I asked this question in a post game thread, but with the news that Brian Bulaga returned to practice today I figured it would be a good time to trot this question back out in a full out fan post. Right now the Packers offensive line is in a bit of a transition. This transition is both in the short term phase and a long term phase and the injury situation is just the catalyst bring about the change that has been coming for about two years now.
We all know the lessons the Packers learn from 2009. As much as we love to talk laugh at the Bears for how wretched their offensive line is, it was Rodgers who took 52ish sacks in 2009 (a year before Cutler and the Bears decided to have their o-line fall apart). From this the Packers learned that the team couldn't rely on Chad Clifton or Mark Tauscher anymore and replacements were needed ASAP. So over the next two years TT & co. drafted three tackles. First round picks were spent on Brian Bulaga and Derek Sherrod and a fifth round pick was spent on Marshall Newhouse. All three of these guys had various levels of promising attached to them, but each had their flaws as well.
Now Clifton's injury is forcing the Packers hand at figuring out which of these three guys is going to be the LT of the future for this team. Assuming that Bulaga is ready to play Sunday, how should our tackles be arranged?
Why Bulaga should be the LT.
Bulaga has grown up a lot since stepping in for Tauscher last year. He's been our best tackle so far this year, and typically that's what you want out of the protector of the QB's blind side. Bulaga has handled some of the best pass rushers in the league in his time and has the most experience out of the three.
Why Bulaga shouldn't be the LT.
Probably the best reason why Bulaga shouldn't move is because he's shown to be a pretty darn good RT. The switch to LT can be difficult and Bulaga has put in a good amount of time on the right side. It may not be a good idea to mess with that. He also has "short arms" which theoretically can put him at a disadvantage against some of the more elite athletes out there.
Why Newhouse should be the LT.
He did it last week pretty darn well. Newhouse has the prototypical body of a LT. He's got long arms and a good sized frame. His action against the Falcons show he has the ability to protect Rodgers and since he's the most recent guy to man the position he seem to have a good working relationship with T.J. Lang in order to handle some of the protection shift and audibles that happen during the game.
Why Newhouse shouldn't be the LT.
Bulaga and Sherrod probably have more upside than Newhouse and this replacement may also turn into an audition for the long term solution at LT for the Packers.
Why Sherrod should be the LT.
This is what he was drafted for, to be the LT of the future.... theoretically. After all, Bulaga has more of a RT build to him with his short arms and road grading style, but Sherrod, like Newhouse, has a larger frame and longer arms. He was also known as a technician and more of a pass blocker coming out of college. LT is probably his most natural position along the line, let the rookie grow into it to build the chemistry of the line.
Why Sherrod shouldn't be the LT.
He probably isn't ready. Last week MM decided to play musical chairs with the tackles rather than place Sheorrd at the LT position after Clifton went down. Unfortunately the lockout and Sherrod's extended try out at LG this summer probably put him a bit behind in where he should be for learning the tackle spot. This made a certain amount of sense when Clifton and Bulaga were starters and Newhouse could be the swing tackle, but now Clifton looks to be gone for a while and Bulaga is a question mark. Best not allow Rodgers blind side to be protected by a rookie who is still learning some of the protection schemes.
Right now I'm torn between trotting Bulaga or Newhouse out at the LT spot and then letting the other play RT. Deep down I want Bulaga there because I have this nagging feeling that Bulaga is going to be better than Newhouse, but my rational mind says the opposite...and I think if I were a coach my rational brain would win. The O-line is about chemistry and putting Newhouse on the left side and Bulaga on the right would allow for the best chemistry and the least interruption once Clifton gets back from his injury.
But what do you all think?