Camp Preview: By Numbers at OL

We look at one key player, one darkhorse, one player on the bubble and one new face, plus provide some numbers you might not know as we examine the Packers' offensive line.

One key player: As long as the Green Bay Packers offense is a pass-first operation, they must put a premium on protecting the quarterback. That makes left tackle Chad Clifton a critical player, even with first-round picks used on tackles the past two years. Can Clifton, who turned 35 last month, get through another season healthy?

One darkhorse: Nick McDonald looked like nothing more than practice fodder for most of training camp last summer. A standout left tackle at Division II powerhouse Grand Valley State, McDonald lacked the strength and savvy to hold up against the likes of B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett while playing guard and center in camp. McDonald surprisingly made the final roster, and he'll surprisingly compete for the starting job at left guard this year.

One on the bubble: Mark Tauscher is one of the more popular players in Packers history given his lifelong ties to the Badger State and his Packers Hall of Fame-worthy career. Tauscher, 34, missed most of last season with a shoulder injury and, when asked at Greg Jennings' golf tournament last month, said he wasn't sure about playing this year. His cap number is $4.58 million and he'd have to unseat last year's first-round pick, Bryan Bulaga, at right tackle.

One new face: Derek Sherrod is incredibly intelligent, a model citizen and a superb pass blocker. The Packers were thrilled that the Mississippi State All-American somehow was available with the 32nd pick of the first round. "Not only do you get the quality person, I think you're getting a quality football player," director of college scouting John Dorsey said. "He's shown that he's got the ability to play left tackle in the SEC against some of the finest pass rushers in the country and he's held his own. You'd like for him to be the heir apparent (at left tackle) but he's got to earn it. We'll find out. We think we've got a player there. They all rave about him — they all rave about his work ethic, they all rave about his ability. It's going to be exciting to see his development."

16: The Packers' ranking in ColdHardFootballFacts.com's "Hog Index," which takes into account rushing average (No. 25, 3.81 yards per carry), negative pass plays (No. 17, 8.81 percent of pass plays ending in interceptions or sacks) and third-down conversions (No. 8, 41.5 percent).

38: Number of sacks allowed by the Packers, which ranked 19th in the league. Of those, Pro Football Focus blamed the linemen for 29 of them, with six blamed on the quarterbacks, two on the running backs and one on the tight ends.

13: The team-high number of sacks allowed by Bulaga, including playoffs, according to Pro Football Focus. He also led the team in allowing 33 pressures and seven quarterback hits.

9: Number of holding penalties accepted against the linemen, including playoffs. The rundown: Bulaga with three, Daryn Colledge with two, Scott Wells with two, Tauscher with one and Clifton with one.

8.5: Sacks allowed by Clifton during the regular season, according to STATS. That's a career-high total, but Clifton was voted to the Pro Bowl for the first time after making it in 2007 as an injury replacement.

1: Sack allowed by Clifton against a murderer's row of pass rushers during the Packers' six-game dash to the Super Bowl. Facing the Giants' Osi Umenyiora, Chicago's Julius Peppers, Philadelphia's Trent Cole, Atlanta's John Abraham, Peppers again and Pittsburgh's James Harrison, he allowed just one sack (to Abraham).


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport.


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