Offensive Line Green, Experienced All at Once

Based on projected positions, the Packers' most experienced blocker is second-year right tackle Don Barclay, followed by center Evan Dietrich-Smith. At least Bryan Bulaga played left tackle in college and T.J. Lang has four starts on the right side.

The Green Bay Packers have one of the more experienced offensive lines in football.

Josh Sitton is entering his fifth season as a starter, Bryan Bulaga his fourth, and T.J. Lang and Marshall Newhouse their third.

Viewed from another perspective, the offensive line is about as green as they come.

Based on starts at their projected position, Don Barclay — Don Barclay! — is the unit's most experienced blocker. Barclay started the final four regular-season games and both playoff contests at right tackle, giving him six starts at that position.

Center Evan Dietrich-Smith has started 11 games, including playoffs, but only four of those have come at center. Still, based on experience at the position, he ranks second on the revamped line.

Of Newhouse's 31 career starts, three have come at his new position — right tackle.

All 72 of left guard Sitton's starts have come at right guard. All 38 of left tackle Bulaga's starts have come at right tackle. Right guard Lang has been the line's utility man but none of his 37 career starts have come at his new position.

"It's only difficult if you make it difficult," offensive line coach James Campen said of what might be an unprecedented shakeup. "It's football. Really, these kids have had a lot of work in IPWs — getting in a left-handed stance and the guys in the right getting in a right-handed stance. There's a process that you go through and muscle memory and those things."

Bulaga started at left tackle for two seasons at Iowa and was drafted in the first round in 2010 to eventually replace Chad Clifton. And Bulaga did, replacing an ailing Clifton for the final two-and-a-half quarters of the Week 2 game against Buffalo. Clifton recovered and kept his job, and Bulaga had a short wait on the bench until veteran right tackle Mark Tauscher went down. Bulaga made his starting debut in Week 5 and Green Bay went on to win the Super Bowl.

"It's a different game (compared to college)," Bulaga said. "I don't have any of my Iowa tape I can go back to and watch. I don't think it'd be beneficial, really. It's a different game. But it's a process, just working back into playing that side. I'm glad I got the opportunity to start doing it now in OTAs, and it's going to be a day-by-day process of trying to get better and trying to improve."

For Lang, he does have some right-side experience with three starts at tackle in 2012 and one in 2011.

"I think the fact that I've had to play a lot of positions, both right side and left side, the last couple years maybe made them a little more comfortable (with the move)," Lang said. "They've seen me play on this side before, that it wouldn't be too big of a switch because I have had a lot of reps over there on the right side (at tackle).

"Moving from guard to tackle is a lot tougher than going from left guard to right guard. You're dealing with a whole other beast out there at tackle. Inside, you're dealing with the big guys, the strong guys, the power guys. Outside, you've got to be far more athletic to match up with all those speed rushers nowadays. Guard to guard, it's still tough, changing your stance up, changing your technique up, but at the same time, you can't make the change any bigger than what it is."

Newhouse started all 18 games at left tackle last season. Of the 52 offensive tackles who played at least half of their teams' offensive snaps, Newhouse tied for 44th with eight sacks allowed and tied for 32nd in pass-blocking efficiency, according to data from ProFootballFocus.com. Still, the Packers finished fifth in scoring and he finished the season with four consecutive quality performances.

"Definitely not excitement," Newhouse said of his reaction to the moves. "You're kind of taken aback. But I looked inward and acknowledged my role in them having to make the decision but also knowing that I can play football and knowing that I had a lot of success at the same time. My only reaction, just the way I was raised (as) a coach's son was just to work harder and kind of fall in line with my role and become a better football player, and I feel like I'm doing that."

Newhouse has been taking the starters reps at right tackle during offseason practices but likely will have to fend off a challenge from Barclay at some point. The undrafted free agent was the third player to get a shot at right tackle, following injuries to Bulaga and his replacement, Lang. In the seven games in which Barclay received a lot of playing time, including six starts, the Packers averaged 110.6 rushing yards per game. In the other 11 games, the Packers gained 100.8 rushing yards per game.

"Last year was a lot of fun and I was happy for the opportunity," he said. "I'm going into this camp the same way I went into the last. It's up for grabs, you're fighting for a job, fighting for a spot on the team, and every day you try to leave your mark and open the coaches' eyes."


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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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