The Green Bay Packers will begin three weeks of organized team activities following Memorial Day weekend, with the first of those that’s open to the public set for Thursday, May 28. We get you ready with a positional look at the team, which continues with the offensive line.
Rookies and first-year players: T Jeremy Vujnovich (undrafted, 2014), G Josh Walker (undrafted, 2014), G Matt Rotheram (undrafted, 2015), G Marcus Reed (undrafted, 2015), T Fabbians Ebbele (undrafted, 2015), C/G Andy Phillips (undrafted, 2015).
Noteworthy: With Bulaga re-signed in free agency, Green Bay’s No. 1 offensive line will remain intact through the 2016 season. That’s when the extensions signed by Sitton and Lang and the rookie deal under which Bakhtiari is playing will be ending. Other than the quarterback play with Aaron Rodgers, the offensive line is Green Bay’s best unit. Whether it’s providing protection for Rodgers or opening holes for Eddie Lacy, the line was a dominant force last season. That’s especially true with the interior of Lang, Sitton and Linsley, who has a chance to be the latest in a long line of great Packers centers. With Barclay returning from a torn ACL and Tretter back for Year 3, Ted Thompson elected to not select an offensive lineman for the first time in his 11 seasons running the team’s draft.
The star: Sitton was named second-team All-Pro in 2014, his seventh season in the league. He allowed zero sacks, according to ProFootballFocus.com, and the running game averaged 4.70 yards behind him, according to league data. Sitton is as tough as he is talented, as he started all 16 games for the fifth time in the past six seasons. He labored through the second half of last season with a toe injury yet was a key figure as Lacy ranked third in the NFL in rushing over the last six games and the team ranked second in the league with nine sacks allowed over the final eight games.
The battle: In 2014, Green Bay’s starting five formed the front wall for 15 of the 16 games, with Bulaga missing the Week 2 game against the Jets. If the Packers aren’t so fortunate in 2015, who will be the first blocker off the bench? Barclay, who started at right tackle for part of 2012 and most of 2013 due to Bulaga’s injuries, probably would have held that job last year had he not sustained a torn ACL during training camp. He can play every position other than left tackle. Tretter might be able to play all five spots.
Rookie impact: Can any of the young guys knock off Taylor and Gerhart as the No. 8 lineman? Rotheram (6-5, 325), who had a predraft visit, was a 40-game starter for Pittsburgh. He played right guard as a junior and senior and right tackle as a sophomore; he hopes to have four-position versatility by being able to play center. Ebbele (6-8, 315) started 51 games at right tackle in his four seasons at Arizona. Phillips (6-2, 303), who was signed after a successful tryout at the rookie camp, started 38 games at left guard and five times at center and was a two-year captain at Central Michigan. Reed (6-3, 345) was second-team all-CIAA during his senior season while playing right guard and right tackle.
Quoteworthy: “History will tell you if you have five guys who line up and play together week-in and week-out, you’re going to have a pretty good offensive line,” McCarthy said. “This line is the best line I’ve coached in my time in Green Bay. What we ask of them as far as their responsibility is more than we’ve ever done. The continuity they’ve created has been awesome. The production is definitely the best we’ve had. This has definitely been our best group.”
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