Bryan Bulaga’s Return to Green Bay Packers Offense Would Alleviate Some Pressure

Don Barclay allowed three sacks against San Francisco and ranks among the league's worst pass protectors at the position. However, the Packers historically simply haven't offered their tackles much help.

Right tackle Bryan Bulaga was back on the practice field as the Green Bay Packers started their on-the-field preparation for the St. Louis Rams on Wednesday.

Bulaga, with a brace on the left knee he injured 20 days earlier, went through individual drills during the short portion of practice that reporters were allowed to watch. The Packers were not in pads - that will come on Thursday.

"I’ve had injuries on my knee before, so I’m very familiar with the rehab process and I’m very familiar with what I need to do and how I need to feel to get back and play," Bulaga said. "And it all starts with getting your quad and everything built back up, getting that strong so it can support the knee. That’s really the biggest thing and being able to spend as much time as possible in rehab with the trainers and get it done. I’m very familiar with what I need to feel and what I need to see out of myself to be able to go out and play. It’s a day-by-day deal."

While Bulaga might not play on Sunday against St. Louis, his upcoming return from a knee injury will be a tremendous asset for the Packers’ powerful offense.

Backup right tackle Don Barclay gave up three sacks against San Francisco last week. According to STATS, Barclay has given up four sacks in his three starts. Pro Football Focus is a little kinder, charging three sacks to Barclay (all against the 49ers), but that statistical service has Barclay on the hook for a total of 22 pressures. Only Baltimore’s James Hurst has more, though his 23 pressures allowed have come in four starts and 47 more passing plays. 

“I think you have to take into account some of the situations he was put in, particularly on the three sacks,” coach Mike McCarthy said before Wednesday’s practice. “I think that’s definitely something as a staff we could do a better job of. It’s all fundamentals. That’s really what it comes down to. It’s no different than any other player. There’s still plenty of room for our whole offensive line to grow, and particularly coming off that game.”

When losing a starting tackle on the offensive line, the obvious first instinct is to give that tackle some help, whether it’s sliding the protection in the backup tackle’s direction or chipping or double-teaming with a running back or tight end. That typically has not been Green Bay’s way under McCarthy. Whether it’s Barclay at right tackle in 2012, 2013 or 2015 or Marshall Newhouse starting for most of 2011 and 2012, the Packers have been reluctant to give up a target in the passing game to help a struggling tackle.

Generally, it’s worked. The Packers haven’t had many problems scoring, regardless of who’s been at tackle the past several years. Barclay didn’t allow any sacks to Kansas City’s Justin Houston, the NFL’s reigning sack king, two weeks ago. And when Barclay does give up pressure, Rodgers usually can see it coming and evade, so long as the interior of the line holds firm. 

“We help players, regardless of whether they’re on offense or defense depending on matchups and so forth,” McCarthy said. “This is a matchup game. It’s important to have those utensils in your system of offense, defense and special teams. That’s a potential answer. But we can all do better.”

Associate head coach Tom Clements said help will be provided “when we think it’s necessary.” That hasn’t been often, and it probably won’t happen on Sunday against St. Louis because the Rams have pass-rushing weapons up and down their deep and talented defensive line.

“There are times maybe we should do it more,” Clements said on Monday. “It’s always easy to say after the fact that you wish you would have done things a little differently. That happens every game, whether it’s a pass play or a run play. You sit back and you analyze and you see what happened and try to make adjustments going forward.”

Bill Huber is publisher of 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 www.twitter.com/PackerReport.


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