Examining The 2011 Green Bay Packers: Offensive Line

ARLINGTON TX - FEBRUARY 06: Chad Clifton #76 of the Green Bay Packers holds up the Vince Lombardi Trophy after winning Super Bowl XLV 31-25 against the at Cowboys Stadium on February 6 2011 in Arlington Texas. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

The offensive line for the Green Bay Packers is one filled with solid veterans, talented youngsters, and biggest question marks. Some team legends and possible future team legends are accented by some of the Packers' most polarizing players. in some way, shape, or form, the front office of the Packers will be addressing the offensive line position in a serious way this offseason, provided labor negotiations work out.

Our last post in this series came from Ryan, examining the Packers' tight end and fullback situations. In the coming days, Tex will look at the special teams, while Mitchell will look at the defensive line. For now, let's jump into our offensive line evaluations.

#76 Chad Clifton

Player Progression (progress/stagnate/regress): Regress

Team Standing (expanded/same/diminished role): Same role

Likelihood Of Long-Term Retention (high/medium/low): Low

After tough battles with injuries and just plain poor form, Clifton re-gained his old swagger this season, particularly in the latter half of the year. Once one of the NFL's most promising young offensive linemen, the hit by Warren Sapp that shattered his hip dramatically altered the course of his career. Years later, at age 34, he was elected to the Pro Bowl for the first time in his career, having appeared in the game in the 2007-08 season as a replacement.

Clifton will walk into training camp as the starter at left tackle, but one has to wonder how many years he has left in the tank. Linemen can last longer than skill players who rely on speed and change of direction abilities, but 35 years old - Clifton's age when the season starts - is pretty old for any professional athlete. He's got at least one more year of great football left in the tank, but what Clifton can give to the team beyond that is anyone's guess. Despite his up and down play between the Sapp hit and last season, Clifton should be remembered as a truly great Packer.

#65 Mark Tauscher

Player Progression: Regress

Team Standing: Diminished Role

Likelihood Of Long-Term Retention: Poor

Like Clifton, Tauscher will always be remembered as a fantastic Packer, one of the best from an era. I remember Back when I was pretty young and Earl Dotson went down with an injury, it meant that Brett Favre was going to get creamed by opposing defensive lines. Thankfully, a rookie named Mark Tauscher stepped up, and more than 10 years later, he's nearing the end of his career.

Mark Tauscher is almost certainly done as a starter for the Green Bay Packers, sadly. His age appears to have finally gotten the best of him, and the youngsters look ready to step up.

#75 Bryan Bulaga

Player Progression: Progress

Team Standing: Expanded Role

Likelihood Of Long-Term Retention: High

It's tough to tell if Bulaga's future is going to be at left tackle or right tackle, but in any event, he appears to have a very long future ahead of him as a member of the Green Bay Packers. Bulaga was very good in most of his 12 starts, though it looked like the long NFL season might be getting to the rookie at the end of the regular season. However, he played very well in the playoffs, and he'll be better next year with 20 games, plus another NFL conditioning program behind him.

His future depends on not just the health and durability of Chad Clifton, but also on other personnel moves along the offensive line. It was thought that Bulaga was being groomed to take over at left tackle while T.J. Lang was being groomed to play Bulaga's current right tackle position, but this will depend on other personnel moves.

#73 Daryn Colledge

Player Progression: Stagnate

Team Standing: Same or non-existent role

Likelihood Of Long-Term Retention: Poor

Daryn Colledge is an unrestricted free agent, and should labor negotiations get wrapped up, it seems plausible that there would be a team willing to pay him more and give him a more solid guarantee on a starting spot than the Packers. While Colledge is certainly a competent player, he's generally thought of as the weakest link of the Packers' starting offensive linemen. This is more of a compliment to the guys he's surrounded by than a knock on him, but the point is, the Packers can't be married to Colledge at this point and I'm sure he feels similarly about the Packers. If no one bites, he'll be willing to come back, but both the player and the team will be willing to let Colledge go test the market.

#64 Adrian Battles

Player Progression: Progress

Team Standing: Same Role

Likelihood Of Long-Term Retention: Poor

Forgive me, but I don't have a ton of information to give you on a practice squad lineman who went to the University of Minnesota-Mankato. The Vikings released him in their final roster cut last pre-season, and we signed him to the practice squad late. He can't really have a diminished role, and I doubt he'll go backwards as a player. Let's see what the kid does in training camp and the preseason.

#69 Chris Campbell

Player Progression: Progress

Team Standing: Same Role

Likelihood Of Long-Term Retention: Poor

Basically the same deal as Battles, except he plays tackle instead of guard and he was on the practice squad all season. We'll have to wait and see.

#71 Josh Sitton

Player Progression: Progress

Team Standing: Same Role

Likelihood Of Long-Term Retention: High

I think every time someone mentions Josh Sitton to Ted Thompson, our man TT does the Dougie while pointing to himself. "Yep, that was me. Eat it." Thompson has made some spectacular value draft picks en route to building a Super Bowl champion, but Sitton is one of the best. Sitton played tackle at Central Florida and was picked by the Packers in the 4th round of the 2008 NFL draft. In his third season, he was one of the best right guards in the NFL. As good as a lot of the other offensive linemen on the Packers are, I'd take Sitton over all of them. He's the most consistent player on the line, he's only 24, and we're getting away with paying him next to nothing. Getting him in the fourth round and paying him less than seven figures is straight up highway robbery.

#63 Scott Wells

Player Progression: Stagnate

Team Standing: Same Role

Likelihood Of Long-Term Retention: High

Some of you might not be happy with the "stagnate" rating, but at 30 years old, Wells is probably at about the top of his game. He was fantastic last year, just like he's been every year since he won the starting center position. Though not nearly as cheap as Sitton, his five year, $15 million contract is fantastic for a guy of his caliber. If the CBA gets sorted out, Wells is probably in line for a big fat extension. While he'll likely never attain Kevin Mawae or Olin Kreutz status, Wells should be a rock solid starting center for at least another three to four years.

#72 Jason Spitz

Player Progression: Stagnate

Team Standing: Same Role or non-existent role

Likelihood Of Long-Term Retention: Low

Sorry Mr. Spitz, it was nice knowing you. I really thought you were going to be a star. It sucked that things didn't pan out. I hope you become a legit starter and get your career back on track wherever you go.

#62 Evan Dietrich-Smith

Player Progression: Stagnate

Team Standing: Same Role

Likelihood Of Long-Term Retention: Low

Dietrich-Smith is a young player, so he could still find a permanent home somewhere, but it seems unlikely that he'll ever play a legitimate role for us. Then again, with Spitz likely out the door, he could be the backup center. One to watch in preseason.

#67 Nick McDonald

Player Progression: Stagnate

Team Standing: Same Role

Likelihood Of Long-Term Retention: Low

Another practice squad youngster you'll have to forgive me for not knowing a ton about. It's conceivable that he could be fighting Dietrich-Smith for a backup center job.

#74 Marshall Newhouse

Player Progression: Progress

Team Standing: Same Role

Likelihood Of Long-Term Retention: Medium

Unlike the other offensive linemen that haven't seen much time, I think that Newhouse could have a serious future. He was a fantastic player in college and got unlucky with some injuries this season. He will be given every opportunity to impress in preseason and make the roster, and I like him to do so. He's a very mobile offensive lineman for his giant size, and he might get some time at right tackle if Colledge leaving and Clifton aging causes some kind of shuffle over the next two years.

#70 T.J. Lang

Player Progression: Progress

Team Standing: Expanded role

Likelihood Of Long-Term Retention: High

Unless T.J. Lang's mom reads this site, there isn't a bigger Lang fan on Acme Packing Company than yours truly. We could go into next season with him playing anywhere on the offensive line but center and I'd be confident that he would get the job done. And he could probably learn center in half a season. Every time Lang has come in for injured linemen, regardless of the position he's come into, he's impressed the hell out of me. He very, very rarely makes a mistake, it's incredibly impressive for a young player who isn't even playing every down. He will be a starter for the Packers in the near future, and he'll be a starter for a long time when he gets there. 

So, conclusions? The Packers are good enough to get the job done at offensive line, but they could use some reinforcements. Daryn Colledge is likely gone, Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher are on the wrong side of 30 by quite a bit, and we don't know what, if anything, the practice squad guys can give us going forward. The sky won't fall if the Packers don't get better on the o-line, but this is certainly an important position for the front office to address in the offseason.

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