Barclay's Physical Play Means Starting Chance

Almost unbelievably, no Packers offensive lineman has started more games at his current position than Don Barclay. In his seven games at right tackle, he helped fuel an improved run game. If his pass protection progresses, he'll be in contention to start.

With the Green Bay Packers' drastic offensive line shakeup, no player has more starts at his current position than Don Barclay's six at right tackle.

"It's crazy when you put it that way," Barclay said.

Due to injuries, Barclay finished last season as the starting right tackle, the completion of a rags-to-riches transition, of sorts, for an undrafted free agent who was squarely on the roster bubble until a strong finish to training camp.

Playing with more poise than polish, more determination than domination, he earned strong reviews for his play, especially by adding a physical dimension to the run game. Nonetheless, he's spent the vast majority of the offseason behind Marshall Newhouse at right tackle while mixing in at center and right guard.

"I think for him, the fact that he is getting an opportunity at three positions, to make sure that he's getting enough reps so he's comfortable so that he can perform and show what he can bring to any of those positions," offensive line coach James Campen said of the challenge for Barclay. "Really, for him, it's just getting the reps and getting comfortable. We're not putting him on the other side of the ball. He can certainly play left guard but let him stay in a right-handed stance, let him put his right hand on the ball, that'll help his progression. He's mature enough and bright enough to assimilate all those different concepts that we run. It's a credit to him."

Asked if Barclay is legitimately in the mix at right tackle, Campen said: "Oh, yeah. Absolutely."

Coach Mike McCarthy also said Barclay is competing for a starting job. His presence ensures that there is competition for center Evan Dietrich-Smith and right guard T.J. Lang.

"Don did a good job playing football, especially for the preparation that he had to get ready, to play down the stretch run, the most important part of our season," McCarthy said. "It is important we make sure to give Don an opportunity to compete for a job. He can play right tackle, he can play right guard. He's doing well. Let's face it, the true look we'll get at Don will be in training camp when we put pads on and the competition picks up. Don's a very tough, smart, versatile player and you like to see that in your young guys."

Barclay was forced into action after injuries to Bryan Bulaga and Lang, and played so well that he stayed in the lineup upon Lang's return to action. With Barclay in the lineup for six starts and most of a seventh game, the Packers averaged 110 rushing yards compared to 100 yards in the other 11 games. Their 152 rushing yards against Minnesota was their second-best total of the year and their 140 against Detroit was their fourth-best. Ten of their 12 rushing touchdowns came with Barclay in the lineup, and the run game produced at least 113 yards in his first four outings.

"He certainly deserved (to start) and he worked his tail off," Campen said. "You look at the little things, like the fake field goal against Chicago. You're asking a guy to run a fake field goal and he's the focal point pulling on the back side. His first contributions were on special teams and he did a very good job on kickoff return and the fake field goal and with protection. He was ready to play from the beginning."

Pass protection was the negative, and has been Barclay's focus through film review and technique work. According to ProFootballFocus.com, Barclay allowed four sacks, three quarterback hits and 13 additional hurries for a total of 20 pressures in 186 pass-blocking snaps.

Unless Derek Sherrod is cleared for training camp and quickly shakes off about 20 months of rust, it will be Barclay battling Newhouse for the starting job. Who will win the job will depend on the degree of improvement by Barclay in the passing game and Newhouse in the running game.

"I'll take the same approach I did last camp," Barclay said. "I'm fighting for a spot on the team, fighting for a starting spot, whatever which way you want to look at it. I'm going to get my opportunities and I just have to go with it and make the best of it and open eyes and fight every day."


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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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