No one would have considered the Green Bay Packers offensive line a strength last season, particularly in the first half.
Part of the reason was the ineffectiveness of right tackle Allen Barbre, who was eventually replaced by Mark Tauscher. Another factor was injuries. Chad Clifton missed several games, forcing left guard Daryn Colledge and later rookie T.J. Lang to fill in at left tackle.
Colledge was less than effective at tackle and didn’t play particularly well at guard, either. The Packers gave up a league-leading 51 sacks.
This year, the line looks like a strength. The Packers have a cohesive unit, which can be attributed to the fact that the same five guys who opened training camp as starters finished it that way. Colledge also responded to the challenge presented by rookie Bryan Bulaga for his starting left guard spot.
Joining Clifton, Tauscher and Colledge as starters are the Packers two best offensive linemen from a season ago — right guard Josh Sitton and center Scott Wells.
In studying film of quarterback Aaron Rodgers, NFL analyst Brian Baldinger suggests the offensive line is a major key to the success of the Packers offense.
While watching Rodgers, though, one thing that really jumped out at me was the play of the Packers offensive line and their blocking schemes. Their line is home-grown, and not one starter was a first-round pick. Wow, though, they know how to play together. The Packers line plays in synch, with great technique, and plays hard in both the run and the pass. In situations where they anticipate pressure, the Packers use tight ends Donald Lee and Jermichael Finley behind the guards as a safety valve. I don’t know why more teams don’t do this. If the pocket is secure, they act as a valuable check-down target.
Injuries could certainly change things. Clifton is 34 and Tauscher is 33 and I would be surprised if both of them make it through a full season. However, if either goes down, the team has seemingly capable backups in Bulaga and Lang, both of whom should be future starters.
Either way you slice it, the Packers are in a much better position that last season.