Packers.com is examining the Packers’ roster, position by position. In the fourth installment, we look at the offensive line.
GREEN BAY—The number is startling, any way you attempt to rationalize it. Fifty-one sacks of one of the most valued players in the league is a concern the Packers must address in the offseason.
How does that concern pertain to the Packers’ offensive line? We’ll likely know the answer to that question come draft day.
It’s one of the most critical issues the Packers face because the two teams in the NFC that have dominated the Packers since the 2011 playoffs, the Giants and 49ers, have done so up front. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers was sacked 13 times in the four games against the Giants and 49ers.
The Packers’ starting offensive line returns intact in 2013, with a couple of depth additions from 2012: Evan Dietrich-Smith, who supplanted Jeff Saturday at center, and Don Barclay, an undrafted rookie who was impressive in replacing the injured Bryan Bulaga at right tackle late in the season.
Marshall Newhouse completed his second season as Rodgers’ blindside protector. Newhouse appears to be growing into his role.
T.J. Lang was forced to move from his starting left guard spot to right tackle when Bulaga was lost at midseason. It would help the continuity up front if the versatile Lang can be allowed to become a fixture at guard.
Right guard Josh Sitton made it to his first Pro Bowl. With a healthy Bulaga on the right side, the Packers would seem to have the power to be a right-handed running team.
On paper, it’s a good-looking unit. So why did the Packers struggle at running the ball and protecting the quarterback? It’s a fair question and it has to be answered.
Derek Sherrod, a first-round pick in 2011, missed all of last season while recovering from the broken leg he sustained late in his rookie year. He was drafted ostensibly to be the Packers’ left tackle of the future. Will he make it all the way back from his injury?
Rookie Andrew Datko, a seventh-round pick who showed promise in training camp last summer and was allowed to use last season to fully recover from shoulder problems in college, will get a long look this summer. He’ll be asked to provide depth at the critical tackle position.
Undrafted rookie Greg Van Roten is another holdover from last summer. He offers competition at guard.
The Packers recently signed tackle Kevin Hughes, who spent his first two years in the league with the Rams. Clearly, tackle would seem to be a position of interest.
Center would also qualify as a position the Packers need to fortify. The Packers signed center Garth Gerhart, who spent his rookie season on Cleveland’s practice squad.
Answers to questions as they pertain to the offensive line might start coming on draft day.
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