The Packers may not own the league’s best offensive line but the versatility amongst the group will help them get by. Six of the ten-plus linemen are capable of playing more than one position effectively, most notably T.J. Lang and Evan Dietrich-Smith. The Packers have also developed some impressive talent in lower-profile names like Marshall Newhouse and Don Barclay. Strange to say, but the Packers may be deeper on the O-Line than they are used to.
Fortunately for Aaron Rodgers, gone are the days of worrying about which late-round draft pick will start at right tackle in Week 1. If the Packers are hurting at one position, it’s center. Don Barclay’s audition at the position hasn’t gone as smoothly as coaches had hoped. If things don’t turn around quickly then the Packers’ two best options at center are sticking to stopgap Evan Dietrich-Smith or moving guard T.J. Lang inside. Giving Lang a shot at center may be the better option as the six-year pro is the more talented of the two and the Packers have the depth to replace Lang at right guard.
One player that has the potential to affect roster decisions is 2011 first-round draft pick Derek Sherrod. The language from the coaching staff around Sherrod’s recovery has been noticeably positive, giving hope to the left tackle avoiding the PUP list to start the season. Of course, retaining Sherrod on the active roster comes at the expense of a project lineman such as last year’s seventh-round choice Andrew Datko. With Sherrod still months away from being an effective starter, the better decision may be stashing the Mississippi State product on the PUP this fall.
It’s clear that the Packers have a number of different options for the five-man set they choose to go with in September. However, Mike McCarthy and offensive line coach James Campen will think twice about scenarios that could result in ‘musical O-Line’ if one player goes down. In the NFL, offensive linemen often times require several weeks to develop chemistry with one another; the substitution of one lineman off the bench for an injured one is far more desirable than rotating multiple starting linemen.
The Packers have to be happy about the number of different options they have on the O-Line going into the preseason. The word out of camp is that rookie David Bakhtiari has looked NFL-ready and is capable of starting at right tackle this season. Barclay or Newhouse should still be seen as favorites for the starting job but don’t sleep on Bakhtiari starting somewhere by midseason. Health of key contributors like Bryan Bulaga and Josh Sitton will be key throughout the season.