Barring an injury, the Packers will go with fourth-round pick David Bakhtiari at left tackle. Of the league's projected 32 starting left tackles, based on depth charts at Ourlads.com, 19 were selected in the first round, seven in the second, one in the third, two in the fourth, one in the seventh and two went undrafted. In other words, Bakhtiari would be one of five starting left tackles taken in the fourth round or later.
At right tackle, the battle is officially on (again) at right tackle, with Marshall Newhouse (fifth round, 2010) battling Don Barclay (undrafted, 2012). Of the other 31 projected starting right tackles, nine were selected in the first round, seven in the second, three in the third, one in the fourth, two in the fifth, three in the seventh and five went undrafted.
Taken together, only two other teams have a projected starting line in which at least one of the starting tackles wasn't selected in the first two rounds: Chicago, which has the accomplished Jermon Bushrod (fourth round, 2007) at left tackle, and Tampa Bay, which is going with undrafted Donald Penn (2006) at left tackle and undrafted Demar Dotson (2009) at right tackle.
For the Packers, Newhouse has been the starting right tackle since the first day of offseason workouts. He held off an early challenge by Barclay, then saw Bakhtiari making a big push before Bryan Bulaga's torn ACL sent Bakhtiari to the left side. Now, after Friday's preseason game against the Cardinals, it appears Barclay is right back in the mix.
Actually, he never was out of the mix. Offensive line coach James Campen on Thursday emphatically said that Barclay was in contention. Sure enough, Barclay played only at right tackle on Friday night after shuffling between center, right guard, right tackle and even an occasional snap at left guard during training camp.
Based on the performances of Barclay and Newhouse against Arizona, it's going to be a two-man race to the finish line.
"I thought Barclay was clearly one of the top performers of the game for us," coach Mike McCarthy said on Saturday. "When we went through the grading, we didn't grade out very well as a football team (and) we graded out poorly as an offense. I thought Don Barclay's performance was clearly one of the better spots in last night's game."
McCarthy singled out Barclay for his "excellent job finishing." That was apparent last season, when he got thrown into the lineup by necessity after injuries to Bulaga and T.J. Lang. Barclay started the final six games at right tackle (including playoffs). In the seven games in which he got the bulk of the playing time, the Packers averaged 110.6 rushing yards per game and had 10 rushing touchdowns. In the previous 11 games, the Packers averaged 110.7 rushing yards per game and had just two rushing touchdowns.
In some ways, the winner of Newhouse vs. Barclay will be about the direction of the offense. Newhouse was blessed with great feet — though he got beaten badly by John Abraham for a sack-fumble on Friday. Pass protection was where Barclay wasn't as sharp as a rookie, and that became his offseason focus. Still, he'll never have Newhouse's naturally quick feet.
McCarthy flat-out said the team was doing a disservice to Barclay by moving him all around the line but it was by necessity as the team tries to create depth with Derek Sherrod a nonfactor again and none of the young backups making their presence felt on a regular basis. Barclay found some upside in getting a deeper knowledge of the offense.
"You know what? Marshall's done a great job," Barclay said diplomatically recently. "Whatever reps I can get, whatever opportunity, I'm just trying to go out there and show that I can play. There's always battles in camp, no matter where they're at."
Meanwhile, at left tackle, Bakhtiari backed up his strong training camp with a strong performance against the Cardinals. Outside of missing a stunt, he was flawless in pass protection. In the run game, he had just two obvious minuses: when he couldn't sustain his block again Matt Shaughnessy on the third play and got beaten badly inside on the fifth series.
"I went out there with a purpose," he said. "I've been getting a lot of media attention lately, with the buzz of me moving up and battling with Marshall on the right side, and now with the (injury to) Bulaga and now me starting at left tackle. It comes with great responsibility. So, I went out there with something more to prove, because you can do stuff in practice, and I can tell you guys whatever you want to hear, but at the end of the day, it's what's out there that's the most important thing that I'm going to be judged on – by my peers, the fans, the coaches and the organization itself. So, it was good. I was happy. But I need to know that I've got to move on. This is a great first game. But I'm on to the second 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 email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.