Green Bay Packers’ 53-man roster prediction
By Kenn Korb
* = starter; + = roster spot; & = PUP
* Bryan Bulaga
* David Bakhtiari
* T.J. Lang
* Josh Sitton
& Corey Linsley
+ J.C. Tretter
+ Lane Taylor
+ Don Barclay
+ Kyle Murphy
+ Jason Spriggs
In 2014, this line finally found a way to stay healthy, and it was considered one of the best units in the league. 2015 had promise, but an assortment of injuries threw that plan into flux; nobody sustained the kind of season-ending injuries that have afflicted guys in the past, but nagging problems took just about everyone down for stretches, ruining the chemistry required of a good line.
There are already some unfortunate problems cropping up in that regard to start the year again; the team’s usual starting center Linsley has a twice-torn hamstring that likely gets him set on the Physically Unable To Perform (PUP) list for six weeks.
Fortunately, the team is as set as any in terms of strong lineman depth. Sitton and Lang form one of the top guard duos in the league. Bakhtiari can be overpowered with bull rushes, but is technically sound otherwise, and when healthy Bulaga is a strong option who can play either tackle spot. In Linsley’s stead, J.C. Tretter is the current starter at center and has the kind of malleable talent to work well at any of the line spots as needed.
Beyond the starters, there is still a good group to look towards, one much deeper than what the team had to resort to in 2015. Taylor is a decent backup with multiple years of experience in this offense, capable of taking on either guard spot if needed. Spriggs could be the future at one of the tackle spots, and Murphy could also see himself called upon depending what happens with Sitton and Lang after this year (both are set for free agency in 2017).
The only real question now is who gets brought on as the backup center while Linsley sits. Steuck was brought in as a possible pure center option once Linsley got hurt, but despite the issues surrounding him it could be Barclay that the team ultimately goes with. Barclay had an awful 2015 (by PFF rankings, he was the second-worst rated player on the year), but that may have been at least in part due to the torn ACL he sustained the previous year. With ACLs, there is a tendency to take two years for players to fully return to their prior level; with that in mind, he could conceivably be in line to get back to being the usual multi-talented utility lineman we saw before 2015. The team has already begun using him at center in the preseason, and he has experience at all the other spots on the line as well. In a backup, versatility is much desired; you never know who above them might go down due to injury and/or ineffectiveness, so having someone that can play anywhere makes life easier on a team. Because of that, Barclay will probably have his shot at redeeming his terrible year.