Sitton Finds Home at Left Guard

Not many players could switch positions in the offseason and sandwich Pro Bowl selections around it. But Josh Sitton is in line to do just that. This week he reflected on going from right to left guard including his initial hesitation to the move and what he had to overcome.

Josh Sitton's move from right guard to left guard — based on performance measures — has gone about as issue-free as the Green Bay Packers' coaching staff could have imagined.

For Sitton, however, there is a little more to the story.

"It just took time. It took a little bit more time than I thought," said Sitton of moving to the other side of the offensive line. "I thought that after the offseason and through the first couple weeks of training camp I'd be feeling normal over there, but it really kind of went into the season. I would say I started feeling 100 percent comfortable over there probably four, five, six weeks into the season."

Almost a year after his first Pro Bowl selection, Sitton is in line for another trip to Hawaii. As has been the case over his last four seasons as a starter at right guard for the Packers, Sitton has been the most consistent player along the offensive line — even at a new spot.

The grading system at ProFootballFocus.com has Sitton rated as the Packers' top offensive player when week-to-week grades are added up through 14 games. Among guards around the league, only the Philadelphia Eagles' Evan Mathis has graded out better (138 qualifying players).

Sitton has given up just one sack. By Pro Football Focus' pass blocking efficiency metric (a weighted formula that combines sacks, hits, and hurries relative to pass protection snaps), he is tops among guards (that have played at least 25 percent of their team's snaps) at 99 percent.

On the ground, rookie Eddie Lacy and James Starks have found their most consistent success running the ball to Sitton's side. The Packers are averaging 5.2 yards per carry (on 72 carries) behind left guard and 6.2 yards per carry (on 58 carries) to the middle left.

"I think I've played well," said Sitton. "I think the switch to left guard has been good for me. I feel like I've probably had my best season so far. I feel happy with the switch. I was a little bit hesitant at first, but it came along. There's some things on the left side I'm better at than I am on the right, so I'm happy."

Sitton had a hunch the Packers might make a position switch with him at last year's Pro Bowl, where he played the annual all-star game at left guard. The NFC team was coached by the Packers' staff, which soon after told Sitton of the ultimate plans. Those plans also included moving right tackle Bryan Bulaga to the left side and T.J. Lang from his former left guard spot to Sitton's post the previous five seasons.


Sitton blocks at the goal line vs. Atlanta. Jeff Hanisch/USA Today Sports

"When you have a right-handed quarterback, it's the blind side of the quarterback, so you'd like to kind of get your best pass blockers over there," said offensive line coach James Campen. "It's not diminishing the job T.J.'s done because T.J.'s elevated his game from last year. I think both those guys embraced the opportunity to get better at different positions and they both have done that."

The offensive line reconfiguration never made it to the regular season, however. In early August, Bulaga was lost for the season with an ACL during the team's annual Family Night scrimmage. Rookie David Bakhtiari then won the starting left tackle spot in Bulaga's absence. Sitton and Bakhtiari have been stalwarts on the left side, starting every game alongside each other this season.

After a rare, rough outing in the season opener at San Francisco (three penalties, three hurries allowed), Sitton has settled in.

"The biggest thing is it's all about muscle memory and reacting, and when your body is used to doing something for so long, you still react that way and you have to train your body to react differently as a left guard," said Sitton. "You've got to keep the correct foot back and have the correct hand placement so it takes a long time. It's all about reaction and just being on game speed. Game speed is a lot different than practice speed. At practice, you can go out there and look perfect and have perfect form but when you're going out there at game speed, it's got to be a natural thing."

If Sitton had any early trepidation about the move, Campen never really sensed it.

"He was moved there and he was expected to play and perform," said Campen. "I think as a player sometimes you get comfortable with one spot. It was just more him getting comfortable because there is some time that was needed. But in my humble opinion, I think that he was, after his first regular season game, things have been going fine. Things have worked out well."


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Matt Tevsh has covered the Packers since 1996. E-mail him at matttevsh@hotmail.com


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