We move on from the skill positions on offense (with apologies to John Kuhn) to the big uglies on the offensive line. See the prior posts on the tight ends and wide receivers before we analyze the Packers' offensive tackles.
Initially we thought we would analyze the left and right side of the offensive line, but we quickly realized that Jeff Saturday is too valuable and too well-protected for us to chop him in half. Therefore we instead decided to break it down into tackles and interior linemen.
Starters: Marshall Newhouse, Bryan Bulaga
Backups: Derek Sherrod, Andrew Datko
Bench Depth: Herb Taylor, Ray Dominguez, Shea Allard, Mike McCabe
Confidence in starters - Good: We feel that after his struggles as a rookie, Bulaga really stepped up in 2011 and played like one of the better right tackles in the league. Personally, I think he'll be a Pro Bowl-caliber player in 2012. Newhouse is more of a question mark, but he was thrown into the fire last season due to Chad Clifton's injury. He had his struggles, but showed signs of promise and he has earned Aaron Rodgers' respect and trust. With the benefit of a full off-season, we expect Newhouse to play well in 2012.
Confidence in backups - Below average: If one of those two goes down, however, we won't feel so comfortable. Sherrod also has the size and ability to be a solid backup for now, but his injury remains a question mark as he recovers from the gruesome broken leg he suffered late last season. Datko was a second- or third-round talent, but injuries dropped him to the seventh round of this year's draft. An NFL athletic training staff will help keep him on the field, but he's still a rookie and hopefully he will not need to be counted on to be a key player yet this year.
Confidence in depth - Average: Taylor is a street free agents, signed last season to step in if an emergency struck. Dominguez was brought off the practice squad as depth earlier in the season. Allard looks to be a good practice squad candidate as an undrafted free agent. I'll be honest about McCabe, the first time I heard of him was looking over the roster to put this post together. Taylor and Dominguez may make a run at stealing a primary backup spot, which is all you can really hope from anyone in this category.
Final Grade - B-: Even if this position had two Pro-Bowl caliber players and the existing iffy backup situation, I'd probably have to give no more than a B+. With only one starter in that discussion and the other promising but not yet proven, that gets knocked down a notch.
Keep an eye out for the grade of the interior linemen coming up soon.