Analysis: Packers Offensive Line

NEW YORK - APRIL 22: Bryan Bulaga from the Iowa Hawkeyes holds up a Green Bay Packers jersey after the Packers drafted him number 23 overall during the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on April 22, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

Since LG Daryn Colledge and offensive coordinator Joe Philbin are publicly discussing Colledge's excuses, this might be a good time to look at how the Green Bay Packers offensive line played in 2009. 

According to Football Outsiders, they were No. 30 in pass protection and No. 8 in run blocking. RB Ryan Grant ran the ball well last season and the o-line certainly deserves some credit for it. Could there really have been two teams worst in pass protection? Yep. The Raiders were dragged down by LT Mario Henderson who was ranked as the worst tackle in the league by a wide, wide margin according to Pro Football Focus. The Bills were so bad that they raided the Packers practice squad for RT Jamon Meredith who apparently did OK last season according to Pro Football Focus.

The 2009 stats by player are from Pro Football Focus (after the jump): 

Position Player Rank Overall Rating Pass Rating Run Rating
LT Clifton 46 -7.4 5.7 -4.6
LT Lang 53 -10.3 -9.1 1.8
LG Colledge 19 4.8 4.3 3.0
C Wells 18 1.5 2.4 1.6
RG Sitton 10 13.1 10.1 6.1
RT Tauscher 42 -5.8 2.8 -7.1
RT Barbre 58 -14 -13.4 2.4

On one hand, Colledge is right. Based on the above stats, he's arguably the 2nd best offensive lineman on the roster if left alone at his best position: left guard.

On the other hand, I would argue that the best pass blocking offensive lineman are LT Chad Clifton and RT Mark Tauscher and they are the only two lineman who played at either tackle position with a positive pass blocker rating. I didn't post Colledge's disastrous 3 game stint at LT above, but he had -13.0 pass block rating during them. Colledge appears to be one the many offensive lineman on the roster who is best suited to play inside the tackles, and he should be prepared to fight for his job in 2010.

I haven't read a single word that anyone is clamoring to watch either C Scott Wells or RT Josh Sitton work at tackle. Sitton would appear to be the best pass blocker on the line, but he's also earned that above statistical ranking because he's played exclusively at right guard. I'd expect both players to struggle more at either tackle position. It still doesn't take away from the fact that Sitton was the best o-lineman last season, and he's turning into a solid pro.

What to do with Scott Wells? One player not mentioned above is C Jason Spitz. He hardly played in 2009 due to a back injury, but he did play better than Wells at center in 2008. The real problem for Wells is that his stats went down significantly in 2009. I had noticed a couple more bad plays then usual from him last season, but I had dismissed them as infrequent events. Maybe those bad plays I can remember are just the hint that's he's declining. Both Wells and Spitz enter 2010 with question marks.

The real surprise for me was that there appears to be some hope for OL Allen Barbre. He should never be allowed to play tackle again, but he did a good job on running plays. Maybe he can become a decent guard or backup guard option, and a decent pass blocker when playing between the tackles.

The same may be said for OL T.J. Lang who allowed too many sacks at left tackle last season. Where or when he'll play in 2010 is uncertain due to his recent wrist surgery. He's listed as a left tackle above because that was where he had the most snaps in 2009. He could compete against Colledge at left guard, but I expect he'll primarily backup at right tackle. 

The wild card is rookie LT Bryan Bulaga. He won't start at left tackle in 2010 unless something happens to Clifton, but he may be too good to keep off the field. Will they be forced to play him at left guard this season if they want to start their 5 best lineman?

My best guess is that the starting 2010 offensive line is LT Clifton, LG Colledge, C Spitz, RG Sitton, and RT Tauscher. LT Bulaga and RT Lang are the top two backup tackles. Wells and Barbre backup at the three interior line positions. With one or two more lineman making the 53-man roster for additional depth. 

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