Training Camp Preview: OL

With the lockout likely to end this week, we continue our lookahead to training camp. Underrated Josh Sitton has emerged as one of the NFL's top guards. He joins Scott Wells and Chad Clifton in giving the Packers a formidable unit.

Chad Clifton went to the Pro Bowl but Josh Sitton is the Green Bay Packers' best offensive lineman.

Sitton was snubbed from Pro Bowl recognition but was named the NFL Alumni offensive lineman of the year.

"It means a lot," Sitton told Pro Football Focus, which had Sitton as the league's top-ranked right guard last season. "It's one thing to win something from the fans or from the media, but to win it from guys that have played the position (Hall of Fame guys and guys that have played a long time in this league), it means a lot. They really know what they're watching and they really know what they're talking about, so it really does mean a lot to me."

Sitton, in his second year as a starter, had a brilliant season that was overshadowed by some of the offense's team-wide shortcomings (3.8 yards per carry and 38 sacks). According to STATS, Sitton did not allow a sack all season and was flagged once for holding. He's the only player on either side of the ball to not miss a snap over the last two seasons.

The bruising Sitton and athletic center Scott Wells give the Packers a formidable and underrated interior. The 30-year-old Wells, who is entering the last year of his contract, wins as much with his intelligence as his physical prowess. With his ability to sort through the pre-snap movement of a defense, quarterback Aaron Rodgers is statistically the NFL's best quarterback against the blitz. In playing all but 12 snaps, Wells allowed 1.5 sacks and was flagged once for holding.

"I think this is clearly Scott Wells' best season," coach Mike McCarthy said several times during the season, including after the Week 17 game against Chicago. "He grades out very high week in and week out. I think he will clearly grade out as the highest offensive lineman when it is all said and done. I think Scott has had a Pro Bowl-type year."

There could be a changing of the guard at left guard with Daryn Colledge set to hit free agency when the lockout ends. If Colledge signs elsewhere, T.J. Lang and Nick McDonald are the front-runners for the starting job. Another option would be 2010 first-round pick Bryan Bulaga if 2011 first-round pick Derek Sherrod looks like a strong option at right tackle. None of Lang's three career starts have come at guard and McDonald didn't play a snap last season, so there could be some growing pains with a new starter.

Clifton, who was voted to his first Pro Bowl last season despite allowing a career-high 8.5 sacks, returns to hold down the fort at left tackle. He played his best ball down the stretch, when the Packers snuck into the playoffs and then rolled to the Super Bowl. He started every game for the first time since 2007.

Bulaga most likely will be the starter at right tackle. He battled through a trial by fire last season at a position he had never played until veteran starter Mark Tauscher was lost to a season-ending shoulder injury in Week 4. Bulaga was the Packers' worst starter in terms of sacks allowed (11), holding (three) and false starts (six), according to STATS. However, he allowed just one sack in the playoffs and appears poised to take a quantum leap forward.

The depth looks pretty good, assuming Sherrod can get a quick handle on the playbook. Fortunately for the Packers, he was a finalist for the Academic Heisman so should be able to make up for lost time in a hurry. The loser of Lang vs. McDonald, along with 2010 fifth-round pick Marshall Newhouse, 2011 sixth-round pick Caleb Schlauderaff and late-season addition Evan Dietrich-Smith, will battle to fill out the roster.


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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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