Offensive line coach James Campen did everything but yell from the top of a mountain or hire an airplane to pull a sign.
“I have all the confidence in the world that he’ll ... get back to being Donnie. He will. Just give him a chance,” Campen said of Don Barclay last week.
Turns out that maybe Campen was onto something.
After poor performances at right tackle against New England and left tackle against Pittsburgh, Barclay looked like he was “back to being Donnie” against the Eagles on Saturday night. Filling in again at left tackle for injured starter David Bakhtiari, Barclay was hardly perfect — he was flagged for holding in the first quarter — but after giving up three sacks and a total of six pressures in 56 pass-protection snaps the first two games, he didn’t allow a single pressure in 27 pass-protection snaps at left tackle and left guard against Philadelphia, according to ProFootballFocus.com’s breakdown.
“I think the first two games didn’t go as well as I wanted to,” Barclay said on Saturday night. “I think the biggest thing was taking things from those two games technique-wise and working on them as much as I can this week and just try to improve on them. I feel like I can build off this game.”
By our breakdown, Barclay gave up inside pressure to Brandon Graham on Brett Hundley’s pick-six. On the next offensive snap, the 52-yard catch-and-run by Ty Montgomery, Barclay’s protection was excellent as Hundley was able to reset his feet and go through his progressions. On the next series, he was flagged for holding on Fletcher Cox as Hundley stepped up in the pocket and extended the play by moving to his right.
On the 29-yard completion to Jeff Janis that jump-started the touchdown drive, Barclay gave up late pressure to Graham, who was flagged for roughing the passer. Oddly, near the goal line, Barclay had an excellent block when James Starks was tackled for a loss of 3 but missed his man when Starks plowed into the end zone. Midway through the second quarter, with the offense backed up near the goal line, he blocked Graham for about 5 seconds to allow Hundley to buy time and hit Myles White for a third-down conversion.
Barclay’s rocky road shouldn’t have come as a surprise. He missed last season with a torn ACL so he had 12 months of rust to knock off.
“I think Donnie Barclay’s going to rebound from two performances he’d like to have back,” Campen predicted last week. “And really they’re magnified because they’re what? Sacks. Right. Sacks. Does anybody grade the other plays, besides those two? I’m just saying because you don’t watch the whole thing. Again, he needs to play better. There’s no question, I agree with you 100 percent, but there was also 40 other snaps. He’s got to work through some things and he will do that.”
Beyond the injury, Barclay was a three-year starter at left tackle at West Virginia. He wasn’t signed as an undrafted free agent in 2012 to play left tackle, though. He was a competent fill-in starter at right tackle in 2012 and 2013, opening a total of 18 games and rarely getting help from coach Mike McCarthy.
“I think he’s done a great job, man,” Bakhtiari said. “It’s tough. One, the guy has been bounced around everywhere. Two, he hasn’t played football in over a year, so for him to come back, you’re going to have bumps in the road. It’s tough. It’s not like (playing left tackle) was on his agenda,. He didn’t know that he was going to be getting reps at left tackle. For him to switch like that, I commend him for it. He’s been bouncing around, playing right tackle, guards, doing a little bit of center and then jumping over to left. That’s definitely tough.”
The Packers practice just once this week, on Tuesday, before Thursday night’s game against New Orleans. Regardless of Bakhtiari’s health and where Barclay lines up in that game, the reps have been invaluable.
“The knee feels great,” Barclay said. “Just getting the live reps is just the biggest thing. Practice is great, these games are great. The knee feels good.”
Bill Huber is publisher of 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 www.twitter.com/PackerReport.