The Milwaukee Journel-Sentinal’s Rob Reischel raised a few eyebrows yesterday when he suggested Bryan Bulaga might transition to left tackle for the Green Bay Packers this offseason. While the article mostly discusses Bulaga’s recover from a hip injury, it points out how current left tackle Marshall Newhouse hasn’t improved significantly in his second year as starter. Naturally, there are many concerns about such a move, yet it’s an intriguing possibility nonetheless.
Assuming that Bulaga doesn’t hit any setbacks, there are some obvious positives to such a move. While many observers get caught up in Bulaga’s poor performance against the Seattle Seahawks, he graded as either the best or second best offensive lineman on the team depending on whether you consult Football Outsiders or Pro Football Focus. The possibility of playing him at the premium position of left tackle has to be considered.
This is not the first time the idea of Bulaga at left tackle has been floated. Following the 2011 season, longtime blindside protector Chad Clifton retired. Bulaga, who was one sack away from a clean slate that year, was openly discussed by the coaching staff as a potential replacement. Bulaga had played mostly left tackle at Iowa, where he was the Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year and First Team All-Big Ten his final season. Despite some doubts about his arm and hand size, Bulaga has demonstrated the ability to handle left tackle and the elite pass rushers that position faces.
But there are consequences to a Bulaga position shift. Newhouse, who relies on quickness more than brute strength, is probably ill-fitted for the right side. Undrafted rookie Don Barclay performed well for the situation in 2012, but he’s yet to demonstrate that he’s more than quality depth. Derek Sherrod possesses the size and strength to handle right tackle, but he has yet to recover from the nasty leg injury he suffered week 15 of the 2011 season. The Packers could draft another tackle early in the 2013 draft, but that is only likely if Ted Thompson feels he’s getting a huge value
While most of this offseason’s headlines will pertain to contractual dilemmas such as Greg Jennings and Charles Woodson, Bulaga’s return and potential position move may ultimately prove the most significant development. After the Packers gave up 51 sacks, everything relating to the offensive line will be scrutinized.
Jason Hirschhorn covers the Green Bay Packers for Lombardi Ave. He has previously written for Hail to the Orange, College Hoops Net, Mocking the Draft, LiveBall Sports, and the List Universe. He is currently a senior writer for Beats Per Minute, an indie-music webzine. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/JBHirschhorn.