Dec 27, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) walks off the field after being sacked against the Arizona Cardinals during the first half at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
In 2014 Green Bay had a special luxury afforded to the team, something that had managed to elude them for as long as I can remember (and at least during the entire tenure of Aaron Rodgers as the Green Bay Packers’ starting quarterback): a great offensive line.
Though the grouping of David Bakhtiari, Josh Sitton, Corey Linsley, T.J. Lang, and Bryan Bulaga was not perfect, 2014 saw this group perform as one of the better units in the league. It was good enough to spark talk and articles (including one from myself) on how well they were playing.
More from Lombardi Ave
- Packers: Picks in NFL.com mock draft would be a home run
- Packers salary cap update following second week of free agency
- Packers’ cornerback depth chart after second week of free agency
- Packers’ edge rusher depth chart after second week of free agency
- Packers’ tackle depth chart after second week of free agency
This year has unfortunately been more of a return to the original norm.
After being ranked so highly in 2014, this line has been in the bottom third of the league at best. Their play just hasn’t been nearly as good as individuals or a unit.
Injuries and matchups play a part, sure, but the way they played against the Cardinals was just atrocious.
They allowed 9 total sacks on the day — including 8 of Rodgers. On those sacks, there were three forced fumbles — two of which were run back for TDs.
According to Pro Football Focus, Aaron Rodgers was pressured on 18 of his 38 dropbacks; for those lacking in basic mathematical ability, that is just about half of his pass attempts.
While he isn’t playing at the level we want and expect from him (and his issues surely detract from the team’s current offensive abilities), believing any quarterback can/will/should produce at his expected level under that level of constant duress is patently ridiculous. He may have areas in need of fixing, but come on..a QB is only one man on a 53-man roster in an 11-vs-11 contest..
You know who isn’t one man? An offensive line! Back to them.
They did have a monumental task in facing one of the top D-linemen in the league in Calais Campbell, as well as an apparently scarily-reborn Dwight Freeney, but giving up a combined 5.5 sacks, 5 tackles for loss, and 6 QB hits to just those two guys is the kind of performance that should get people cut and/or fired before the postgame press conference.
Injuries also took a toll, but again…as long as you have an NFL player out there the performance HAS to be better than this..
Without Bakhtiari (out due to injury), we ended up seeing all eight other rostered linemen take snaps here. Bulaga was knocked out in the third quarter, while Linsley and Lang each missed snaps along the way. All the starters here (Barclay, Sitton, Linsley, Lang, Bulaga) allowed at least one of those pressures on Rodgers; nobody was safe from big mistakes here.
Speaking of big mistakes, Barclay and Josh Walker seem to qualify as pretty major blunders. Barclay received a -3.9 rating from Pro Football Focus for his performance (hint: REALLY BAD), allowing 4 sacks (including the first of the strip-sack-fumble-TDs), 4 hurries, and committing 3 penalties. Walker somehow was worse (-4.2), allowing a sack (for the second strip-sack-fumble-TD), 4 hurries, and 5 pressures in only 26 total snaps (including just 16 pass-blocking situations).
The line has been a worse group overall before (remember Marshall Newhouse?) but there is a major difference between those previous years where they played subpar compared to 2015: the other areas of the offense are also struggling massively.
Without those other areas functioning to any slight degree of success, the issues with the line aren’t as discussed — but they will be just as visible to anyone who actually pays attention to what is happening out there.
More importantly, because of those other issues around them, the problems they are having in blocking are all but impossible to overcome.
Next: No Space