Rookie Bryan Bulaga replaced an ineffective Chad Clifton at left tackle for the Green Bay Packers midway through the second quarter of the team’s win over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.
After the game Packers coach Mike McCarthy said the move was made because Clifton was suffering from a knee injury, but also noted Clifton wasn’t playing well.
“Chad Clifton, you know, did not practice twice this week. He has an issue with his knee. It just didn’t look like he was fully recovered so I thought it was important to get Bryan in there,” McCarthy said.
“He didn’t look good today so…He didn’t look like he was healthy. He struggled last week through the Philadelphia game. We’ll assess it in the morning and set our plan for next week.”
Bulaga played much better than Clifton when he came into the game and McCarthy made note of that afterward, but he refused to say the Packers plan on making a permanent change at left tackle.
Clifton is 34, injury prone and clearly on his last legs. Bob McGinn detailed Clifton’s struggles, which have been a constant in the Packers first two games, this season.
Clifton clearly struggled in his four-series, 27-play stint. Using subjective judgment, he had nine poor plays before being replaced by Bulaga, the 23rd selection in the April draft.
Clifton’s performance came on the heels of a subpar showing in Philadelphia in which he allowed 1½ sacks.
Despite his poor performance, McCarthy isn’t ready to give up on Clifton yet.
“We’ll evaluate Chad. We have a lot of history with Chad. The medical staff has a lot of history with Chad, and when we get him to the point where we feel he’s ready to go, he’ll go,” McCarthy said. “He’s our starting left tackle. He’s battling through a rough spot right now medically. We have Bryan Bulaga getting ready. I thought Bryan played well with his opportunity yesterday.”
One of the reasons the Packers probably remain committed to Clifton is because they face the Chicago Bears next Monday night for first place in the NFC North. The 2-0 Bears have one of the more talented defensive ends in the NFL in Julius Peppers.
Peppers traditionally plays the left side, but the Bears would likely try to move Peppers around in order to get him matched up on Bulaga, who would be making his first NFL start. Bulaga looks like he’s ready for prime time, but I doubt the Packers want to throw him into a fire like that.
If Clifton is healthy enough, it looks like he’ll remain the starter for now, but we’d be surprised if the job didn’t belong to Bulaga by the end of the year.