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Packers' Offensive Line Changes: Is Rodgers' Success a Reason?

Sometimes, numbers and common sense each confirm what the other tells us.


This morning, Dan discussed the success that Aaron Rodgers has had against pressure from opposing defenses. He broke down the fact that the Green Bay Packers' quarterback excels when that pressure comes from left and right tackle, but especially when it is in his face from the right side. While this is undoubtedly a major reason for his overall great play and has allowed him to earn Super Bowl and league MVP awards despite a struggling offensive line, the team still needs to put him in a better place to make plays without being threatened by the pass rush.

I believe that this is a significant reason why the Packers flipped their offensive line, and specifically why they decided to move Bryan Bulaga from right tackle to left. Looking at both the numbers that illustrate Rodgers' grace under pressuer and Bulaga's grades can give us some context to explain the move a little better and confirm what common sense tells us about keeping a better pass protector on the left.

As you can see on the right, Rodgers plays best with no pressure. This should come as no surprise. What is interesting is his QB rating with pressure off right tackle, and specifically the fact that his rating is 14 points higher than when he is pressured from the blind side. What this says to me is that Rodgers practically welcomes players blitzing off the edge; he is able to assess the time he has to throw when the rusher is in his face and he can find receivers who are open because of additional pass rushers.

With that in mind, putting the best pass-blocking tackle on the left side seems like even more of a no-brainer than it did before seeing these numbers. In a remarkably consistent 2011, Bryan Bulaga only posted negative pass blocking grades in two games (using Pro Football Focus' grading), and earned an overall +12.8 including the playoffs. If not for a terrible first half against Seattle, he would have posted a very good start to the 2012 season as well, earning a +5.6 grade in the other eight games.

Basically, these numbers all give credence to the Packers' shift of Bulaga to the left side. It seems like common sense, but if you're going to have your quarterback pressured, wouldn't you rather have it come where he can see it, feel it, and adjust to it better? These numbers demonstrate just that, and give a little bit more context to that shift.

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