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Packers: Any Reason to be Concerned About the O-Line?

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Packers: Any Reason to be Concerned About the O-Line?

The Green Bay Packers have plenty of questions to answer on defense. But they have some to answer on offense too. 

One position group that deserves some scrutiny is the offensive line. 

The importance of the offensive front is obvious. Aaron Rodgers relies on its ability to keep him healthy. Last year, that didn't happen, although Rodgers could have possibly done more to protect himself on the play. But still, the point remains, without Rodgers, the Packers aren't going anywhere. That makes the play of the offensive line extremely important. 

The run game was actually pretty effective last season, ranking 17th in the NFL in yards and fifth in yards per rush. Some of that had to do with Brett Hundley, but it was also because some of the Packers younger offensive lineman, such as Justin McCray were better at run blocking than pass protection. 

Interestingly enough, McCray could be a key part of the offensive line's success in 2018. After starting eight games at multiple spots last season, McCray appears to be the front-runner at right guard. He will need to fend off guys like Lucas Patrick, Cole Madison and possibly even Kyle Murphy. But as of now, McCray is in a solid position. 

The question is, can McCray really handle the job? If last season is any indication, yes. He did a decent job playing at both tackle positions and even though he looked bad at times against edge rushers, he was a good run blocker and inside, he could flourish. Of course, right guard isn't the only position of concern.

David Bakhtiari is among the best tackles in the game, so as long as he is healthy, left tackle is solid. Center is also in good shape with Corey Linsley and left guard is fine with Lane Taylor. The questions are going to be at right tackle and right guard. 

The issue at right tackle is simply the health of Bryan Bulaga. He tore his ACL in November and may not be ready to start the season. And when he returns, who knows if he will play like his old self or not. That's probably why the Packers signed veteran Bryon Bell, who has started 74 games in his NFL career.

But even beyond Bell, the Packers have some other solid options. Murphy held his own in three starts last season and should be recovered from foot surgery. He gives the Packers another solid option at tackle that isn't Jason Spriggs, who has been a failure as the swing guy.

All in all, the Packers should feel pretty good about the state of their offensive line. There are concerns certainly. But in each case, the Packers have some depth or at least a plan of succession.

Bell can start at right tackle, probably even left if needed. Same with Murphy and Spriggs. Patrick can play both guard spots and possibly center. And as he showed last season, McCray can play both inside and out. He may be the Packers new utility guy. Madison, the rookie, could work his way into the mix too. 

The offensive line isn't perfect and it will need some young players to develop, but all in all, the Packers should feel good about the hogs up front. 

__________________________

Chris is a sports journalist from Montana and has been blogging about the Packers since 2011. Chris has been a staff writer for CheeseheadTV since 2017 and looks forward to the day when Aaron Rodgers wins his second Super Bowl. Follow him @thepackersguru

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (52) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Nick Perry's picture

"The Green Bay Packers have plenty of questions to answer on defense. But they have some to answer on offense too."

I was actually thinking about this Friday night...Not just the O-Line but the offensive questions. I had been watching the Giants/Packers & Cowboys/Packers Playoff games of 2016. In both of those games the Packers scored over 30 points, in the Giants game in the last 32 minutes and they did it without Jordy Nelson AND the running game they have now. That's my 1st question...Will this offense be able to score points..The answer IMO is a resounding yes! With Graham, Lewis, Jones, and Williams to go with Cobb, Monty, and Adams the offense will be just fine.

I think the Packers SHOULD be able to come up with a decent enough answer on the right side with a combination of McCray, Bell, Madison, and Murphy. I really like Cole Madison and think he'll be a starter next season. IMO the Packers should be able to put together a decent right side of the O-Line between those 4 players until Bulaga comes back AND the others will provide better depth than we've had in a while.

I didn't mention Spriggs but only because I can't recall at any point in time last season when he played better like most have mentioned. Maybe when I watched Spriggs I actually closed BOTH eyes but unless he's like 5 times better I think he'll be cut. It will start with playing against guys in the preseason who won't be on regular season rosters. If you recall he struggled with those guys too.

GBPDAN1's picture

I agree NP, I believe this Offense will score points. An average of 30 pts a game for the year is achievable . BUT, of course, it all comes down to health.

"David Bakhtiari is among the best tackles in the game, so as long as he is healthy, left tackle is solid. "

The health topic was mentioned in this sentence as it should be. Obviously, we can not lose Rodgers, but losing Bak or Adams for a long period of time will be undesirable and problematic. Actually, there's not a lot of good depth at most positions on the offense, so we can't have to many long term injuries,

As far as the right side of the line, they should allow Bulaga time to be completely ready before activating him. He should be shelved for training camp , the preseason and put on PUP for the first 6 games, if neccessary. The first 6 games is an easier stretch of our schedule as four games are at home and the two road opponents were both non playoff teams in 2017. We can win these games without Balaga. We went 4-1 out of the gate last year with several injuries to our offense's line including Bak.

Activate Bulaga after the first six games. He will have 2 weeks to practice during the bye, then activate him for the Rams game as that game kicks off a hard stretch of our schedule ( he should be ready by then, I hope). Even if he's 90 %, for the rest of the season, he'll be better than the other options at RT.

Here's to a healthy 2018 season for our team on both offense and defense!!!!

CheesyTex's picture

Since he would only play 62.5% of the games, how about renegotiating his very high salary to 62.5% of current?

Love Bulaga, but IMO way too many question marks to keep him at his existing contract.

dobber's picture

The Packers apparently approached him about taking a pay cut this offseason. He said, "no".

Ball's in BG's court, but I think they would've acted by now.

GBPDAN1's picture

If Bulaga was cut, we'd only save approximately 5M due to the dead money. Bulaga is worth 5M for 10 games if he plays within 90% of his former self. Then BG needs to make a decision on Bulaga for 2019.

dobber's picture

I agree: if/how he bounces back will certainly indicate what his value is for 2019. The savings are more pronounced if he's cut after the 2018 season...especially if he shows that he's not likely to make it back to being close to his former self.

Johnblood27's picture

Yo Cheesy, you cant cut a guys salary while he is recovering from an injury sustained in the line of duty, that just isn't cool.

These guys take the risk, ya can't pull the reward on them when things dont go your way. Negotiate an injury settlement, maybe, but salary reduction? I wouldn't say yes if I was a player.

If he was riding a dirt bike or playing lacrosse, that would be different.

Hawg Hanner's picture

Spriggs came back from an early injury and played pretty well before he went on IR. I recall discussions of his grading and it was good. The guy is a real athlete, that's why he was picked. I think he'll make the team and get better.

Nick Perry's picture

I agree, he's a great athlete and those videos at the combine of him doing those drills in spandex faster and better than just about any O-Line are amazing. Again one of the reasons why those spandex Olympics can be so damn deceiving.

One of the best athletes I've ever watched at the combine was Vernon Gholston AND he was a damn fine college football player too. But he was never able to translate that to the football field as a Pro.

Spriggs is a guy I'd love to be wrong about. I like eating crow about Packers I think are busts. Here's to hoping I'm eating crow about Spriggs!!

The TKstinator's picture

Concerned? Nah.
My name isn’t Gus and I refuse to get on the bus.
What I WOULD love, however, is for my old friend Lindsay Crawford (if she’s out there) to tell us about her first job out of High School.
Multiple times, if possible.
I remember she used to be really shy about getting her picture taken. I wonder if she’s still like that.

Lare's picture

I do feel a lot better about the OL depth with the signing of Bell. Not that he's any great talent, but he's a serviceable veteran presence that can fill in across the line or start if any of the younger players falter before Bulaga comes back.

As Nick Perry mentions above, I'm not holding out much hope for Spriggs to make the final roster. But I do think a couple of the other players will step up and make the competition for the RG & RT starting positions one of the more intriguing battles of training camp.

Madfan's picture

Yes, the roster is filled with a number of candidates, but overall it is a major area of concern. None of the candidates for RG and RT showed solid starter play. Mostly they demonstrated that they are solid backups.

Try to do a two-deep depth chart. It makes me nervous with the number of questions. For example:

LT Bakhtiari and ? Is Bell the backup? Spriggs?

LG Taylor and ? McCray or Patrick?

C Linsley and ? McCray or Day or Amichia?

RG McCray? and Patrick? Possibly Madison

RT Bulaga (when available) and ? Spriggs, Murphy and Bell?

Will GB carry five tackles? Bak, Bulaga, Spriggs. Murphy and Bell? I'd guess four until Bulaga is available.

Can GB get by with only five G/Cs: Taylor, Linsley, McCray, Patrick and Madison? I'm guessing they can't carry another on the roster.

Does Pankey fit?

dobber's picture

"Can GB get by with only five G/Cs: Taylor, Linsley, McCray, Patrick and Madison? "

Wasn't Murphy practicing at G last year in camp? I thought Bell had some experience at G as well.

"LT Bakhtiari and ? Is Bell the backup? Spriggs?"

Someone on this roster needs to step up as a capable backup at LT. Do we really want Lane Taylor playing out there? He saved their bacon in an emergency role last year, but I always think you're better off with quality backups and keeping your key players at their natural positions. Pushing Taylor out to LT means the whole left side of your OL is likely subpar.

The TKstinator's picture

Ok, although I consider myself a founding member of the whole “Worrry Bus” idea, I’m going to cut the crap for a moment and lay it all out.
Yes, we all love the Packers.
Yes, we consider ourselves knowledgeable fans.
Most of us don’t want to be “fanboys” or “homers”.
People who post overly negative thoughts on here are not well received.
I ask, “what part does GB football play in your life?” I started watching every game with my dad back in the mid 70’s when the team was mostly awful. I’d get seriously angry with most losses.
Later I realized that GB football occupies the “entertainment” category in my life. As such, the wins are still fun and the losses still frustrating, but there’s a new perspective as to the actual importance of these.
Some fans want to “wow” us with their impressive analysis and insight. That’s great. But to actually “be concerned” or “worry” when a position group is not populated by multiple all pros is just silly.
A fan can do absolutely nothing about it. The statements that start out “if I were GM” are so ignorant and arrogant that most of the time I have to avert my eyes.
To offer up “well, playoffs might be good enough for YOU, but my fandom is so much deeper than yours and so much more intense that I demand nothing less than SB trophies” is again, not worth my time.
Nobody has to agree with me. If you choose to enjoy GB football differently than I do, that’s fine.
Carry on, amigos.
Now back to my usual wisecracks, wordplay, and slightly out of date pop culture references.

Spock's picture

TK That was an honest and refreshing comment. But what was your first job out of high school? :)

The TKstinator's picture

Thank you! But in regards to my first job after high school, not sure anybody would be interested in hearing something like that on a Packer site.
~~~

Packer Fan's picture

Last year with signing Evans, we had five starting lineman and two up and coming second year players. Result, both tackles got hurt and the up and coming lineman (Murphy & Spriggs) got hurt or didn't play well. This year I think we have some more depth. But not right away. Perhaps McCray will be the starting guard, but Bulaga may not be ready. So concern here. Perhaps between Murphy, Spriggs, Patrick and Madison, one or two will develop into a quality backup. Then no or little concern. Because everyone will know, injuries will happen and you need that one or two quality backups. But what I like is that BG has done a little more than TT.

Chris Peterson's picture

Yeah. I was talking like an emergency. I'd rather have Taylor or even Murphy start at left over Bell. But I'd take Bell over Spriggs honestly. We'll see.

dobber's picture

I've got my fingers crossed on Spriggs that the pieces will start to come together, but he's got to show it in camp rather than bumbling along and having the staff crossing THEIR fingers. We saw how that worked with Hundley.

dobber's picture

I think what your post points toward is that the Packers run game was better in 2017 because they were actually committed to using it. Teams had no real reason to fear the Packers throwing the ball after ARod got hurt. It's my hope they'll be committed to using it in 2018, too.

davy jones's picture

Your point ought to actually help the run game. D's won't be able to load the box as they did when it became obvious Hundley couldn't come within 10 yds of a reciever when throwing more than a dump off. With AR back and a real passing game, our RB's ought to have more success.

Johnblood27's picture

"ought to have more success"

Yes, BUT...BUT...

will MM and AR actually allow the RB's to have success?

A true commitment to SOME other offensive strategy other than AR duck and chuck will create the diversity and threat that this TEAM needs to succeed.

AR having monster stats doesnt guarantee a GD thing.

Having dual threats passing and running is a much better formula for TEAM success.

We have the horses in the backfield and the receivers with WR, TE and RB all chipping in. We have the triggerman in AR. Do we have the brains to put together a plan for TEAM success? Lets hope Philbin provides some support for MM's deficiencies.

Bure9620's picture

Just RT is a concern, I think McCray will be just fine at RG. He was the unsung hero last year in difficult circumstances and played quite well. McCray was fine in pass pro and was an underrated run blocker. My bold prediction is Cole Madison is your starting RT week 1. I know, "he's best suited to move inside," which I have heard enough. He's a Tackle. Watch his feet, terrific feet, great lateral movement, and the number 1 pass blocker in college football, (PFF) (Mike Leach likes to throw a bit.) Unless there is immense improvement from Spriggs, I dont see it. Murphy is okay as a backup and frankly HE would better inside. Cole Madison does not have the overwhelming overall length but he has the feet and will be just fine. He beats out both Spriggs and Murphy and Byron Bell is your swing Tackle. He'll provide solid veteran depth, but Madison is more talented and I frankly thought he would go earlier than the 5th round. Might have been the best value pick in the draft for the Pack. Either Spriggs or Murphy is cut. There is an outside chance, though not likely, Bulaga is released. But my money says he is on PUP.

Bure9620's picture

That does not neccessarily mean Spriggs will start either, even if he plays out his contract. Nothing precludes you from getting beaten out. Not so sure Quentin Rollins is going to be playing out his contract as a 2nd round pick either. He has an uphill clime to make this roster.

Rak47's picture

I'm not a believer in Spriggs as he has shown no heart to battle even when he's not getting beat on the pass. He reminds me of Mandarich. I have much higher hopes for Murphy who as a 5th rounder has shown more skill, much more heart and a willingness to battle inside. If Spriggs had been a 6th or 7th rounder he'd be cut.

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

This is what I've been saying about Madison--he's a tackle all the way.

People want him at guard because he's built for it, but they are ignoring his feet and lack of power. This is a pure, pure outside pass-blocker ala Bahktiari, and Madison is also far too weak to man the run-heavy RG spot.

We're loaded at RG, so keep the kid at tackle. But with McCarthy, I'm always certain a player will be used in the wrong position if at all possible. We'll probably move him to receiver...

While I love your idea of starting Madison at RT, I don't think it is possible this year-he's far too weak. This kid desperately needs a year in the weight room. I like Spriggs and Bell and Murphy to fight it out ( I love Bulaga, but his health and contract don't work).

Rak47's picture

I think you may be on to something here. However I think it more likely Bell will start as a quality stopgap till they get Madison ready [strength,game speed] if he shows promise. If he does show promise and Bell starts does Gutekunst look to trade Bulaga before the deadline? A quality tackle with Bulaga's skillset is not cheap in the NFL, even one coming off injury. Would be nice to have an extra 2nd in next years draft to go with 2 number 1's. Could unload about 7 mil off the cap as well. Rebuilding the roster without having to let go of your blue chip players sounds pretty good to me.

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

No team will give us any pick in any round for Bulaga's contract and health.

I would cut him, but that's largely because I see big cap concerns coming up for this team--and Bulaga's health just isn't reliable.

dobber's picture

We're hoping that McCray can play RG at a suitably high level, but he was their Swiss army knife OL in 2017...they'll need to replace that if he goes into a starting role.

The two positions that worry me most are RT (assuming Bulaga goes on the PUP...which I think he will) and swing tackle. I suspect it will take all of camp to get that sorted out, and we might not be satisfied with it most of the season. Reason #2 why Mercedes Lewis was signed? This is it.

4thand1's picture

The o-line should be a strength, we have one of the best coaches in the game. We ran the ball well without AR, what are defenses going to do when we can run and pass? I see Jones ripping off some big runs when AR checks out of a pass.

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

I agree, especially on Jones. He's the first real threat we've had back there since a young Lacy. It's scary to think how his superior vision, burst, moves, and balance will produce after an offseadon of adding strength and working on pass-blocking.

Johnblood27's picture

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!

AR check OUT OF A PASS!?!?

really?

Not happening.

That was good, I spit up my beer...

dobber's picture

"That was good, I spit up my beer..."

That's NEVER good...

Handsback's picture

Spriggs wasn't drafted for immediate help, he was drafted because of his athletic ability. He needed NFL strength and this year he may prove, he has what it takes for the trenches. Some guys just take longer...

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

Agree 100%.

dobber's picture

What bothers me is that his college scouting reports show things that are still problems, technique-wise: namely, he still gets beat on his inside shoulder. The other aspects (strength, anchor, etc.) are different, but I wonder about his coachability.

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

I think there are 4 players who were awful last year but could surprise this year: Dix, Kizer, Hundley, and Spriggs.

Spriggs was overcompensating for lack of ballast with his technique, but the improvement was obvious before he went down.

He's bulkier now, so let's see what he's got.

Johnblood27's picture

Spriggs will get his chance in TC to prove that he has what it takes, he isnt getting cut before camp.

I hope he succeeds, I was very excited to draft him, I certainly hope he gets his stuff together and can be the #1 swing tackle this year and back up Bakh reliably.

That is what he was drafted for.

His progress has been slowed by injury and what had to be an erosion of confidence as much as he showed poorly initially.

Lets hope that health and Campen can get his mind and body on the same page.

Duke Divine's picture

Health

Rak47's picture

I'm not really worried about the RG positionat all. Since Campen has been coach I can't think of one single lineman that showed any type of promise that he didn't bring out in them. Murphy, Linsley,Bhaktiari, Taylor, Tretter, none were high picks but all showed something and Campen gets it out of them. McCray should be no different as Campen will get his game elevated. It's only been cases of OL that I can think of that showed next to nothing in which Campen has had little success. He's gotten nothing out of Spriggs, Amechia, and a few others but in all those cases they never got on the field and showed any promise either. I fully expect Campen to get McCray to take that next step as he did with all the other starters from center to LT.

Johnblood27's picture

Giacomini

Barbre

2 immediately come to mind.

Maybe even Marshall Newhouse... maybe...

There are a few more GB castoffs from the OL room that carved out decent NFL careers.

I think Campen does a good job, but lets not get carried away with the back-slapping.

Rak47's picture

Giacomini and Barbre never showed any potential with GB and were never even avg with GB. They both looked like turnstiles on the field and Barbre was downright embarrassing. Later in their careers they each had a couple of stopgap journeyman years but that's about it.

Rak47's picture

Ol' EDS! Yes I remember Dietrich-Smith, he played arguably his best ball in G.B. under Campen's tutelage.

davy jones's picture

A couple of years ago, it was horrifying to see Lane Taylor come into a game even for just a play or series...he seriously stunk. I remember clearly, shouting at my kids, "for the Love of God, not Lane Taylor". A year later, it became clear I was wrong--Dead wrong. He more than held his own last year and oughta improve even more this year. Hoping at least one of the other young guys has the same kind of jump.

HankScorpio's picture

Going into the camp the ended in Sitton's departure, I thought Taylor was going to have a rough go to make the final 53.

Instead, the camp ended with him elevated to starter. And he did ok at it.

Johnblood27's picture

I remember screaming the same phrase except insert Don Barclays name...

davy jones's picture

A couple of years ago, it was horrifying to see Lane Taylor come into a game even for just a play or series...he seriously stunk. I remember clearly, shouting at my kids, "for the Love of God, not Lane Taylor". A year later, it became clear I was wrong--Dead wrong. He more than held his own last year and oughta improve even more this year. Hoping at least one of the other young guys has the same kind of jump.

PackEyedOptimist's picture

Spriggs reminds me of Ken Ruettgars; also drafted as an "athletic pass blocker," he was pretty terrible his first couple of years and had injuries set him back, but he became an excellent OT after those first years. I'm hopeful Spriggs will as well; he DID look fine in his last couple games before the injury last year.

stockholder's picture

I think there is a lot of Concern. 1. You can't have a offensive Line rated 13th, and 180 plus pressures , with an Aging, fragile QB. 2. Lets face it. Bahk is the only offensive lineman that doesn't have a Question mark. 3. Lets not go insane and think Bulaga is the best RT. He isn't. 4. TT went deaf with Lang ,Sitton ,and Trotter. It forced guys to over achieve. I didn't see Fighters! Serviceable yes! Durable NO! 5. Were going to see a hot and cold running Offensive Line. And if they don't Block, DOWN will go #12. Promise is not security!

Michael Hughes's picture

The problem is too many positions are going to be filled with guys who are ok. In isolation mccray will be fine at RG. We can pitch someone in at RT and be ok But as a whole it looks patch work. And that is before injuries. Lane Taylor is decent but isnt sitton so the line is much weaker than it used to be.

Combine that with the ageing QB and a receiving corps that lacks depth unless one of the rookies we drafted after a punter hits and the offense looks very shaky.

Virtually no investment on offense in the draft for 4 years has left us with an offense that is old which might well be an issue later on in the season as older players are more likely to pick up injuries.

croatpackfan's picture

I'm glad that you find a reason to worry on June, 10th 2018.

I believe that Packers fans will not survive till the beginning of the season w/o reason to worry.

Thank you for your help, Chris!

DD's picture

Let me set you right. One concern: MM. Fact.

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