new five-year, nearly $15 million contract.
It got me to thinking about other players recently signing high-profile deals with the Packers, one of which was offensive lineman Josh Sitton.
It's far too early to make sweeping generalizations five games into the 2011 season, but so far, after signing a five-year contract extension with over $33 million in new money right before this season began, Sitton doesn't appear to be playing up to the same level as a year ago.
That's not to say Sitton is playing poorly or the Packers aren't getting their money's worth. I'd still take him over a ton of other guards in the NFL and think he'll get back to being his old self.
But despite what Pro Bowl and All-Pro voters indicated last year, Sitton looked like perhaps the top interior offensive lineman in the entire league last year. And if he wasn't at the very top, he was in the discussion. Sitton was named the NFL Alumni Association's Offensive Lineman of the Year in 2010, a recognition he earned over even the top tackles in the league.
He's just isn't playing at that same level right now, however.
Far be it from me to break down the finer points of offensive line play. There's little in the way of individual statistics to analyze the men that play in the trenches, but there's one statistic that caught my attention: penalties.
Through 16 regular season and four playoff games in 2010, Sitton had a total of three penalties. That's an average of less than one every six games.
In 2011, through the first five weeks, Sitton has already matched last season's penalty total, one false start and two holding penalties, including one holding call this past week against the Atlanta Falcons that occurred on third down in the red zone with the Packers at the Atlanta seven-yard line.
Instead of third-and-2, it a forced third-and-12 situation that the Packers didn't convert and had to settle for a field goal instead of a touchdown.
Are penalties the only measuring stick for Josh Sitton or all offensive linemen for that matter? Certainly not. From here I turn to Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter Bob McGinn, a much more astute football mind than myself.
In his ratings from this past weekend's game that appears in the Journal Sentinel's subscription-only online platform, McGinn writes, "Scott Wells wasn't quite as good as he has been in the first month, but he was much better than Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang. Sitton had two 'bad' runs, one in which he just dived at DT Corey Peters on the back side rather than bringing his feet with him, and a costly holding penalty when he was beat up the field by Peters. He hasn't been as dominant this season."
I can't stress enough, this post isn't intended to belittle Sitton's ability or contributions to the team. When a team is 5–0, I guess you're grasping for critical analysis. But as head coach Mike McCarthy and several players have pointed out numerous times, the Packers still have mistakes to clean up, room to grow and are far from a finished product.
This post is meant to point out a couple shortcomings that hopefully will be cleaned up in short order, most of which appear to be mental, and he gets back to dominating once again.
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