Remember when Green Bay Packers left tackle Chad Clifton got called for two penalties for not lining up on the line of scrimmage against the Detroit Lions, last Sunday?
Evidence suggests Clifton has done this before, and may have been doing it for a while. I’m sure the Packers, their fans and Clifton will take any advantage they can get, but this signals a potentially deeper problem – one that we addressed earlier this week.
Clifton just isn’t that good anymore.
Yes, I know, you’re probably yelling heresy right now, but let’s look at the evidence.
As ESPN’s Kevin Seifert (one of the few people not involved in a sex scandal over there) points out, such a penalty is rarely called unless a receiver lines up improperly. The fact that it was called on Clifton twice in the first half of the Lions game suggests that Detroit’s coaching staff discussed it with the referees beforehand.
And that itself suggests that Clifton has been lining up behind the line of scrimmage for some time.
Sometimes you see a tackle penalized for illegal formation when it’s not his fault. Most often, that happens when a wide receiver mistakenly gets set behind the line and leaves the tackle as an ineligible “receiver.” But in both cases Sunday, Clifton got caught using the veteran strategy of purposely lining up behind the line to give himself more space — and time to react — to the oncoming pass-rusher.
This tells me that Clifton isn’t what he used to be and he knows it. It’s understandable if Jared Allen had been on the other side of the line, but Clifton was facing Copeland Bryan on Sunday. Bryan was picked up on waivers by Detroit in September and has two career sacks.
These haven’t been Clifton’s only sins this season – a combination of too many penalties, injuries and giving up too many sacks have made him a shell of his former self. If he knows it, it’s a wonder the Packers coaching staff hasn’t noticed.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Clifton could be ready to practice Friday, after sustaining an injured ankle against Detroit.
“He feels he’s a lot further ahead than he was last time that he injured it,” McCarthy said. “We’ll see how he is in the morning and maybe shoot for Friday.”
If Clifton practices in full Friday he’ll likely start Sunday, in which case the Packers can probably expect to see more penalties and sacks, if not another injury.
So, I’ll say it again. It’s time the Packers turned the left tackle spot over to T.J. Lang.