By Justis Mosqueda
While many speculated that the David Bahktiari and J.C. Tretter picks last week were a tip of the hand that Derek Sherrod, the 2011 first round pick, wasn't ready to start at left tackle Day 1, I didn't believe it. After Campen let reporters know he wasn't sure about having Bahktiari start the beginning of camp as a left tackle, I was almost certain this meant Sherrod was coming back healthy. This was until late yesterday.
A report came out late last night from JSOnline.com that stated McCarthy is moving Bryan Bulaga from right tackle to left tackle and flipping Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang, the guards.
The first thing that stands out is the the Bulaga move. Bulaga did start at left tackle while at Iowa, but he's been a right tackle his entire tenure in Green Bay. A move to right tackle, where Marshall Newhouse started last year, to me shows the lack of faith in Derek Sherrod's recovery. Many speculated that Bulaga couldn't keep up with elite rushers as a left tackle because of his smaller than average arms for the position. Either way, Bulaga by far the best tackle on the team (Sherrod hasn't been healthy enough to judge) and having your best tackle at left tackle is a must.
Bulaga to left tackle isn't an isolate move, there are ripple effects that will go through the team. The right tackle spot is the only (seemingly) open position on the offensive line now. In the JSOnline piece McCarthy said that Newhouse and Don Barclay will compete for the right tackle opening until Sherrod is healthy and is added to the competition.
Marshall Newhouse has been starting at left tackle for the Packers recently because of the injury Sherrod has sustained. Since becoming a starter, he's been consistently ranked among the worst starting left tackles by sites such as ProFootballFocus.com. While Newhouse does have the body and potential to play right tackle, it seems like his mentality has always lead him to stay as a left tackle. He's got the athleticism (obviously, he played left tackle which is more of an athletic position than right tackle) for the passing game and the anchor for the strong side of the running game. I'd guess that Newhouse is pretty ticked off about this move. He's on a contract year having to move to right tackle (if he's even a starter), instead of playing left tackle, which could net him a lot more money next off-season.
Don Barclay was an undrafted free agent that the Packers really fell in love with last year. Barclay and now center Evan Dietrich-Smith seemed to be the two offensive linemen that the media members didn't know much about, but the staff was high on in camp. Both made their way to starting jobs as EDS replaced Jeff Saturday mid-season and Barclay stepped in at right tackle when Bulaga went down with an injury.
At this point I'd give Barclay the edge in the race because of his performance at right tackle last year. I'm not sure Newhouse even wants to be there. If Barclay does win out, I'm not so sure Newhouse even makes the team, which added two mid-round offensive linemen and lost no 2012 starters.
The guard move is actually more confusing to me than the Bulaga flip. I understand the Bulaga flip. Sherrod is hurt, and someone has to play left tackle. Bulaga might have smaller arms than desired, but Newhouse isn't cutting it as a left tackle. Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang are both good guards that have performed well at right and left guard, respectively.
Maybe McCarthy just wants his best two offensive linemen on the blindside of his billion-dollar quarterback? That's the only motive I have been able to come up with, at this point. McCarthy said to JSOnline that he liked the way Sitton played left guard in the Pro Bowl, but how much stock can an NFL coach put into an all-star game performance?
Either way, the offensive line corp should be one of the most interesting when the Packers kick off camp this summer. If Sherrod proves he's healthy, he could throw a monkey wrench into all of this. Until then, I'm prediction a Bulaga-Sitton-EDS-Lang-Barclay starting lineup for Week 1 against the 49ers.