For a team that had to use all of its offensive tackles last season, this tidbit of information from Packers GM Ted Thompson has to elicit some consternation among Packer faithful: He expects Sherrod to have a long career – to be OK long-term. The key word in each of those descriptions? Long. As in don’t expect him to be 100 percent in 2012.
So, what if Sherrod isn’t healthy enough for 2012, you ask? He didn’t particularly impress the Packers coaching staff in 2011, despite receiving a lot of opportunities to do so.
The problem is when such unfortunate injuries happen to important players (in this case a tibia/fibula fracture), it completely wrecks Ted Thompson’s long-term plans. Take a look at every position group and you’ll find backups who are expected to be starters in the near-term. This philosophy is inexpensive and has been successful in terms of winning. Unfortunately, when a future starter like Sherrod goes down, it doesn’t mean the player he was supposed to supplant will stay. This brings us to the other big news from the combine: Yahoo.com is reporting that the Packers will cut long-time Packers left tackle Chad Clifton this off-season.
After two inconsistent, injury-prone years, Clifton was supposed to be replaced in 2012 by Sherrod. But because of Sherrod’s injury, it looks very likely that Marshall Newhouse will take over the starting job, at least for 2012.
The Packers can’t continue to play Clifton, who was intermittently removed from action during the playoff game, just because Sherrod is hurt. Hopefully Sherrod is able to at least go through the motions in training camp and be a serviceable backup during the season. This would allow him to take the T.J. Lang route to becoming a starter: Waiting an extra year to get healthy and then participating in a full off-season to prepare for a training camp battle for a starting position.