MINNEAPOLIS, MN - OCTOBER 23: Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers calls a play at the line of scrimmage against the Minnesota Vikings in the first quarter on October 23, 2011 at Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Packers defeated the Vikings 33-27. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Lost in all of the concern over the Green Bay Packers defense against the Giants was the play of the offensive line. It was arguably their worst game of the season. Maybe that shouldn't have been a surprise since RG Josh Sitton was out with a knee injury.
While the offensive line only allowed 2 sacks that was due in large part to Aaron Rodgers's ability to avoid them. They also allowed 6 quarterback hits, but the bigger number was 8 tackles for a loss. And it explains why the three running backs were all held to under 3 yards per carry. DE Justin Tuck had his best game in a while, DE Jason Pierre-Paul was a constant presence in the backfield, and DT Linval Joseph led their team with 9 tackles. How crazy was it for him to record 9 tackles? Consider that NT B.J. Raji has 18 tackles for the season.
Statistically analysis is difficult on the offensive line. Pro Football Focus ranks them 9th overall, while Football Outsiders ranks them as below average against the run (24th) and pass (18th). Let's look at the starters one by one instead.
LT Marshall Newhouse. I'm not surprised that he's been so inconsistent this season. That's the type of player he seemed to be when I watched him the past two preseasons. I was hoping he'd get better as the season went on, but that hasn't happened. He played very well against the Lions, only to follow it up with a stinker against the Giants. It appears that the coaches believe rookie Derek Sherrod would be even worse, which is a rough comment on their 1st round draft choice.
LG T.J. Lang, C Scott Wells, and RG Evan Dietrich-Smith. I hate to do this to them, but none of them impressed against the Giants and I'm combining each players analysis in this one paragraph. The running plays went nowhere, and the Giants starting defensive tackles combined for 15 tackles against them. They also allowed a sack by Tuck on a stunt when he swept inside and ran straight up the middle. The absence of Sitton was a factor, but Lang and Wells didn't play great. Though one bad game doesn't make a problem.
RT Bryan Bulaga. He played much better during the 2010 playoffs than the regular season, and that improvement has carried over to 2011. Pro Football Focus surprisingly has him ranked as their top right tackle. He gave up a sack against the Lions, which might have been as much a surprise as a problem.
With Sitton expected back later this season (he's out for next Sunday's game against the Raiders) the line will likely improve on his return. Chad Clifton was expected back by this time, but he suffered a back injury while recovering from his hamstring injury, so his return seems uncertain. I don't see a big upside on this line. While it's hard to imagine it getting better, it hasn't held the offense back this season either.