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Brian Guteunst offers admiration for Packers' imperfect OG group

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Brian Guteunst offers admiration for Packers' imperfect OG group

-- The interior of the offensive line for the Green Bay Packers is far from being anything close to stabilized, and that may be addressed in the coming months.

The Packers haven't had a true starter at right guard since T.J. Lang left for free agency to sign with the Detroit Lions in 2017. They were able to squeeze one serviceable year out of Jahri Evans before he, too, hit the market. He has yet to play for another team or even retired, now that he's 35.

Since then, Justin McCray has mostly filled in before Byron Bell took the reins in 2018. Both alternated, offering not even the slightest glimpse of consistency in the interior of an offensive line whose responsibility is to protect one of the league's most prized quarterbacks.

On top of the state of flux, the left guard position wasn't much better in 2018. Lane Taylor wasn't at full health and struggled until late in the season -- a rarity given how well he's played in the last two years after succeeding Josh Sitton, who the Packers released on final cut-down day in 2016.

Players like McCray and Bell, both capable of playing multiple positions on the offensive line, have epitomized the strength of most linemen in Green Bay over the last several years.

While Ted Thompson was the Packers' general manager -- and before he was succeeded by Brian Gutekunst -- he hit on mid-round gems such as centers Corey Linsley and J.C. Tretter, Sitton, Lang and All-Pro tackle David Bakhtiari.

The Packers also had James Campen as their offensive line coach for 12 seasons, but he wasn't retained under new head coach Matt LaFleur's staff. Instead, he ventured to Cleveland to become the Browns' associate head coach as well as coach their offensive line.

One of Campen's biggest strengths was getting players in the habit of mastering multiple positions in the event of emergency. Backup guard Lucas Patrick, McCray and famously Don Barclay all have demonstrated the ability to step into various positions when needed. Adam Stenavich, the new line coach, will likely continue the tradition of cross-training this group.

"I don't know if there's any philosophy behind it," Gutekunst told Michael Cohen of The Athletic at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. "I think obviously in college, a lot of times your best offensive linemen are playing tackle, right? So, therefore, I think it's just kind of the way the college world feeds into the National Football League."

Somewhat compensating for the loss of Campen and the replacement of Thompson to a senior advisor position, the Packers brought aboard national scout Milt Hendrickson from the Baltimore Ravens this week. His forte was drafting offensive linemen with the Ravens, expertise he'll likely bring to the Packers. His new title is the team's director of football operations, previously held by Eliot Wolf.

Despite the entirety of the retooling process -- both in the coaching staff and in terms of roster building -- Gutekunst was adamant of his admiration for the Packers' current group at guard. Still, it didn't completely sound as if he'd rule out targeting one of the top guard prospects in April's draft.

"I think they have a chance to really solidify that spot along with Alex Light and some other guys that are competing," Gutekunst said. "I like our group. I like the way they compete. We're always looking to get better and add, but I like that group."

Some of the deficiencies up front led to quarterback Aaron Rodgers being sacked 49 times, his most since 2012 when he was brought down 51 times. While a lot of those breakdowns could simply be communication lost in translation just as possibly as they could be Rodgers hanging onto the ball for too long, as he's typically done, but either way, the descent is obvious.

If Taylor is able to recuperate fully before the start of the offseason program over a month following the draft, it'd prevent the Packers from feeling the need to upgrade both positions, whether through the draft or free agency. They'll have options.

"Lane Taylor has obviously played at a high level for a long time," Gutekunst said. "We had a little bit of a notion at the right guard spot this year. But some of our young guys like Lucas Patrick and Justin McCray, I think they battled their butts off and I think they're improving every day."

Taylor and co. will have a new voice lighting their way: Adam Stenavich, hired on last week to become the Packers' offensive line coach. While LaFleur was the Houston Texans' quality control coach for two seasons in 2008, Stenavich was on his staff as a player. 

Options will be there for the Packers if they want to dip into the offensive line with any one of their early-round picks, which wouldn't be too costly considering they're stocked with six inside the first 112.

__________________________

Zachary Jacobson is a staff writer/reporter for Cheesehead TV. He's the voice of The Leap on iTunes and can be heard on The Scoop KLGR 1490 AM every Saturday morning. He's also a contributor on the Pack-A-Day Podcast. He can be found on Twitter via @ZachAJacobson or contacted through email at [email protected].

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (54) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

The TKstinator's picture

“a little bit of a notion at the right guard spot this year”?
Is that some kind of code for poor performance?

LeotisHarris's picture

Aw, crap. Don't tell me Gute is losing it already, please. If he's already seeing "a little bit of a notion" there, it's only a matter of time until he's waxing poetic about the dresser drawer of opportunity, and a small smackeral of whimsy within the defensive line. We're on a slippery slope here, friends.

Old School's picture

Right guard is the least important spot on offense. If your weakest link is also at the least important position, that's not too horrible, right?

We got really lucky with injuries this year on the offensive line, because our backups aren't very good.

Just for the record, footballoutsiders.com ranks the O-line about 7th in run blocking and around 20th in pass blocking. They did block well enough for us to have the #9 passing offense, and to be 2nd in the league in yards/carry by our RBs.

The TKstinator's picture

1. I would agree on the hierarchy of importance putting guards near the bottom on offense.
2. I would not say that around Jerry Kramer.
3. I might say it around Cosmo Kramer, but only if I had a marble rye or a black and white cookie on hand at the time.

blacke00's picture

Old School...Please!

What? OG is the least important spot on the OL? Are you nuts?

Do you know anything or does football insiders really know anything about football or for that matter sport strategy?

In any game from baseball, basketball, football and of course probably the oldest sport strategy game, chess. You need to control "the center"! In baseball the most important defense positions (SS, 2nd base, catcher and center field, control the lane in basketball, in chess you need to control the 4 center squares (elementary chess strategy) so what is the most important OL line positions to control the line of scrimmage (the center, and both guards).
Just because someone says they are an authority doesn't mean they are!

mamasboy's picture

What a sappy, follow the script article!

The TKstinator's picture

Anybody order the cornflakes with urine?

MarkinMadison's picture

Damning with faint praise I'd say.

dobber's picture

Bingo.

fastmoving's picture

well written, pretty good article. Thanks.

RCPackerFan's picture

I think Taylor will be fine. He was good but played with injuries this year which affected him.
I have faith that he will get back to his play.

However they have to find a starting OG opposite of him. I still like McCray as a 6th OL. He comes in off the bench as well as anyone that I can remember.

If they can upgrade the OG spot and add a better backup RT, this will already be an improved OL. The backups need to be better.

One player I am interested in seeing next year is Patrick. He has a bit of nasty to him and could possibly be a starter next year. At least a good backup to have.

dobber's picture

Taylor is an average guard playing next to an outstanding LT and a very good C. When the guard playing opposite him was at least credible, he looked better. When you flank that C with an average G and a poor one? Ugh.

RCPackerFan's picture

I thought he was a well above average OG.

He honestly has played really well up until this year. And this year he really struggled but was due to injuries from we are being told.

I get what you are saying about playing next to a good/bad player. RG struggled probably more with having a bad RT (when Spriggs played).
But RG all year was a struggle which made it harder on the RT.

Bearmeat's picture

I agree about Taylor. He'll be fine. He had a down year. You only need "average" at OG anyway. It's like ILB. "All star" is a bonus, but give me a premium position over OG etc...

RG, however, was a dumpster fire. You can't have "dumpster fire" or you'll get exposed. And we did. We need to fix RG (as well as improve depth) before next year for sure. Gute knows this. He'll do it.

nostradanus's picture

Mr. Gutekunst knows very well that his collection of scrap heap Guards are well below par (and throw Jason Spriggs in there as well). He is using typical GM speak as he learned well from Ted Thompson's evasive nature.

I have a feeling the Packers will draft several Offensive Linemen and maybe a veteran signing also.

Hopefully the kid they drafted last year has had time to recover mentally from his issues, that would be a good start to rebuilding the depth of this unit.

LaFluer knows the Offensive Line is the engine that will propel the running and passing game and it must be invested in, not patched with sub-par rejects.

Gute: BUILD THE WALL!!!

that is all......

RCPackerFan's picture

"Hopefully the kid they drafted last year has had time to recover mentally from his issues, that would be a good start to rebuilding the depth of this unit."

Has anyone heard anything more about him? I have heard absolutely nothing since earlier in the year.

BoCallahan's picture

It’s almost as if it’s politically incorrect or insensitive to ask anything about Madison. We are all simply guessing because nothing has been officially stated, that I’m aware of. We all hope the best for the kid and we hope that includes a long stay on the Packer team.

RCPackerFan's picture

Yeah, don't mention him on twitter to anyone. They will explode on you.

Honestly if he never plays for the Packers I just hope him as a person is able to recover. It would at least be nice to know how he is doing as a person.

packerbackerjim's picture

When he is ready, he’ll let you know.

pooch's picture

Cole Madison

Rak47's picture

Interestingly enough I read over on PW or APC that they're expecting Madison in camp this year. I was somewhat surprised as a few reporters have stated he's old history and we'd seen the last of him. We'll see once camp starts.

KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

Madison is going to have to work at some point in his life to earn a living whether as an accountant, police officer, etc. He obviously loves football to get to where he was at. Hard to envision him not coming back. Does anyone know what his major was and whether he actually graduated?

Swisch's picture

It seems fortunate that Cole Madison is drafted by Green Bay, in that I think the fans will welcome him and encourage him as much or more than in any other place. I like to think so.
He'll have to earn his position on the field eventually, but as a rookie he should get some patience.
Whether he makes it or not as a Packer and a pro football player, I think fans will applaud him if he gives it his best effort.
Actually, it's good to do this for all of our guys. Whether they make it through the end of training camp or not, it would be good if they remembered Wisconsin and the wider world of Packers fandom as a special place where people matter.

porupack's picture

Well said Nostra- "the wall" -danus. Perfect. Anything said by Gute or new coach MLF is just team praise and all good at this time of year and isn't worth reading much into it. The free agency and draft will tell the real story. I agree that we'll see at least 2 OL picks in rounds 2-5 plus a FA.
Can't believe they have, or will keep Bell.

I think most of the Offensive woes will be solved by;

1) investing in, and getting an asskicker RG, plus heir (and sub) for Bulaga.
2) A TE
3) timed and quicker releases by QB

The running game and passing game will then have rhythm and time of possession and 3rd down conversions.

Swisch's picture

In addition to the wall, can we get electronic surveillance to detect if Khalil Mack gets through? Maybe we could send a running back, with a taser, to try to pick him up.

KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

Swisch....was drinking coffee and almost had a mishap! Thanks!

Tingham's picture

Build The Wall.
And make the Vikings pay for it!

Swisch's picture

That may sound a little biased against Norsemen, but let's do it anyway. Kindness, yes -- but not political correctness.
(Hank Scorpio may remember a related episode of "The Simpsons" with aquavit and sweaters and coins depicting King Harald.)

nostradanus's picture

Haha now that is clever and too funny!

byu.tech's picture

don barclay??? are you seriously considering barclay as an example??? rodgers put his career in danger with barclay...
the o-line MUST be upgraded!
we need a T considering bulaga will be released or will not play all games anyway. and we need a great guard and a great back up. TT in 2 years destroyed our line releasing sitton lang tretter...that was crazy! and he is still a consultant...

dobber's picture

I almost did a spit-take at that point, too.

Yes, Barclay could play a bunch of positions on the OL which would make him very valuable if he did it credibly. Where is he playing now? Oh, yeah, he was just signed as 90-man roster fluff by the Broncos.

mnklitzke's picture

Right I don't think we will miss James Campon as he trotted a lot of bad lineman out in his years way more then good ones. To give him credit for Bahk, bulaga, linsey, sitton, lang is crazy. They were players. Would you say it was Rodgers QB coach for making Rodgers so good.. LOL As for making guys learn multiple positions a long the line? Here is the play book, you want get active on the 46 and play? Learn the plays at other positions...

Ezra's Hotdog's picture

I agree, as if the Packers are the only team to have O - linemen learn multiple positions. If people are going to "credit" assistant coaches for the success of certain players then the failures of others can be attributed to the assistants as well.

The TKstinator's picture

One lineman, two linemen.
(I blame you, Sister Helen!)

Handsback's picture

It's not just starters but backups have to be pretty good, and that's not been the case for the Packers. They don't have all five starters that play the entire year. They need a good OT and OG/C that can back up the starters. Right now, not sure they have five good starters.

Tarynfor12's picture

I could almost hear McCarthy speaking but since pad level wasn't mentioned.

The TKstinator's picture

Now get out there and practice your hug technique.

Since '61's picture

The Packers need to get at least 2 OLs who won't take any prisoners similar to Lang and Sitton. We need to get back to that level at both Guard positions.

It may make sense to move Bulage to RG and sign and/or draft a dominating RT. IMO Taylor took a step back last season and should need to compete for his position as well.

It's fine for Gute to speak positively of his players since it is up to the coaching staff to get the players ready to play and play effectively at all positions. Those that don't or can't should not be on the team.

We need better players and a better(nastier) attitude along the OL and throughout the defense. I'm hoping the new coaching staff can bring some of that. We'll see. Far too often the Packers have been outplayed physically and mentally by their opponents. That needs to change especially in the trenches on both sides of the ball. I would like to see MLF bring not just a ground game but a power ground game back to the Pack. I for one am tired of watching the Packers play mambe-pamby football. Thanks, Since '61

Tundraboy's picture

I'm with you, Since 61. No more mamy pamby football. D, O,or Special Teams

PeteK's picture

D line is the strength of the team with Clark, Daniels, Lowry, and good subs in Lancaster & Adams. We certainly need a good guard(veteran) and a young T to fill in for Bulaga because we all know that he's going to miss some games. Also, a solid two way TE is so important to the line because of mobility. I'm done with Graham, our receivers block better than him.

stockholder's picture

Daniels contract runs out in 2019. The OL had injuries. Yet The Game playing Time of each player, should be the deciding factor. Not Games started. We need people to play the whole game. Not just check in. Not just practice, or look good in camp. More Tes are coming out. This is the year to draft one!

Since '61's picture

stock - I agree completely on the TEs. Time to draft a good one.
Thanks, Since '61

jannes bjornson's picture

With Interior pressure a premium along with Edge guys coming at the QB,
you have to acquire a solid front. The old Wolf jabbering about Guards not being a necessarily strong point of your line is Last Century's news. You are absolutely correct in your assessment. Pick up a veteran guard with the ability to get to the next level like Lang and Sitton and as you say have an Enforcer's attitude. Patrick is the only guy I've seen this year delaminate the pile and help his teammates in the scrum.

ILPackerBacker's picture

They were able to squeeze one serviceable year out of Jahri Evans before he, too, hit the market. He has yet to play for another team or even retired, now that he's 35.

What, if anything, does this mean in 'Merican?

Lare's picture

Will be interesting to see how a couple of the OL youngsters they added during last season perform. That includes the "Beerman" (Gerhard de Beer) and Alex Light.

Another OL name to keep in mind is Nico Siragusa. He was drafted by none other than the OL draft guru the Packers just hired, Milt Hendrickson.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Thumbs up because I didn't realize that there was any connection between Siragusa and Hendrickson.

Ezra's Hotdog's picture

Siragusa was a 4th round pick by the Ravens. Severely injured his knee early in 2017 and could be a player if fully recovered. Was know as an a great run blocker in college.

Ezra's Hotdog's picture

Siragusa was a 4th round pick by the Ravens. Severely injured his knee early in 2017 and could be a player if fully recovered. Was know as a great run blocker in college.

bodei1newbie1's picture

that was the weakness of the packer o-line the guards, it showed in several games .like the viking game, the second one (which the viking won) they just rush the guards .
what they need is better guard play

KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

3 questions:

Do the Packers already have a quality caliber starting RG under contract in Madison?

Will Madison come back this year?

Has Madison been working out all year with a chip on his shoulder with a lot to prove? Bring on the old nasty!

Having said that the Pack obviously cannot depend on him. I agree pick up starting FA guard, draft OT high, and draft another RG and the OL will be in good shape. I am also in the camp BB should be kept one more year but hopefully only as a spot back-up player. BB would be a quality fill in player at 4 positions.

LambeauPlain's picture

Actually there are two very good Guards in Madison.

The two Badgers are rated very high in the draft and so is T Edwards.

Wouldn’t it be a hoot if Gute drafed all three with his 3rd and 2 fourth rounders?

And all three are adept at zone blocking, which the Badgers run.

stockholder's picture

1. No, 2. Madison could come back. How? Draft Lahab McGary. WA. ROT. He's a second rd. choice. With the Detroit Lions having the same needs as the packers. DE ,Te. They pick ahead of the packers in the second rd. @43. And will take a TE. IF the packers want a TE, IT's @30. ( if they don't they lose the pick of the crop.) Dalton Risner is between 30-40. And isn't a Rt. McGary is. The other fix is RG. But this could help Madison come back and help the future. Gute praised the OL. Look for a defensive draft. The @44 pick should be traded so the packers can go defense @12 &@30. Then beat the lions to a TE. But McGary would of helped.

LambeauPlain's picture

Look to the Colts.

They replaced both Guards with high draft picks and RT with a FA and rode into the playoffs in 2018 after a horrible 2017 when they were sacked into the turf with a leaky O line especially at the G spot.

Sound familiar?

4thand1's picture

Job opening for RG at 1265 lombardi Ave, Green Bay Wi. Accepting all applications immediately.

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