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A Bigger, Meaner OL?

A Bigger, Meaner OL?




More power and less finesse is a good thing for the Packer offensive line.





One of the most interesting comments I ever heard from John Madden was when he was asked to consider the question of why the Denver Broncos’ zone blocking scheme, which was so successful for them, had not spread to the rest of the NFL. Madden speculated that because this scheme requires linemen who are smaller and more agile than most, there is not enough bulk for solid pass protection. The Broncos may have been able to overcome this disadvantage simply because they found smaller linemen who were exceptionally talented. Also, it helped that their offensive line coach was Alex Gibbs, who is generally credited with inventing the scheme.

When Mike McCarthy came to Green Bay in 2006, he decided to adopt the zone blocking scheme. He hired Jeff Jagodzinski, who had worked under Gibbs in Atlanta, as offensive coordinator, and Ted Thompson began drafting smaller, finesse-type offensive linemen. Three years later, it is hard to claim that the Packer offense has benefited from this trade-off of power for agility on the OL. Jagodzinski was gone after just one year, hired away by Boston College. The Packers had some success with their running game during the second half of the 2007 season, but they were shut down by the Giants in the playoffs and struggled throughout 2008. The pass blocking has been inconsistent during the McCarthy era, and at times we’ve seen our linemen overpowered by bull rush moves.

But this may be changing. Mike McCarthy has always maintained that the Packers do not run a pure ZBS offense, but rather, a hybrid between ZBS and more traditional power running plays. And it now appears that the trend is toward more power running plays and larger, more powerful linemen who can execute those plays.

While the left side of the line will remain unchanged, with Chad Clifton and Darryn Colledge both returning, we are likely to see changes at the other three positions. Jason Spitz, who at 307 pounds is a bit larger and stronger than Scott Wells (300 lbs.), is expected to win the battle for the starting center position. If this happens, it will allow second-year man Josh Sitton to step in at right guard. At 6’3” and 317 pounds, Sitton is closer to the power-blocking prototype and is reputed to have a mean streak. He was slated to start last year until he was injured in the final preseason game.

Right tackle is the position where the Packers are in the greatest danger of taking a step backward. At 316 pounds (probably more than that in his later years), Mark Tauscher was the team’s best drive blocker, and now he is gone because of the knee injury sustained late last season. His most likely replacement at this point is Allen Barbre, who at 305 pounds is smaller than Tauscher. However, Tauscher appeared to be in decline last season even before his injury, and Barbre is considered to be the Packers’ most athletic offensive lineman. To win the job, he will have to hold off a pair of bigger men: rookie T.J. Lang (316 lbs.) and second-year man Breno Giacomini (311 lbs.).

In football, one rule of thumb is that you use whichever schemes are best suited to the strengths of your players. The match between the scheme and the personnel is more important than the scheme itself. And with the trend toward larger, more powerful offensive linemen, we can expect more power running plays. This may be neither a good nor a bad thing in and of itself, but it could provide an important fringe benefit in the passing game, as our linemen may be less likely to be overpowered by defenders. Speaking strictly as a fan, I’m looking forward to an offensive line that is a little stronger and a little meaner. And I won’t be surprised if that attitude rubs off on the entire team.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (18) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Asshalo's picture

"In football, one rule of thumb is that you use whichever schemes are best suited to the strengths of your players. The match between the scheme and the personnel is more important than the scheme itself. "

That goes for defense as well. We all know we have a less than spectacular group of guys in the trenches on both sides of the ball and it was the same in '07 and '08. They're going to need to reclaim that synergy if we're to have any chance at winning.

It didn't help that last year the Oline was so sloppy. Fine-tuning the small things will help.

Toby Hump's picture

It's fat men pushing each other about, how hard can it be? Seriously though the ZBS sucked and I'm glad McCarthy is getting rid of it.

So our line at the moment looks like: LT - Clifton (those knees okay Chad? ya sure? You'd say if they weren't cause we've go NOTHING after you on the depth!), LG - Colledge (Like him, but keep him at guard, he's getting much better), C - Spitz (still don't think we should out Wells so quickly, but Spitz is bigger and the coaches seem to really want Spitz here), RG - Sitton (Unproven, Dear Jebus please let him be all they say he is), RT - I'm going out on a limb and saying Barbre does the job, he's had enough time, it's a more suited position as well. Giacomini and Lang probably won't be ready.

I'm not overly confident about the O-Line yet, too many unknowns.

Asshalo's picture

Thank you! I'm a little disappointed that five offseasons into TT's tenure we're still waiting on the O-Line.

I'm a little weary on our defense two. We don't really have a true 3-4 DE- which I don't necesarily blame on thompson because of the transition.

But look at it this way. We were still pretty solid on Offense last year, when the O-line was very sloppy. With no distractions in this year's training camp, hopefully they can fine tune everything.

mark's picture

I would love to see a meaner, more physical offensive line this year. Combine that possibility with Quinn Johnson's mean streak and Ryan Grant's downhill running style and we might be able to move the chains with some consistency this season.

More than anything--more than even our new defense--I think the key to Packers' success or failure this season lies with the o-line.

MrBacon's picture

Good article. However the one thing the lineman need to learn this year, is that once your hands are on the ground, they stay there until the ball is snapped. We had alot of false starts, which gave Rogers a extra 5 yards to throw.

IronMan's picture

Don't get me started on penalties. If you remember the movie Private Eyes with Don Knotts and Tim Conway, there was a guy in that movie that freaked out anytime someone said "murder."

Well, I am kind of that way when you mention penalties.

2:29 of this clip:

MrBacon's picture

Never seen that movie, but I remember the M*A*S*H football game where Hotlips was drunk and the referee blew the end of quarter gun. She then goes "Oh my god! They shot him!"

But yeah, False Starts are the easy penalties to avoid yet for some reason, we always jump the gun.

wgbeethree's picture

I'm a huge ZBS fan. The reason is that works well. The Packers were the only team that ran the ZBS last year that didn't have ''success'' in the run game. Of the 6 or 7 other teams that ran it I believe they all finished in the top half of the league in ypc. The reason we struggled with the ZBS was the catch 22 that our 2 best pass blocking linemen (clifton and tauscher) were TERRIBLE fits for the ZBS but since they were by far the best pass blockers on a pass first team we had to go with them.
If the ZBS is so terrible and our line sucks so much how is it that we turned the giants 4th string rb into (i believe) the leading yardage rusher since week 10 of '07 (playoffs included)? If the ZBS is so terrible how is it that the broncos finished the season with like 6 rbs on the IR and their 3rd string fullback starting yet still managed to average almost 5 yards a carry?
I don't understand why packer fans are so against the system that has clearly been the most succesful over the last decade or so.
It's rarely the recipes fault if the meal doesn't taste great. It is usually some sort of combination of the cook and the ingredients.

Greg C.'s picture

I don't think the ZBS is terrible. Usually it seems to work out pretty well. But that has not been the case with the Packers, for whatever reason. Maybe they don't have the right coaches to teach it, and maybe they haven't had the right players to execute it. I think you are right about Clifton and Tauscher being poor fits for the system.

You make a valid point about how the Broncos continue to have success with the ZBS, but on the other hand, when was the last time the Broncos won a playoff game?

The bottom line for me is that you go with what works for you, not with what works for someone else. And the ZBS has not worked well for the Packers.

Asshalo's picture

Highlights why we should be concerned with our O-line. I received quite a bit of flack for criticizing TTs decisions regarding the O-line in 2005. Seems like someone else thought thinks he acted with reckless abandon. Although this year we're not nearly as inexperienced-- that is unless Clifton continues his decent. Sitton and Barbre also worry me.

An easier early schedule works in our favor though. Hopefully a healthy half season in one position is what these guys need.

jeremiah's picture

did wahle and rivera not dissapoint their new teams after leaving the pack? i want to say one went to carolina and the other to dallas????? and nietherlived up to the hype.

Asshalo's picture

It's not letting them go that bothers me. It's not replacing them with a bunch of players aren't even good enough to be on the current roster.

jeremiah's picture

one word..... T.J. LANG!

andy's picture

Wahle had a good season or two with Carolina, but he was paid an awful lot. Dallas WAY overpaid for Rivera, who proceeded to break down immediately. Good call by TT. Bad call to try and replace them with Adrian Klemm and Will Whittiker.

Asshalo's picture

"Bad call to try and replace them with Adrian Klemm and Will Whittiker."

Thank you. Don't forget justin conious, or whatever-- his name doesn't matter. To be fair that was four years ago, but we haven't really had any stability at any of those three positions since then. Do I think it's going to take four years to replace Tauscher and Clifton? God no. But I'm still worried about our ability to replace them this year and next

Greg C.'s picture

I think the instability of the O-line has been Ted Thompson's biggest failure as GM so far. But although the O-line has been below average, it has not been a disaster. I think that if they can at least be somewhere around average, we have enough playmakers to have a very productive, playoff-type offense.

Theman's picture

Great read. Its always fun reading about the O-line. Even better when I hear words like stronger and meaner.

Jersey Al's picture


I like the draft picks on the OL. I like the undrafted free agents we signed. I think the OL is getting bigger and better and in 2-3 years, could be one of the best units in the league. A LT to replace Clifton would be my primary concern going forward.

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