Colledge Becoming More Consistent

The one thing offensive lineman Daryn Colledge publicly made known he’s been striving for since coming to Green Bay as a second-round draft choice in 2006, he may finally have found. Consistency.

081107colledge215.jpg



The one thing offensive lineman Daryn Colledge publicly made known he's been striving for since coming to Green Bay as a second-round draft choice in 2006 - even dating back to a training camp diary he did for Packers.com that rookie summer - he may finally have found.

Consistency.

The 6-foot-4, 308-pounder had the athletic ability from the day he arrived. He's always had the intelligence. Those attributes allowed him to make the switch from collegiate left tackle at Boise State to left guard in the pros.

But that transition, coupled with the jump from the Western Athletic Conference to the NFL, produced the expected rough spots and uneven play many young players experience.

Now halfway through his third year, Colledge appears to have smoothed out some of that unevenness. Unlike the last two years, he hasn't had his job opened up to competition by the coaches at midseason. And he's coming off the second emergency start at left tackle of his young career, one that went much better than his first, two seasons ago.

Colledge's growing reliability and versatility prompted Head Coach Mike McCarthy to say earlier this week that he'd be comfortable putting Colledge in at any spot along the offensive line, except center. Though he's not a player who's going to show up on many, if any, Pro Bowl ballots, his value to the Packers can't be overstated at this stage.

"It's not a surprise," offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said. "The guy has worked extremely hard since he's been here. He's made a major contribution both years, the previous two.

"It's probably that experience that keeps adding up. He's always been a hard worker, and I think it's starting to pay more and more dividends. There's no question he's been more consistent and we look forward for him to play better in the second half."

Colledge certainly expects to, and because he continues to take the same, steady approach to his work, there's no reason to think he won't.

It's that level-headed, businesslike approach that has helped him bounce back from difficulties that have driven other young players from the league. He was benched after a poor preseason opener in San Diego as a rookie, but he rebounded to start 15 games in 2006 and make Pro Football Weekly's All-Rookie Team.

Then he was benched again after a bad outing last season in Dallas, only to work his way back into the starting lineup for the postseason. This year his job was up for grabs - the only supposed open spot on the offensive line - and he headed into training camp in a much publicized battle with second-year pro Allen Barbre. Yet he has started every game thus far.

"I think the goals are still the same, try to be more physical and try to be more consistent," Colledge said. "But I think I've taken steps forward and I've grown as a player. I've played a lot faster this year, I've played with a lot more confidence. I know my system now, I know my job, so now it's just about doing it as fast and physical and I possibly can, and maybe taking the opportunity to dominate a couple of people.

"The better I play, the more I'm playing, the more and more confidence I'm getting, and hopefully it's snowballing into a decent player."

It should be noted that injuries have helped Colledge regain lost opportunities, but there's more to it than just others' misfortune.

After the preseason benching as a rookie, fellow rookie Jason Spitz was injured in Week 1 and Colledge slid into the starting lineup in Week 2. Last year, Junius Coston was hurt in the regular-season finale, opening a spot for Colledge in the playoffs. And this year, rookie Josh Sitton and Spitz were looking like the two starting guards in the preseason until a knee injury sidelined Sitton for several weeks.

But here's the thing - every time Colledge has gotten back into the lineup, he's played so solidly that he hasn't been summarily yanked back out when other options are available again. He has won those jobs back with his performance, and that has contributed to the fact that his job hasn't really been in question since this season started.

"I think I'm proud of how I responded," Colledge said, looking back on those ups-and-downs. "I always knew I was a guy who could step up and play. I think everybody would rather be the guy that never had to step up and was just a dominant guy from the beginning.

"But I knew I was going to make a position change in the NFL that would be difficult, and the fact that I'm into my third year now and I haven't had my job put on the line again, I feel like I'm playing well and I'm up there with the rest of our offensive line. Right now, that's what I'm most proud of. I feel like every season I've grown, and this year is no exception."

Another opportunity for growth came last week in Tennessee, when left tackle Chad Clifton had an allergic reaction to some medication and was a last-minute scratch from the starting lineup. Colledge was shifted over to left tackle, just like he was in October of 2006 when Clifton came down with food poisoning the night before a game in Miami, and he held his own.

Colledge admitted to being more nervous for the assignment two years ago than last week, and understandably so. Not only was he a rookie with just four NFL starts under his belt in Miami, but he was whipped by Pro Bowl defensive end Jason Taylor for a pair of sacks in the opening moments of the game.

This time he caught a break, with Tennessee's starting end Kyle Vanden Bosch out with an injury, but Colledge nonetheless filled in at left tackle with minimal drop-off in the line's overall play. The ground game churned out 4.3 yards per carry, and the offense posted 390 total yards in the tough overtime loss.

"It was night and day difference," Colledge said of the two games at left tackle. "I like the fact that the Packers trust my ability to go out and play if Clifton can't. That makes me proud, to know the Packers are like, 'Hey, we're not going to change what we're doing. We're going to go out and play football and we're just going to put you in that slot.' That means a lot to me."

As for whether his college position - left tackle - is his future pro position, there's no telling at this point. While Philbin said he "wouldn't put it past him," Colledge isn't focusing on being Clifton's eventual successor when he has a starting job at left guard to hold down. Though he is soaking up as much knowledge from the veteran at his side every chance he gets.

"I like having Cliff on my left. I learn from him every day," Colledge said. "I'm not the pass protecting left tackle that Clifton is. I've got a lot to learn, and there's technique I'm learning from him every week.

"I've been a left guard for the last three years, so I think it's a position I would have to again make an adjustment and grow back into, but one I would hope would be an easier transition than my one to guard."

{sportsad300}In the here and now, Colledge has yet another monstrous assignment on Sunday, going up against Minnesota's stellar defensive tackle tandem of Kevin and Pat Williams. But this is the sixth time in three years he'll face the duo, and it's matchups like this that have both knocked him down and improved his game along the way.

"We play in such a tough (division), especially on the interior," he said. "We've got the Williamses, we've got (Detroit's Cory) Redding, we've got (Chicago's) Tommie Harris. And those are just the marquee guys.

"I think it gives you the ability when you play out of conference, you have a lot more confidence. There are not too many times you go on the road or go outside the conference where you're like, 'Up against this guy, I don't know what to do.'"

One thing Colledge does want to do is continue to get stronger, to complement his smarts and to better handle the Williamses and Harrises of the NFC North. Now that he's found some consistency to his game, it will only help to add more physicality.

If he does, it should increase his prominence on the offensive line, both in the present and future, and he'll keep getting closer to the player he and the Packers want him to be.

For now, he's become the type of player the team needs him to be, and there's plenty to be said for that as well.

"Since the day he got here, a lot of expectations were put on him, and at that point in time we were really floundering and looking for guys on the offensive line," Philbin said. "The one thing you have to respect about Daryn is he's been a responsible, accountable and available player since that day, and there's a lot of value in that. Then you add versatility in there, and it makes it even better.

"He's a definite asset up front. He's smart, he understands football concepts well. He gets it, and he's been an invaluable member of the club."

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content

Advertising