Jan 18, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; General view of the line of scrimmage as Green Bay Packers center Corey Linsley (63) snaps the ball to quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) against the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Championship at CenturyLink Field. The Seahawks defeated the Packers 28-22 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
* = starter; + = roster spot
* Bryan Bulaga
* David Bakhtiari
* T.J. Lang
* Josh Sitton
* Corey Linsley
+ J.C. Tretter
+ Lane Taylor
+ Don Barclay
+ Josh Walker
Aug 29, 2015; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga (75) during the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lambeau Field. Philadelphia won 39-26. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
The biggest difference last season compared to any other in the Aaron Rodgers’ era for Green Bay had to be the emergence of the offensive line as a definitive strength. For years, that group was routinely discussed as how Green Bay could be beaten; if the line couldn’t do enough to make up for its deficiencies, then Rodgers and Co. could be slowed down and eventually beaten.
That idea of course would be true in pretty much any loss — bad blocking makes even the best offenses look sub-average — but until 2014 we had never actually seen the offensive lineman work as such an impactful group. For once, they could finally be seen as strength instead of only as a weakness. McCarthy saw it coming too; before the season, he did state that his group was most talented group the team had accumulated.
The exciting thing to me: this group could be even better in 2015. The starting group stayed relatively healthy all of last year (Brian Bulaga missed some early time while T.J. Lang and Josh Sitton dealt with injuries which made them miss practice) and should return to do more of the same. Bulaga was brought back at a great price to lock down the right tackle position for the next five seasons. David Bakhtiari stands as an underrated third-year left tackle who has a chance to make a jump in his third season. Lang and Sitton are two of the better guards in the entire league — especially Sitton — and are set at right and left guard, respectively. Don’t forget Corey Linsley, who went from low draft pick to starting unexpectedly, yet still managed to grade out as a top-5 center according to Pro Football Focus. Barring injuries, these five should be a strong bet to put in another impressive group effort out in front of the Aaron Rodgers-led offense.
Aug 3, 2015; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers guard Josh Sitton (71) practice during training camp at Ray Nitschke Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
After the starters, there are less sure things but still more talent to go around. Based off what the Packers have done previously, it seems like a good bet that Green Bay will try to fill those backup spots with players who are flexible enough to function in multiple spots across the line. J.C. Tretter definitely fits that mold; he was set to be the starting center before a preseason injury last season, while he also stepped in as a backup tackle on occasion too. He should be able to fill in as a backup at center and both tackle spots.
Don Barclay is less of a lock because of coming off a torn ACL, but his versatility to play guard and tackle makes him valuable; as long as he is healthy enough, he should make the roster again too. He had a pretty rough start to the preseason, but improved as the games went on and added another facet of his versatility by spending time playing left tackle. As long as the team feels good about his knee, he should be a go for the 53.
After him, I see two remaining spots. While there are plenty of names remaining, I only see a few potentially worthy candidates.
Aug 23, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Green Bay Packers tackle Don Barclay (67) blocks at the line of scrimmage against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the second quarter at Heinz Field. The Steelers won 24-19. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
One of them is Josh Walker.
Walker has the versatile quality backup lineman need to help give them the best shot at making an impact.. He doesn’t quite have the same level of experience with the team, but he did spend most of last season with the practice squad so there is a level of familiarity there. Walker just so happens to have performed like one of the better lineman on the entire team throughout the training camp workouts; the last tally I saw for 1-on-1 drills (matching offensive linemen directly against defensive linemen) he was 11-2, good for 4th among offensive linemen — and tied for most wins overall in the drill at that time. His work will make it hard for Green Bay to not bring him on the 53-man roster.
The final offensive lineman is Lane Taylor.
Taylor has been in Green Bay for some time already, but he hasn’t seen many snaps beyond special teams blocking assignments. Seeing that he has been on the roster before could be helpful to him; Green Bay must see something there or he would’ve probably been dropped already. It also helps his case that he has the desired versatility to play either guard spot.
Even if the dreaded injury bug strikes Green Bay at this position as it had in many seasons before 2014, there’s enough versatile talent here to hold the fort and help keep the offense chugging along.