Bulaga never got the chance to step into what many feel is the high profile position on the offensive line because he was forced into filling in for an ailing Mark Tauscher at the right tackle position. He became the Packers full-time right tackle and isentrenched.
Until this week.
Packers head coach Mike McCarthy announced that he was flip-flopping his offensive line, but not necessarily, he said, because he wanted better protection of his newly-minted $110 million quarterback, Aaron Rodgers.
You could read between the lines on this one, but McCarthy said that his decision was based more upon schemes and strategies being implemented by the head coach and his staff for the upcoming season than it was for a need to protect Rodgers’ blind side.
Either way, the work is under way to make it happen and in an interview with Bill Huber of the Packer Report published today, Bulaga said he is ready to make the best of his new position.
Here’s what Bulaga told Huber:
“I was excited about it. Obviously, I didn’t know that this was going to happen. This was just something that was brought to my attention. I was excited about it and very thankful for the opportunity, and I’m just excited to get going with it. I’m happy that in these IPWs (individual player workouts) and OTAs (organized team activities) that we can — me and Josh (Sitton) and Marshall (Newhouse) and T.J. (Lang) can get our footwork down and get used to the position switch. I’m very thankful that (McCarthy) did it.”
The shakeup along the line has been hailed across Packers Nation as a good thing. Clearly, something had to be done. McCarthy and GM Ted Thompson weren’t about to go through another season watching their franchise player being mugged in the backfield, nor were they prepared to enter another season without making changes that might lead to an improvement in the running game.
All four of these draft picks were also praised by everyone following the Packers. It was time to make changes and these draft picks could only make things better.
However, McCarthy and Thompson weren’t finished.
McCarthy announced his plans to flip-flop his line – not only giving T.J. Lang, Josh Sitton, and Bulaga new positions to play – but he also put former left tackle Marshall Newhouse on notice that if he was going to continue to be a starter that he would have to compete for a job as the new right tackle. He would be competing against Don Barclay, the undrafted free agent who stepped into the position at the end of last season. Barclay didn’t set the world on fire, but he did show a mean streak and held his own. In fact, his run blocking skills stood out as the Packers running game picked up steam as the season drew to a close.
So, the exact makeup of the line is still in flux, but the change is a good thing, according to Bulaga, who is coming back off a hip injury that kept him out of the majority of last season.
“We obviously need to be better in that category [the run game]. Everybody’s comfortable with the running backs we have in house, and obviously we did draft two guys. I think everybody’s excited the way the run game is going. I think everybody is anxious to start doing it in training camp because, obviously, there’s no contact in OTAs and whatnot. I think everybody’s excited to get going and we know it needs to be a major emphasis to help out the offense and help out Aaron to make sure that not everything is just him throwing the football. We need to be able to help him out running the ball and getting positive yards that way.”
The competition at right tackle will be fun to watch when the team starts live contact during training camp. Either way, the offensive line is going to have a different look next season and hopefully more production.
Bulaga thinks the same.
“I just look at it as Coach McCarthy wanting to make a switch and flip guys around. I’m happy that I got moved over to the left side. I’m thankful for it and it’s a good opportunity. I know all the talk that goes around — like you said about playing left tackle and it being a premier position and all of that — but I don’t look at it that way. I just look at it as playing a new position and doing the best I can.”