Newhouse Hopes To Sack Allen's Record Charge

The future looked bleak when Pro Bowl left tackle Chad Clifton sustained a serious hamstring injury against Atlanta. Instead, the offense has kept rolling with Marshall Newhouse protecting Aaron Rodgers' blind side. Who would have thought that?

In this Year of the Offense across the NFL, Jared Allen is beating up on opposing quarterbacks at a record-setting rate.

The Minnesota Vikings' All-Pro defensive end reached the bye with a league-high 12.5 sacks, putting him on pace for 25, which would break Michael Strahan's record 22.5, set in 2001. He's got at least one-half sack in a team-record 11 consecutive games.

"I think Jared Allen is playing his best football, and he's had big-time years over there," Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy said.

Two of Allen's sacks came against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers three weeks ago, and that's nothing new. In eight career games against the Packers, he's got 12 sacks — most against any team in the league. Of course, 4.5 of them came in the 2009 game at the Metrodome.

For the Packers' offense to function at an optimal level — meaning a minimal amount of help from running backs or tight ends — fill-in left tackle Marshall Newhouse will need to continue his progression. Newhouse will be making his sixth career start, including his second against Allen, on Monday night.

"There's always a difference between watching film and the real thing on the field and getting the speed for it," Newhouse said. "It'll definitely be a help having played him once but you can't hang your hat on that alone. You've got to bring it – the run game, pass game, the mental part of it – all of it's got to come."

Of Allen's two sacks in the first half of the Oct. 23 game, one came when he used his speed to beat Newhouse around the corner. The second came on a botched screen and wasn't attributed to Newhouse. To be sure, Newhouse had his hands full in the raucous Metrodome. Then again, just about every offensive tackle has had his hands full with Allen, who leads the NFL with 95.5 sacks since entering the league in 2004.

"I thought as the game went on, I thought he settled in and was very competitive," offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said on Friday. "Obviously, (Allen) made a couple plays but I thought he adjusted. He got him once early on a sack but after that, he kind of settled in and did a relatively good job."

The hamstring injury sustained by Pro Bowl veteran Chad Clifton in Week 5 seemed like almost the worst-case scenario for the Super Bowl champions. General manager Ted Thompson had drafted for the future, with first-round picks used on Bryan Bulaga in 2010 and Derek Sherrod in 2011. But with Bulaga injured at the time — and anchored on the right side, anyway — and Sherrod not ready for prime time, the Packers had little recourse other than to go with Newhouse.

Newhouse started 51 games at TCU but wasn't a highly regarded prospect. The Packers grabbed him with a fifth-round compensatory pick in 2010. Back then, could the Packers have possibly imagined they'd be banking the 2011 season on a player who wouldn't get on the field for even one snap as a rookie?

"We didn't have a lot of evidence (that he'd become a capable starter)," Philbin said. "Obviously, we all believe in the value of practice and we can certainly make some evaluations based on what we see in practice. But as you know, the games are their own entity, so to speak.  I can't sit here and tell you there was a lot of discussion last year about if we can win with Marshall Newhouse at left tackle. Now, I can also say there was no discussions saying we can't win with him at left tackle. You live for the moment in those things, and I don't know that we had a ton of evidence either way so we could make a projection."

It was much easier to make those kind of projections after training camp this summer. Day after day, Newhouse dominated the one-on-one pass-blocking drills. He wasn't a great run blocker — and isn't today — but when the face of the franchise is arguably the best quarterback in the game, pass protection is what matters. With a strong camp, Newhouse entered the season as the No. 3 tackle behind Clifton and Bulaga.

"I had the confidence that others – you guys – might not have," Newhouse said. "I feel like I had the confidence. I knew I had the ability. It was just a matter of going out and proving it. I don't take it for granted one bit. I know that in this league, you've got to keep bringing it."

Reminded that it wasn't the media who made him the 169th overall selection of the 2010 draft, Newhouse said: "I've always been one that I wanted to maximize my potential, whatever that meant. If that meant not getting drafted or it meant playing in the NFL for 10 years, whatever, I wanted to maximize it and know that I did everything I could to be the best football player I could be. That's what I feel I'm on my way to doing but I've got a long way to go and lot of stuff to learn and do. But that's been my goal."

Newhouse's biggest asset is his quick feet. He can thank his genes. His father, John, was a running back at the University of Houston. His uncle, Robert Newhouse, played fullback for the Dallas Cowboys for 12 seasons. A cousin, Reggie Newhouse, played receiver at Baylor. Another cousin, Rod Newhouse, played fullback at Rice.

While the Packers gave Newhouse a good deal of help against Allen three weeks ago, he's played at a high enough level that the offense is being run with few modifications. That's the ultimate tip of the cap. But has he played well enough to be in the conversation as the long-term successor to Clifton?

"I'm not even thinking about that and I'm going to go ahead and cut you short," Newhouse said, interrupting that question.

Still, the offense hasn't missed a beat with Newhouse, and he's clearly made a positive impression on the coaches and with Rodgers. "I like to think so but you're only as good as what you've done recently, you know? I've got to keep going," he said.


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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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