Positional Analysis: Packers Offensive Line

Positional Analysis: Packers Offensive Line

Despite the best set of guards in the NFL, T.J. Lang and Josh Sitton, the Green Bay Packers offensive line took a step back in 2015. Their tackles were largely responsible for Aaron Rodgers’ frustrating sack total, 46, the second most of any quarterback. Injuries to David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga contributed to the regression, and their replacements were ineffective. Backup tackle, Don Barclay, was called upon multiple times this season and was a complete letdown. Even with the step back, the Packers offensive line is considered, by many, as an above average group. Here is a look at each lineman’s individual performance.

[graphiq id=”9oFoOer3pqt” title=”NFL Teams Ranked By Sacks Allowed” width=”600″ height=”460″ url=”https://w.graphiq.com/w/9oFoOer3pqt” link=”http://nfl-teams.pointafter.com” link_text=”NFL Teams Ranked By Sacks Allowed | PointAfter”]

Green Bay Packers Offensive Linemen (Starters)

(All grades are from Pro Football Focus, the website that grades player performance.)

T.J. Lang (RG) – Despite being overlooked for the Pro Bowl, Lang was the cream of the offensive line crop in 2015. Lang ranked fifth overall at guard with an impressive 88.8 grade. He graded fourth in pass blocking and 11th in run blocking. The Packers have Lang under contract for one more year, and at age 28. Expect general manager Ted Thompson to get an extension done before he hits the open market in 2017. Lang has only missed two games in the last five seasons and his production puts him in the top echelon of guards in the NFL.

Josh Sitton (LG) – While Lang gets my nod as the best Packers offensive lineman in 2015, Josh Sitton wasn’t far behind. Sitton was selected to his third Pro Bowl this season, and ranked just one spot behind his fellow teammate as the 6th best guard with an 86.6 overall grade. The similarities between the two do not end there. Sitton is also a free agent after the 2016 season and coincidentally has only missed two games in the last five seasons. Sitton is a reliable starter. He’s been so for seven years now.

The upcoming center of concern with these two guards is whether Thompson decides to extend the contracts of both. One is likely. But, both? One would think so, but it’s difficult to guess what Thompson is thinking.

Corey Linsley (C) – After a stellar rookie season in 2014, Linsley did very little to disappoint in his second year as the starting center.  Linsley finished the 2015 season graded as the 10th best center in the NFL. He ranked 10th in pass blocking and 11th in run blocking. Linsley was a steal in the 5th round last season, and the Packers will benefit from his low salary for the next two seasons. Linsley did miss three games in 2015, which were the first games he’s missed since becoming a starter his junior year of college.

David Bakhtiari (LT) – Bakhtiari missed three total games in 2015, including one in the postseason. Bakhtiari allowed seven sacks, and committed nine penalties. While not impressive, both stats were improvements from his 2014 numbers. The most important part of Bakhtiari’s job is protecting Aaron Rodgers’ blindside, and did a decent job ranking ninth among left tackles in pass blocking. The future seems bright for the young 24 year old tackle, if he can stay healthy. Much like Lang and Sitton, Bakhtiari is also due for a new contract in 2017.

Bryan Bulaga (RT) – In 2014, Bulaga was primed to play left tackle before he suffered a season ending ACL tear in a preseason scrimmage. He was back in the starting lineup in 2015, but on the other side of the line as the right tackle. Bulaga’s performance was average and his grades reflected that.  He ranked as the 34th overall tackle and 30th in pass blocking. His 5.5 sacks allowed were the most since his rookie season. More worrisome part is that he missed a fourth of the season due to injury. Bulaga has yet to play a full season since becoming a starter.  The Packers signed Bulaga to a five-year extension last offseason. It isn’t unfair to ask if the Packers might have made a mistake.

Green Bay Packers Offensive Linemen (Backups)

With both tackles forced to miss time due to injury, Green Bay needed solid play from Barclay. Don Barclay was abysmal.

Barclay graded 71st of 77 offensive tackles by PFF in 2015. Barclay started five games in 2015 and allowed an astounding nine sacks! Barclay is a free agent this offseason and his chances of being re-signed by the Packers are… none.

There is good news from the other prominent backup, J.C. Tretter. He saw some significant playing time as he filled in for Linsley at center, played a little guard and even moved to left tackle during the playoffs. Tretter is proving he’s a quality utility guy who can fill in at almost any offensive line position.

Backup guard Lane Taylor is a free agent this offseason whom I could definitely see them bringing back, but they will need to address depth and camp competition this offseason in either the draft, free agency or both.

Three things to keep an eye on regarding the Packers offensive line this offseason:

  1.  Will they give either of their guards or Bakhtiari a contract extension before their current deals are up at the end of the 2016 season?
  2.  Who do they bring in via the draft or free agency to back up their starters?
  3.  Will they give Don Barclay a police escort out of town?

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