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Best & Worst Case Scenarios For The Offensive Line

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Best & Worst Case Scenarios For The Offensive Line

Welcome to the fourth annual best and worst case scenarios for every player on the Green Bay Packers roster.

I attempt to take a look at what is the very best possible season a player is capable of producing, and on the other hand, what would happen if a player fell flat on his face (without assuming they suffer a season-ending injury). These are intended to be extreme scenarios on both sides of the spectrum. More than likely, each player is going to fall somewhere in the middle, but every now and then, they just so happen to come to fruition. Think Charles Woodson last year.

I also try to take a look at what these scenarios would be from an individual standpoint and not what’s best for the team. For example, parting ways with Justin Harrell may eventually be what’s in the best interest of the Packers. I’m more interested in looking at what’s in Justin Harrell’s best interests (or worst interests for that matter).

Yesterday we looked at the tight ends. Today we're onto the offensive line...

Chad Clifton

  • Best-case scenario: Clifton sees the writing on the wall and gives every last ounce of effort to a season that he knows he's the unquestioned starter on a pretty talented team. Clifton is effective protecting the quarterback's blind side as he's always been. But he plays a well-rounded game by being an adequate run blocker to the point that the Packers don't shy away from running to the left side of the line. Above all, Clifton plays with urgency. He sees his eventual replacement is on the roster and sees this season as perhaps being his best and last chance at a Super Bowl ring.
  • Worst-case scenario: Clifton is fine ... when he's healthy. Like the past several seasons, he battles through injuries and only plays somewhere between half and thee-quarters of all regular season games. Adding insult to injury, the Packers offense performs better with Bryan Bulaga at left tackle. Clifton is forced to deal with awkward and nearly embarrassing questions late in the season whether Bulaga is a better option for a team trying to win a Super Bowl.

Mark Tauscher

  • Best-case scenario: Mark Tauscher and the rest of the offensive line pick up where they left off last season. They don't give up nearly as many sacks as they did at the beginning of '09. He's as steady and reliable as ever. Fitting his personality, he brings his lunch pail to work, starts all 16 games without much fanfare, and like Clifton, sees this season as perhaps his best chance to lead the Packers to the promised land.
  • Worst-case scenario: The offensive line performs just average when Tauscher is in there. It's not like he plays poorly, but there's room for improvement. Slowly age starts to catch up with him. He doesn't suffer a season-ending injury, but the nagging ones catch up to him at some point, and he must be replaced by T.J. Lang. Unfortunately for Tauscher, Lang doesn't let go of the job. Sounds a lot like the worst-case scenario for Chad Clifton, doesn't it?

Scott Wells

  • Best-case scenario: Thanks to solid though not spectacular play, there's just not a better option at center than Scott Wells. He has trouble moving the pile when he's facing guys like Pat Williams, but he does a pretty good job of neutralizing them. The Packers offense is able to succeed with him at center and that's all that matters. His experience is one of his biggest assets.
  • Worst-case scenario: In what's seemingly the exact opposite of what happened last year, Wells is forced to the sideline at some point due to injury, and this time it's Jason Spitz that grabs ahold of the job and doesn't let go. There's a reason that Spitz beat out Wells for the starting spot at center coming out of training camp last season and finally shows why this season. Even when Wells does play, forget about running up the middle. He plays with leverage but has a hard time opening up holes.

Josh Sitton

  • Best-case scenario: Sitton put himself on the radar last year. This year, it's his coming-out party. He starts to get recognition from a national perspective as one of the best guards in the game when the Packers offense is nearly unstoppable at both the run and the pass. Sitton doesn't give up any sacks, and when the Packers need to grind out the tough yards on the ground, it's him that they're following. Pro Bowler.
  • Worst-case scenario: Middling is a good word to describe Sitton's game. He follows in the footsteps of guys like Daryn Colledge and Jason Spitz who showed great promise and then just sort-of got complacent. No one's going to replace him as the starting right guard, but there's reason to think a guy like Marshall Newhouse could challenge him down the road.

Daryn Colledge

  • Best-case scenario: Colledge proves he's the answer at left guard. He's able to fend off any competition, and he plays pretty well when he's not bouncing around at left tackle or right guard. Able to concentrate on one position, he has the best year of his career. Colledge is a free agent after this season and is able to convince the Packers to sign him to a long-term contract as the starting left guard for the foreseeable future.
  • Worst-case scenario: Colledge isn't the best option at left guard. Far from it. He's behind Jason Spitz. T.J. Lang and Bryan Bulaga making him the eighth-best offensive lineman on the team, if that. He makes the 53-man roster, but he rarely plays. Maybe he's even traded to another team. Either way, the Packers don't cut him. He's worthy of a job even if it's not a starting one. And he has value on the trade market.

Jason Spitz

  • Best-case scenario: His ability to play any position on the interior offensive line makes him a valuable commodity. Somehow he finds his way into the starting lineup and starts all 16 games, whether it's at left guard or at center. In this scenario, it's Spitz that persuades the Packers to sign him to a long-term extension at season's end.
  • Worst-case scenario: Spitz is a valuable backup because he can play either left or right guard or center. But that's all he is, a backup. He's not good enough to beat out either Daryn Colledge or Scott Wells. If he's lucky, he'll get a chance to play when injuries occur ahead of him, but when the original starter is inserted back into the game, it becomes clear that Spitz is just a stopgap.

T.J. Lang

  • Best-case scenario: Whether it's right tackle or left guard, T.J. Lang is one of the top five offensive lineman on the team and is just too valuable to be sitting on the bench. He has a season not unlike Josh Sitton did last year where he gives notice he's one of the top up-and-coming offensive linemen in the NFL. This the NFL where it's production that matters and the Packers aren't going to hold Lang's obvious superiority back at the expense of experience, in the case of Mark Tauscher, or hurt feelings, in the case of Daryn Colledge.
  • Worst-case scenario: Lang might deserve to be a starter, but the offense hums with Tauscher at right tackle and Colledge at left guard, so there's no reason to rock the boat. The Packers find ways to get Lang on the field on special teams, but that's as much of an impact he makes on the field. He's relegated to being the right tackle of the future, but he'll have to wait until Tauscher retires to take over that role.

Bryan Bulaga

  • Best-case scenario: It doesn't happen Week 1, but at some point during the season, Bulaga makes his way into the starting lineup and there's no reason to put him back on the bench. Bulaga shows why he was a first-round draft choice and deserves to be playing. It might be at left tackle, left guard or even right tackle, but the offense simply operates more effectively whenever the Iowa product is on the field.
  • Worst-case scenario: The Packers are adamant about keeping Bulaga at left tackle and he spends pretty much the whole season learning behind Chad Clifton. He sees some action from time to time when it's inevitable that Clifton gets injured at some point during the season, but the veteran gets the nod ahead of the rookie whenever he's healthy. He's another year away from being a factor as a starter.

Breno Giacomini

  • Best-case scenario: Giacomini may have been criticized in the past, but he was simply young and inexperienced. He earns a spot on the team through solid play, which really becomes apparent during the exhibition games. He has a tough team seeing the playing field because there's so many other good players on the team. But unlike a year ago, he actually sees the field from time to time and sheds the bust label.
  • Worst-case scenario: Mark Tauscher and T.J. Lang are obviously better options at right tackle than Giacomini, but so are Bryan Bulaga and Marshall Newhouse too. Being the fifth-best option at right tackle doesn't bode well for a guy fighting for a roster spot. Giacomini is one of those surprise veteran cuts early in training camp that you figured would come at the end of camp at least.

Allen Barbre

  • Best-case scenario: Barbre battles his way onto the 53-man roster. Working in his favor is his experience and his ability to play both pretty much every position other than center if necessary. He rarely if ever sees playing time on offense, but he's able to earn a spot on the 45-man gameday roster by being able to play special teams. His obvious overall athletic talent and strength help in that regard.
  • Worst-case scenario: At any position along the line, Barbre is third-string at best. Being so far down the depth chart, it's not worth giving a roster spot to veteran with no room for advancement. He might be better than some of the rookies at this point in his career, but if he's not going to play anyway, why impede the development of the younger players? Barbre is cut.

Evan Dietrich-Smith

  • Best-case scenario: Just like a year ago, Dietrich-Smith is able to win that spot for the last offensive lineman to make the team. He might not be a star, but he's a fighter. He made the team against the odds as an undrafted rookie a year ago and does the same again this season. He's behind both Scott Wells and Jason Spitz at center, but he may be able to move up a spot on the totem pole by 2011.
  • Worst-case scenario: Either Marshall Newhouse or Nick McDonald show they're better options as the third-string center and Dietrich-Smith is let go as a result. Unfortunately, he's no longer eligible for the practice squad, so that's out of the question too.

Marshall Newhouse

  • Best-case scenario: The rookie proves to be a steal as a fifth-round draft choice, but he can't see the field with so many people ahead of him. Second-string right guard is the perfect spot for him his rookie year. He exhibits his talent by being the most dominant offensive lineman on the second-string during preseason games. No one expects Josh Sitton to give up his spot at right guard, but it provides the ideal opportunity to jump into that spot if should Sitton ever get injured.
  • Worst-case scenario: Newhouse is a rookie bust. Maybe he's worth developing, but if he is, it's going to happen on the practice squad, not the 53-man roster. He's not worth a roster spot when there's backups like Bryan Bulaga and T.J. Lang and Jason Spitz are far ahead of Newhouse as a finished product. In Newhouse's own self interests, he may be picked up by another team on waivers after final roster cutdowns.

Nick McDonald

  • Best-case scenario: McDonald is the Evan Dietrich-Smith of 2011 as an undrafted rookie who beats the odds and makes the team. He's the tenth-best offensive lineman and is inactive on game days, but all that matters is that he most likely realized a childhood dream and earned a job in the NFL. McDonald may be able to earn more playing time in future years.
  • Worst-case scenario: McDonald is over-matched and too raw to compete with the other types of guys ahead of him. Playing Division III football in college is a little too much to overcome. He's cut and continues to try to latch on elsewhere in the NFL, although the practice squad is a possibility.

Chris Campbell

  • Best-case scenario: He's raw, and he weighs a little too much to move fluidly against some of the elite defensive players he's going to face in the NFL. But with the proper strength and conditioning, Campbell shows he may be able to make a 53-man roster at some point in his life. A spot on the practice squad allows him to work on his game.
  • Worst-case scenario: Campbell is the guy that's school in every one-on-one drill during training camp. Defensive linemen drool when they face him because they're going to look like playmakers. Unfortunately, Campbell is cut when the Packers have to make the move to 75 players.

Check back tomorrow for a preview of the defensive line.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (7) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Asshalo's picture

All this positive reinforcement with Giacomini leads me to believe he has a spot barring a complete meltdown or a pleasant surprise on the depth chart.

I have to believe Barbre is cut. He's had his chances the past two seasons.

I've heard positive scouting on Newhouse since the draft, so I'm going to guess he makes it.

Dietrich-Smith got on the roster last year, so there's maybe be potential on ST for a roster spot.

Looking at the depth, theories that TT will trade the loser of the Spitz, Colledge battle seems plausible-- especially if they keep 9 OL rather than 10.

Tarynfor12's picture

Well this is a tough one to get through as it is tougher for MM and TT to make the cuts.With 14 OL guys listed and the aspect of keeping what 8-9,I can only talk of the first two.
The remark about to come is intended for both Clifton and Tauscher.This is and will be the last hurrah for both so play like you know it.I cannot in any sane or insane manor convince myself otherwise.
I hope that this camp gives us a really true sense of who the next guys are in those spots.
What ever the week that the feared injury comes to either,other than sprains,will be the last time they play on Lambeau Field.
To those fans fortunate enough to have tickets please remember to bring the "Thanks for the Memories" banner each week.I already feel the angst of it all.
GOD,I hope I'm wrong.

NyPacker's picture

Personally I feel Wells beat out Spitz for a starting spot because of his knowledge of the line calls. Wells just has more experience in adjusting the protection and calling out blitzes. If you listen to Rodgers' post game press conferences, you'll hear him say things like "me and Scotty [Wells] made some adjustments here..." or "Scotty did a nice job of identifying where they were coming from...." Spitz won the battle at center because of his more physical play. I think Wells shows superior ability to "quarterback" the line and it'll keep him there as our starter.

FITZCORE1252's picture

In my mind, the worst case for BB is that he proves the critics correct and turns out to be a RT and we're right back where we started after Cliffy. I don't even want to think about that scenario.

GBP 4 LIFE

nerd's laptop's picture

IF Bulaga fails at LT, and that's a big IF, partially based on him holding out or "not getting signed on time," Marshall Newhouse will become a player at LT. MARK IT DOWN! Might even take him a year, but he'll do it. We'll be covered there.
If it takes a year, Lang will cover the position in the meantime. Dude can get the job done.
HOWEVER. BB has yet to play himself out of the position. Be cool.

FITZCORE1252's picture

Always cool, Nerd!

And that was a total worst case scenario. See what that would do though? That would mean Lang would have to scoot over there, not a fan of that. I want Lang to stay at RT, and be there for the next 12 years. Just another reason why BB needs to pan out at LT (I have faith he will). If Newhouse contributes, I think he may be more than a year away, especially at LT. When coach was asked about him last month in his Presser, he didn't get a ringing endorsement.

BB will be fine (at least that's what I'm going to keep telling myself until proven otherwise)!

GBP 4 LIFE

andrew's picture

clifton is on his last leg.. but tauscher plays like he has 2 or 3 seasons left last year.. coming off of an injury? you couldnt tell. i think lang might be better off taking colledge's spot.. cause colledge has spotty play.. worst case scenario.. bulaga isnt a left tackle.. he gets moved to right tackle when tauscher hangs up his hat and lang takes the left guard spot... wells is the center.. i have no doubt in my mind.. him and aaron have gelled you would have to be stupid to mess with that. Newhouse could be the LT if bulaga finds himself not fitting in at the spot but he will have to work hard to improve his game since i see Clifton being done after this year. but i think Newhouse is a solid player that will be a starter somewhere eventually. sitton is the man and will be on the pro bowl ballot soon enough. spitz will be the guy to fall back on if an injury occurs at guard or center.. BARBRE needs to just be cut.. let him go stop wasting his time he aint got the stuff to make it as a starter and i dont want him to even be a backup.. in fact i think the reason why ted decided to pick up all these lineman.. is to give them a shot to take barbre and giacomoni's spots on the roster and i hope they do just that

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