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Film Review: Right Tackles

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Film Review: Right Tackles

There’s little question that Green Bay was feeling good about the offensive line going into the 2017 season. David Bakhtiari was (and is) one of the best left tackles in football, Bryan Bulaga was coming off one of his best seasons in 2016, Lane Taylor was coming off an impressive debut performance as a starter, Corey Linsley was coming into his prime as the leader on the interior of the line, and Jahri Evans was a nice veteran presence to solidify everything at right guard.

In addition, Green Bay had Jason Spriggs and Kyle Murphy coming into their sophomore seasons and were hoping for a sizable second year leap from both players. Green Bay did lose both TJ Lang and J.C. Tretter from 2015, but overall they had to feel confident that this was going to be a high performing line that would be able to open holes in the run game and provide extended protection for their MVP quarterback.

Unfortunately, things never really went according to plan. In fact, as it would end up, there was a total of about a quarter and a half in which Aaron Rodgers was able to play with his expected starting offensive line. David Bakhtiari started the season banged up, Bryan Bulaga ended the season with a torn ACL and there were a plethora of other injuries throughout the season, including obviously to Aaron Rodgers.

The position that ultimately ended up suffering the most, and performing the worst, was right tackle. Even when Bryan Bulaga was healthy he never quite looked himself. In fact Bulaga graded in the negative for me in each of his five appearances last season. Overall the difference between the players who played right tackle and those who didn’t was enormous. The five players who did not play right tackle for Green Bay, (David Bakhtiari, Jahri Evans, Lane Taylor, Corey Linsley, and Lucas Patrick) ended up with a combined grade of +46.20 for me. The five players who spent any time at right tackle, (Kyle Murphy, Justin McCray, Jason Spriggs, Ulrick John, and Bryan Bulaga), ended with a total score of -37.80 combined. Obviously there was a huge difference.

So where does that leave Green Bay at right tackle this coming season? Let’s take a look at the tape to find out.

Bryan Bulaga

Bryan Bulaga is unquestionably the player that Green Bay is hoping can man the right tackle spot as soon as he’s ready. The million dollar question is, how quickly can he be ready? Bulaga is of course coming back from that torn ACL and it’s not out of the question that he could start the season on the PUP list, making him ineligible for the first six games of the season. Whenever Bulaga does come back to play, it’s worth questioning how he will bounce back from both an underwhelming performance in 2017 and of course the torn ACL. Bulaga has already had struggles in the past with quicker edge rushers and a recovery from a torn ACL isn’t exactly going to make that task any easier.

When Bulaga is at his best he wins with really solid technique, great hand placement/power, and incredibly consistency. Bulaga rarely beats himself. He’s sound fundamentally and he is going to make the opposing edge rusher earn everything he gets. When he does get beat he gets beat with speed off the edge, or with a quick counter inside. I have zero concerns with Bulaga when he’s healthy and playing his game but his last really impressive performance will be almost two years prior to when he steps on the field again. It’s cause for concern and something to keep an eye on in 2018.

Jason Spriggs

It goes without saying that there were high hopes for Jason Spriggs coming out of college. A super-athletic offensive tackle out of Indiana, Spriggs had all the talent in the world and every desirable trait to become an elite right or left tackle. With Spriggs, the issues in college seemed to be more mental. It was a lapse here or a missed assignment there that lead to him not being a first round pick, but the belief was that he would eventually take over as the heir apparent for Bryan Bulaga at the right tackle spot in Green Bay.

Unfortunately for Green Bay and for Spriggs, the struggles he’s had in college have become even more exaggerated at the NFL level and Spriggs has never been able to find any consistency as a tackle in the league. There have been flashes here and there but at a position as crucial as offensive tackle, you cannot be inconsistent.

Spriggs was my lowest graded player per play last year, being almost two times as bad as any player on the roster besides Montravius Adams. His play, at times, was nothing short of brutal. I had high hopes for Spriggs coming out of college but if he doesn’t show improvement going into his third year there shouldn’t be a spot on the roster for Spriggs and it should be time for Green Bay to move on. Keeping a player on the roster simply because he was a high pick does nobody any favors. For Spriggs it’s time to sink or swim and while I’ll be hoping he succeeds, I haven’t seen anything in his play in the past two years that would indicate he’s ever going to be a reliable player in the NFL.

Kyle Murphy

Kyle Murphy was another player who Green Bay had high hopes for coming into his second season. With the injuries at tackle, Murphy found himself starting in the first three games of the season. Murphy started off with a really strong outing against Seattle and held up ok against Atlanta’s speed rush in the dome. He then met the young edge rushers in Cincinnati and everything fell apart. Murphy ended the day with my lowest grade for any Packer on the season; it was a horrendous performance.

As I watched Murphy at OTAs and went down and broke down the tape, there was still a lot to like. He’s quick on his feet, possesses enough power to hold up at the point of attack, and has very solid fundamentals. For Murphy the key to success is putting everything together and staying healthy. Murphy is another player who is at a bit of a crossroads. If he shows well in training camp and preseason it wouldn’t be a shock to see him as the opening day starter at right tackle. Conversely, if Murphy struggles and/or can’t stay healthy, he could find himself on the way out of Green Bay.

Based on what I’ve seen from Green Bay’s options to start the season, I’d firmly put Murphy as the leader in the clubhouse to start at right tackle assuming Bryan Bulaga is not ready to start the season as expected.

Byron Bell

While I don’t mind the signing of Byron Bell as a veteran swing player, his tape is not pretty. Bell reminds me a lot of former Packer Don Barclay. Both players are versatile offensive lineman who can play almost any position across the line and neither will panic if they get thrown into the fire. When you have an active game day roster set at only 46 players, you need players on the offensive line who can come in and execute the game plan at multiple positions across the line. There is value in a player like that.

That said, Bell has not played well. And to go a step further, you could really argue he’s simply not a good enough football player at this point in his career to warrant a real roster spot and certainly an opportunity to start for Green Bay. He was a league average player at guard for Tennessee in 2015, but he just hasn’t shown the consistency at the NFL level to be trusted on a regular basis. Of every single offensive lineman who played at least one snap a season ago, Byron Bell rated as the 4th worst offensive lineman per Pro Football Focus, one spot better than… you guessed it, Don Barclay.

Justin McCray

I realize that you could make a strong argument that Justin McCray shouldn’t be on this list. The predominant reason for this is that he seems to be the leader in the clubhouse to start at right guard at the moment. But should Green Bay not find what they are looking for in their other tackle options, MrCray remains at least in the conversation to start at right tackle. It’s not inconceivable that Lucas Patrick and Justin McCray could be the fourth and fifth best offensive lineman on the roster (while Bulaga’s out) and therefore Green Bay could be tempted to start Patrick at right guard and McCray at right tackle.

The issue here is that McCray was really, really bad at right tackle a season ago. I give McCray so much credit for a variety of reasons. First and foremost he worked his tail off. He grinded the entire season and never gave up. He wasn’t even supposed to break camp on the roster and here he ended up playing every position across the line besides center. He was never really fit for a starting tackle role and yet he continued to grow into the position and played better as the season went along.

McCray deserves credit for progressing and never quitting, but he ultimately still ended up my lowest overall graded Packer for the season. McCray has some ability and I think he could fit in well at right guard this year, but I have a lot of trepidation about a right side of the line that includes McCray at right guard and any of the other options at right tackle. I look forward to watching McCray continue to grow but the hope here is that he grows into a solid right guard and doesn’t need to switch out to an unnatural tackle position.

Cole Madison

As you probably know, Cole Madison was a starting right tackle for Washington State in college. Overall the fit going from Washington State’s offense to Green Bay’s offense is a fairly decent one as both systems are predominantly pass heavy offenses. The issue here is that Madison projects as a guard in the NFL (and is listed as a guard on the Packers roster), and he has a steep learning curve overall going from Washington State’s unique college system to a pro-style offense.

Ideally Madison would stay at guard and learn for a season before being thrown into the fray, but if he shows he can be one of the top pass blockers in the group, it wouldn’t be shocking to see him get a shot at right tackle at some point during the season.

Adam Pankey

When Adam Pankey was announced as an undrafted free agent I went and watched his tape from college and was about as underwhelmed as you could possibly be. He played left guard for West Virginia and at no point during the season did I ever believe he was an NFL caliber player. I thought his odds of breaking camp were next to none.

As Pankey played in the preseason last year he certainly wasn’t great but you could see signs of progression. He was still slow out of his stance and you could tell he was mentally processing things, but there were more positive signs in the preseason than I had seen in the entirety of the college tape I watched. Eventually Pankey was promoted to the active roster and will now have an opportunity to make the team outright in his second year.

When I was at OTAs and minicamp Pankey was actually getting some work with the first team offense at left tackle and was in before Kyle Murphy or Jason Spriggs were. I wouldn’t put much, if any, stock into minicamp depth charts but it was intriguing to me nonetheless that he was getting those first team snaps. Furthermore he looked good, he had back to back snaps in team drills where he completely stifled Reggie Gilbert. Pankey has a long way to go before earning any a roster spot, much less a starting spot, but he’s improved and has caught my eye a few times this offseason already.

Alex Light

We can probably keep this one rather brief because Alex Light will face incredible odds just to make the roster, much less start at any point this season. I actually really enjoyed Alex Light’s college film but he’s from a small school (Richmond) and probably projects better as a left guard. Green Bay has him listed as a guard/tackle and ideally he will get a year on the practice squad to learn the craft and bulk up in the weight room and then have a better opportunity to make the roster and help the team in 2019.

As I really sat down and re-watched the film, the right tackle position really left a lot to be desired. If Bryan Bulaga isn’t ready to begin the season then Green Bay really doesn’t have a great option for who will be protecting Aaron Rodgers opposite David Bakhtiari. Even worse to think about is what would happen if Bakhtiari were to miss games again. Green Bay’s offense is heavily predicated on extended pass plays and if there is quick pressure off the edge due to poor play by the tackles it heavily handicaps the Packers’ offense. The hope is that Kyle Murphy and Jason Spriggs can finally take the jumps in their respective careers that the front office and coaching staff have been hoping for. Whether or not that actually happens remains to be seen and overall there should be real concern over the right tackle position and the depth on the offensive line as a whole.

Make sure to tune in Friday’s at 9:50am on WDUZ: http://www.thefan1075.com/

__________________________

Andy Herman is an avid Packers fan and season ticket holder. He has graduated from National Football Post's and Sports Management Worldwide's NFL Scouting courses and is the owner of the Pack-A-Day Podcast. Find him on Twitter @sconniesports.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (23) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Lare's picture

Although I'm not overly optimistic that Bulaga will start the season or remain healthy if/when he does return, I think the Packers have covered them selves reasonably well at the RT & RG positions.

My prediction is that McCray will start at RG and either Murphy, Spriggs or Bell will start at RT. I also don't discount Madison starting at RT. Another Packers rookie RT (Mark Tauscher) did pretty well when he was thrown into the fire.

It's all about players performing well in the system and doing their jobs. If they can they'll start and play a lot. If they can't, they'll be looking for another line of work.

The TKstinator's picture

You had me, as is often the case, at “plethora”.
If there was some way to ensure health, and thus cohesion, I’m sure it would be goal #1 for the whole squad.

PackEyedOptimist's picture

Starting right tackle and back-up center both have me more concerned than outside linebacker.

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

Bulaga will miss the first 6 games. Tough to say how good he'll look after that.

Spriggs was too light in his base, and appeared to make mistakes overcompensating for it (I don't know, it just looked that way to me).He's much heavier and stronger now, so here's hoping he's ready. Murphy can suit up if he can't.

Cole Madison is, in my view, a tackle, despite his guard-like dimensions. He has great tackle feet. But this year, he's just too weak to do anything but pass block--if that.

RT is a mess.

Oppy's picture

Packers have potential issues at right tackle?

If only we had a TE like Marcedes Lewis on the roster to help round out the strong side of the formation.

Bearmeat's picture

We don't have an ideal answer. The 25 year old version of Bulaga isn't coming through the door. But there are a plethora of options. It's likely IMO that one of them will at least be league average, until Bulaga comes back. Or, if one is better than league average, we can move on from Bulaga.

This, by the way, is exactly the kind of thing that Ted NEVER did. We have a mix of vets who weren't on the team last year, 2-3rd year UDFA/late round fliers, and a draft pick. Put all of it together, and I'm not terribly worried. RG/RT won't be the strength of the team, but IMO it won't kill it either.

Well done, Gute. Well done.

Oppy's picture

Ted, 2017: had a mix of vets who weren't on the team the previous year, 2-3rd year UDFA/late round fliers, and a draft pick.

:)

Bearmeat's picture

One year out of 11 doesn't cut it IMO. Besides, his drafting had gotten so bad in the top 3 rounds, it didn't end up mattering.

Besides, what Ted should have done was to keep Cook, not bring in that dork, Marty B.

Oppy's picture

One year out of 11 might not cut it, but it definitely means you can't say "NEVER"

Bearmeat's picture

LOL. Fair.

PatrickGB's picture

We have a bunch of guards playing tackle. Guys who look better going forward than pass pro backward. What could go wrong?
I now see why TT turned tackles into guards.

dblbogey's picture

They really need 2 out of 3 between Murphy, Spriggs and Cole to shine at tackle. I love Bulaga but suspect he'll be only average at best at this point in his career and his health is always an issue.

4thand1's picture

Did we just get lucky at drafting o linemen over the years and unlucky at d linemen? Or is Campem just a really good coach.

Nick Perry's picture

Campen is a damn good coach and I suppose there was a little luck too. I'm really, really hoping for the light to go on for Spriggs and the extra weight helps.

croatpackfan's picture

I trust Murphy more...

Nick Perry's picture

"Spriggs was my lowest graded player per play last year, being almost two times as bad as any player on the roster besides Montravius Adams".

Hmmm...I keep reading in the comments that Spriggs played better last year but this comment by the author seems to suggest what I saw from Spriggs last season...He was AWFUL! Sorry guys I just never saw it and I guess at least one other saw it too. BUT I sure would like to see him grab that RT spot and play it so well that Bulaga can't even bump him off. Maybe that weight in the trunk will make the difference.

Bure9620's picture

Yes he is bad, for Spriggs to just make the roster he will have to have shown immense improvement, like break out type of development. Forget starting. I think year 3 Spriggs kind of is what he is now. A turnstyle in pass pro and lost in run blocking assignments. I would like to be wrong here but we'll see. My prediction is he will be beat out by Madison, Murphy AND Bell.

nostradanus's picture

Somebody will emerge out of this group, I'm not overly concerned........until the first regular season game anyway haha. Seriously, the Packers have some young and veteran talent at RT and a very good Coach in Campen. They will make it work until Bulaga comes back.

Guam's picture

I've expressed concerns about the right side of the O-line before and this article certainly didn't start my day off well. I have hopes for Murphy as he had two good games and one bad one against some pretty stiff D-lines last year. Hopefully he takes a jump this year. I agree with NP, Spriggs did not look good at any point last year. Bell and the others look like JAGs at tackle. Maybe Gute can pick up a late pre-season veteran cut if Bulaga is not ready.

Guam's picture

I've expressed concerns about the right side of the O-line before and this article certainly didn't start my day off well. I have hopes for Murphy as he had two good games and one bad one against some pretty stiff D-lines last year. Hopefully he takes a jump this year. I agree with NP, Spriggs did not look good at any point last year. Bell and the others look like JAGs at tackle. Maybe Gute can pick up a late pre-season veteran cut if Bulaga is not ready.

Bure9620's picture

Great film breakdown. I have been saying, my bold prediction is Cole Madison is your starting RT week 1 and he will be the steal of this draft. He and Jaire (slot) will be the rookie starters. Madison IS a tackle when you watch his tape, his feet are just too good, it would be a waste to put him at guard. If you look at his college numbers he gave up almost no sacks or pressures. Also, keep in mind, Mike Leach threw the ball about 60-70 times a game. LOTS of pass pro reps that look like this one. I think his learning curve will be significantly less than most rookie tackles. I think his training camp forces McCarthy and Campen to play him. It would not surprise me to see Murphy there due to experience early but Madison is just better, more talent, he wins the job. This also puts Bulagas future in doubt

Nick Perry's picture

I'd love to agree with you and actually hope your right. My initial feeling is he's just not strong enough yet. A site I like to go to before the draft had him as the 6th best GUARD out of 146 which kinda surprised me since he was a tackle.

I wonder if the NFL scouting community all saw him as a Guard as well hence the listing as a Guard. BUT he's pretty big..6'5" and 308 Lbs. though he'd need to add weight for sure. Ideally either Murphy or Spriggs steps up and team up with Madison to form the right side of the O-Line for the next 10 years.

Bure9620's picture

Yes you may be right about strength, his strength is not elite right now, certainly not for a "guard". I worry more about his length. The Packers value feet for their tackles more, which he has. He's just not a guard at all, but dont underestimate an NFL lifting and traning program, he will gain strength before week 1.

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