Packers right tackle Bryan Bulaga doesn't talk much, as you can see from this Grantland article. Seahawks left defensive end Michael Bennett, on the other hand, loves to do so.
Here he is on the Jim Rome show Tuesday, discussing his stance on pre-game abstinence, the newest season of Homeland, and a penalty he earned after reportedly being spat on by Panthers WR Kelvin Benjamin. Like his younger brother Martellus, Michael is a preternaturally gifted football player with an eccentric personality and complicated career trajectory. Unlike Martellus, Michael has seen more action in the playoffs than in the headlines the last couple years, and it's paying off.
During Seattle's bulldozing of the 2013 NFL postseason, the 29-year-old Bennett had 1.5 sacks and two forced fumbles, recovering both. That performance, plus seven regular season sacks, earned him a four-year contract worth $28.5 million ($16 million guaranteed). Suddenly, the undrafted Texas A&M grad was making more than his star tight end brother, who was drafted 61st overall.
The first test of that contract's worth was on opening day this year, when the Seahawks trounced the Packers in a pitiful road performance by Green Bay. However, Bennett did most of his damage against backup tackle Derek Sherrod, who entered the game when Bulaga was injured. In the 20 snaps Bulaga played (11 of them in pass protection), he allowed two hurries but no hits on Rodgers. However, Bulaga went down with a knee injury in the second quarter, forcing Sherrod into the game where he gave up a pair of sacks - one to Bennett and another to Cliff Avril. Bennett's sack forced a fumble, which Sherrod then recovered in the end zone for a safety.
That was back when Aaron Rodgers could move, too.
A gimpy Rodgers will desperately need Bulaga, the fifth-year tackle from Iowa, to keep him upright against a vacuum-sealed Seahawks defense. Bulaga is listed at 6'5" and 315 pounds, while Bennett is 6'4" and 275. Still, Bennett's secret weapon is his bulky athleticism. Playing both end and tackle in the past, he can pull off a wide range of moves with unnerving agility for a man his size, like "getting skinny" and squeezing into the backfield as well as stunting out wide around the tackle and using a speed rush.
Though Bennett used a swim move to get around Sherrod on his sack of Rodgers in week one, he can also bull-rush your tackle right into your quarterback for a sack (4:14 mark of this highlight reel). Sure, the victimized quarterback in that case was Tampa Bay's animatronic Mike Glennon, but Rodgers' mobility might not be any better come game day, which is a scary thought.
There are plenty of reasons to be confident in Bulaga, however. He was credited with just four sacks allowed on the season by Pro Football Focus and just two additional hits on the quarterback. Furthermore, only three times this season did he allow more than two pressures in a single game, and only once did he allow more than three.
Both players are probably underrated and under-recognized nationally, despite their starting roles on popular teams. However, with Bulaga's impending status as an unrestricted free agent, he could probably add a few extra dollar signs to his next contract if he's able to keep Bennett in check when they face off on Sunday.