Barbre Preparing To Compete At New Spot: RT


Last year at this time, one of the storylines along the Packers' offensive line was the pending competition between Allen Barbre and Daryn Colledge for the starting left guard spot.

But that battle never materialized in the way many envisioned, primarily because Colledge performed well and locked onto the job early, and in his third season he had his most consistent and productive year as the full-time left guard.

Fast-forward to the present and now it's Barbre in his third year looking for a possible place to call home up front, and he's going to get a chance to compete again. Only it's going to take some adjustments on his part.

Barbre, a fourth-round draft pick in 2007 out of Missouri Southern State, is expected to be squarely in the mix for the vacancy at right tackle for the Packers this season. A left tackle in college and then primarily a left guard during his first two years in the NFL, Barbre must switch not only positions again but sides of the line as he competes for a job in 2009.

But he's up for it, and he's ready to stake his claim to a starting job, something he knows he must do sooner rather than later at this stage of his career.

"I think this is a big year for me," Barbre said following one of his recent offseason workouts. "It's time to get it done, you know? I feel like it's time. I'm tired of just sitting back and being a backup. I feel like I'm ready to play, dedicating myself more to figuring out what it takes to get on the field."

The upcoming competition at right tackle appears to be as wide open as it gets. With veteran Mark Tauscher still unsigned and unlikely to be recovered from knee surgery in time to start the season, the Packers have no less than a handful of players in the running for Tauscher's spot.

In addition to Barbre, there's fourth-year pro Tony Moll, who has the most experience of the candidates (18 NFL starts, seven at RT); second-year man Breno Giacomini, who is coming back from offseason ankle surgery but who made significant strides as a rookie backup last year before getting hurt; and recent draft picks T.J. Lang and Jamon Meredith, both of whom played a lot of left tackle in college but could get looks on the right side in their first seasons.

"I think competition is good amongst the team as far as 'may the best man win', of course," Barbre said. "It makes you a better player and makes everybody better on the team by competing for a spot.

"As far as me, it's just going out there and making sure you give it all you've got and take advantage of your opportunities, because those opportunities aren't always going to be there."

That's why Barbre hasn't balked in the slightest at making multiple changes. Because he hasn't played the right side before, switching sides is probably the tougher of the two switches. But going from guard to tackle at the pro level, even with experience as a tackle in college, is a significant adjustment as well.

Barbre noted the biggest difference between guard and tackle in the NFL is what "gets thrown at you." At guard, the regular assignment might be bigger, heftier defensive linemen, but on the interior a lineman can have more complex blitz pick-up responsibilities than a tackle who is usually one-on-one with a defensive end.

But that defensive end is usually a top-flight pass rusher who is faster and more agile, trying to take advantage of the space on the outside. That's the challenge Barbre must be prepared for.

"Against a 4-3 (defense), you have to see a lot more at guard," Barbre said. "At tackle, you're facing more speed. You're getting blitzes off the edge, you're getting a lot more speed."

Barbre believes he has the athleticism to deal with that speed, and it's worth remembering he was a punt gunner on his college team, a job almost unheard of for a lineman. During the current offseason program, he is trying to bulk up just a tad, to around 310 pounds from the 306 he says he is now, but not at the expense of his agility.

His stronger focus is on his footwork, which must be reversed as he flips from the left to the right side of the line. Much of his offseason program work outside of the weight room has been spent doing drills that get his brain and body positioned on the right side.

{sportsad300}"I think a lot of it is just training your muscles, training (one) leg to kick back and to push off with your other leg," he said. "(Otherwise) it's just getting my body stronger, getting my body ready for training camp and preparing it, not trying to overdo it and kill it before training camp."

That's when the competition for the right tackle job will begin in earnest. Players will be evaluated during the offensive installations in OTAs, but spots won't be won or lost in shorts and without pads. Linemen, especially, define themselves in full gear, with full contact, and that's when Barbre plans to be at his best this time.

"I think I play nasty," he said of the attributes that can help him moving forward. "I think I have a little bit of a chip on my shoulder when I play, and I think that's very vital to an offensive line. The offensive line leads the team and kind of sets the tone for the team, and I like to set that kind of tone."

He also wants things to go better than a year ago, when he didn't fully seize his opportunity. Maybe the change of scenery to right tackle will change his course for the better.

"I'm happy I've got an opportunity to play there," he said. "Switching sides is different at first, but I've been working at it for four weeks now, learning the offense, switching everything in my head, trying to take it all in and get comfortable at it, and then just go from there.

"Once I get comfortable, then just competing and playing will take care of itself."

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