Grasping his side in agony, Packers right tackle Bryan Bulaga tried to stand but eventually succumbed to a hip fracture last season, but in his absence a under-appreciated rookie by the name of Don Barclay took command by solidifying an absent necessity.
By week nine the offensive line had been stretched like salt-water taffy and with a question mark revolving around center Jeff Saturday and left tackle Marshall Newhouse, something had to gel and gel quickly.
Barclay’s impact was immediate on the ground, while being cunningly agile and sturdy, the line could finally add a dimension they had been lacking.
An emergence of a running game come to fruition with James Starks returning from his 2010 slumber to churn out 61 yards on 17 carries against the stubborn Cardinals’ defense.
Resurgence became a theme with Ryan Grant’s performance against the Tennessee Titans in week 16 with 20 carries for 80 yards and two scores.
Since Head Coach Mike McCarthy came to the Packers with former offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski in 2006, the zone-blocking scheme has been a mixed bag. Sporadic success has given way to an abandonment of the ground attack as evidenced by the use of only Brandon Jackson and John Kuhn during the 2010 title run.
With Barclay, an undrafted prospect from West Virginia displaying true grit, he helped to beef up the strength of the line while also maintaining the pace of the offense.
Looking at the Mountaineers during his tenure, Barclay was a consistent force at the point of attack by crushing the opponent across the line with 64 knockdowns , helping the team average 185.3 yards of rushing per game in his final season.
While Bryan Bulaga is a stellar tackle, his talents derive from pure pass-blocking at the left tackle position, whereas Barclay possesses the speed and agility to pull and challenge the second level to create space for running backs.
Add the ability to rush the ball on offense and Barclay’s unknown ceiling with the small sample size and the Packers could have what they have been expected to search for in the coming draft.