An offensive line is only as good as its weakest link. If we forgot that simple fact this past offseason then all we need to do is go back and watch tape of the first preseason game against the Chargers. There we can watch our starting offensive line and Herb Taylor try and hold down the fort, and you know fail. When looking at the current state of the Packers offensive line the weakest link is pretty clear...it's Marshall Newhouse.
Don't get me wrong Newhouse is not a bad player per se, it's just that most of the other players are either some of the best at their position (Josh Sitton and Bryan Bulaga) or just very good (Jeff Saturday and T.J. Lang). Newhouse on the other hand is probably average. Not great, sometimes plenty good....often times good enough. Last year was an up and down season for him and he had an up and down preseason to pair with that. To start the year this year he gets a tough test against the 49ers Aldon Smith.
Aldon Smith is that physical freak type of pass rusher that gave Marshall Newhouse so much trouble last year. Smith has the right mix of speed and power with a long wing span to be able to catch the edge and then work his way to the QB. This is similar to Tamba Hali, Cameron Wake, and Jason Pierre-Paul who each had a field day against Newhouse.
The good news is that Newhouse has finally had a full offseason in order to go over the tape and learn technique. Hopefully this will help him have quicker feet and a better punch in order to slow down some of this pass rush. The other good news is that Smith was used as a situational rusher last year instead of a full time player which would make it easier to tell when to shift the blocking assignments and move a TE over to chip. This may change this year as Smith grows into the system, but a boy can hope.
Smith versus Newhouse is going to be a critical match up for the Packers to win. If Newhouse can control that side of the field, even if he needs some help, then the Packers have a very good chance at winning. The bad news is that this is exactly the type of match up Newhouse struggled with in the past. Reports have said over and over that Newhouse doesn't make the same mistake twice....hopefully that translates to a strong start to the season and a solid game for the shakiest part of the Packers offensive line.
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