News trickled out Wednesday that Josh Sitton missed practice due to a back issue lingering from last week's game against the 49ers. While the injury helps explains Sitton's uncharacteristically poor week 1 performance, it casts doubt as to Sitton's availability for the home opener against Washington.
Sitton is the team's most important offensive lineman. Part of the reason the Packers opted to promote rookie David Bakhtiari to Bryan Bulaga's vacated left tackle spot was due to Sitton's calming veteran presence. Should Sitton miss time, the Packers would be forced to reshuffle the line and put further strain on their inexperienced left tackle.
While it's too early to assume Sitton will be inactive on Sunday, it seems a natural time to break down the Packers' backup options.
Option 1: Barclay shifts to left guard, Newhouse steps in at right tackle
Why it should happen: Mike McCarthy long ago set the precedent that the five best offensive linemen will start. Without question, Marshall Newhouse is the Packers' best backup option. While Newhouse practiced at guard his rookie year, he's played exclusively at tackle the past three years. It stands to reason that if he's playing, it's at right tackle. In that scenario, current starter Don Barclay would shift inside to Sitton's vacated spot. Unlike Newhouse, Barclay practiced at guard as recently as this year's training camp. While not ideal, this configuration minimizes the number of player shifts without placing someone in an uncomfortable position. Furthermore, McCarthy has already indicated his preference to go with Newhouse if Sitton's unavailable.
Why it shouldn't: While Barclay did practice at guard in training camp, he did so mostly on the right side. Not only would he have to flip his stance -- a difficult transition to make one week into the season -- but he hasn't lined up on the left side since his senior year at West Virginia.
Option 2: Greg Van Roten steps in at left guard
Why it should happen: Greg Van Roten is the team's only experienced backup interior lineman. He practices at both guard and center, so preparedness isn't an issue. Moreover, bringing in Van Roten allows for the four healthy starters to remain in their current positions. Continuity plays a major role in offensive line effectiveness. This configuration allows for the least amount of change while replacing Sitton with the lineman best acclimated to left guard.
Why it shouldn't: As mentioned earlier, McCarthy favors playing the five best offensive linemen over finding the best positional fit. Greg Van Roten is better prepared to handle guard, but he's not a better player than Marshall Newhouse, the player who would be left out in this configuration.
Option 3: Lang shifts to left guard, Barclay shifts to right guard, Newhouse steps in at right tackle
Why it should happen: From 2011 through 2012, T.J. Lang started at left guard. That stint was recent enough to suggest that Lang could flip his stance without too many hiccups. It would also allow for Barclay to play at right guard, his second most comfortable position. As mentioned earlier, Newhouse is ready to go at right tackle. It also allows for a veteran to line up next to the inexperienced Bakhtiari. Overall, this gives the Packers their five best healthy offensive linemen while not sacrificing fit.
Why it shouldn't: While each lineman in this configuration fits well at their position, it involves more shifting than any of the other possibilities. Sacrificing that much continuity is a hefty price just to fit players into better positions.
Option 4: Newhouse steps in at left guard
Why it should happen: If you've read this far, you know that McCarthy wants his five best linemen on the field. This configuration allows for that, while keeping the remaining four original starters in their usual positions.
Why it shouldn't: Newhouse may have played on the left side as recently as January, but he hasn't spent time at guard since his rookie year. While he's a better player than Van Roten, it's possible that he isn't the better guard.
So which option do you think the Packers should go with if Sitton sits for week 2? Cast your vote in the poll and explain your preference in the comments.
Jason Hirschhorn covers the Green Bay Packers for Acme Packing Co. He has previously written for Lombardi Ave, College Hoops Net, LiveBall Sports, and the List Universe. He is also currently a senior writer for Beats Per Minute, an indie-music webzine. Follow him on Twitter: @JBHirschhorn
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