Bubble Series: Offensive Line

It's a good thing that teams have until 8 p.m. Friday to reduce their rosters to 53 players. With only one sure thing among the backup linemen, general manager Ted Thompson might be busy working the phones.

The Green Bay Packers' preseason finale against Kansas City is all about the bubble.

By our estimation, there are six positions where roster spots are at stake: running back, wide receiver, offensive line, defensive line, inside linebacker and safety.

"Make a statement," was coach Mike McCarthy's advice to those bubble players. "Define yourself, answer a question that's out there about you. Is it consistency? Is it big-play ability? There's different categories you use when you grade and evaluate players, and obviously some players do things better than others. If you can show improvement and show growth and more value, that's what you look for in these game environments."

Offensive line

The situation: Behind the starting five, the only sure-thing backup is Evan Dietrich-Smith, who helped the Packers to wins last season against Detroit, New York, Oakland and Detroit with solid performances at guard.

With Derek Sherrod still rehabbing a broken leg and out indefinitely, the Packers would be in a world of hurt should something happen to one of their starting tackles. In fact, the word "depth" is practically an oxymoron. The best option — the only option, to be more accurate, other than moving left guard T.J. Lang — is 10-year veteran Reggie Wells, who was signed off the street halfway through training camp. He's started at all five positions in the NFL but certainly hasn't distinguished himself in his two weeks.

"We're working at it," Thompson said on Tuesday when we asked about his comfort level with the reserve linemen. "We've got some young guys. And we've got Reggie, who's come in and done a good job. Dietrich-Smith is doing a good job for us."

After that, seventh-round pick Andrew Datko has been out two weeks with a concussion. After missing most of his senior season at Florida State after requiring shoulder surgery, he was a fringe player even when healthy. And despite general manager Ted Thompson's excellent track record in undrafted free agency, there will be no immediate help from his year's signings (Tommie Draheim, Don Barclay, Shea Allard, Mike McCabe and Jaymes Brooks).

"There's a job opportunity," offensive line coach James Campen said. "It would be easy if you had 11 Aaron Rodgers and they could all play tackle. It doesn't happen at tackle and guard and center. There's jobs out there, no question. This is a big game for a lot of them. They've all been big. Every practice is big. What they did today gets graded. It's a whole body of work."

The prediction: During Thompson's seven-year run, he has frequently looked elsewhere while finalizing the 53-man roster. That includes the 2007 trade to acquire Ryan Grant, waiver-wire signings Jarrett Bush in 2006 and John Kuhn in 2007, and the signing of snapper Brett Goode to replace injured J.J. Jansen in 2008.

Thompson almost certainly will have to do some shopping to get an offensive tackle because Sherrod, even if cleared to practice next week, is going to need a training camp's worth of practices to be ready to play in a game.


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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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