If there were any doubt about the Green Bay Packers’ plan to replace Pro Bowl right guard T.J. Lang, coach Mike McCarthy erased it on Tuesday.
Draft and develop.
Speaking to reporters at the NFL annual meetings in Phoenix, McCarthy essentially shut the door on using Jason Spriggs in that role. Ditto for moving standout right tackle Bryan Bulaga to right guard and inserting Spriggs at right tackle.
“Bryan Bulaga had his best year at right tackle last year,” McCarthy said. “And I’m not really looking to move him because Bryan and David gave us an outstanding combination of right and left tackle play.”
Spriggs started two games in place of an injured Lang last season. As a second-round pick with a four-year, $5 million contract, it might have made sense for the Packers to give Spriggs a shot at that job and get some return on their sizable investment. But at 6-foot-6, Spriggs just doesn’t have the body type to play guard.
“He’s a tackle, and the first thing you have to say about Jason is he can play left tackle in this league, and that’s huge," McCarthy said. “That’s a priority position in my view. That tells you the importance that he has to our offensive line. I think we’re very fortunate we have David, Bryan Bulaga and Jason, so we have three high-quality tackles.”
With Bulaga and Spriggs seemingly out of the equation, general manager Ted Thompson will have to turn to the draft. There are four plug-and-play prospects who are good fits for the Packers’ offensive scheme: Western Kentucky’s Forrest Lamp, Indiana’s Dan Feeney, Pittsburgh’s Dorian Johnson and Temple’s Dion Dawkins.
However, there’s no guarantee Lamp would fall to Green Bay’s spot at No. 29 of the first round, and there’s no guarantee the others would fall to Green Bay’s spot at No. 61 of the second round. Plus, there are huge holes on defense that Thompson might prioritize. Thus, the Packers might have to develop a starter from their remaining in-house candidates. Veteran Don Barclay was retained in free agency. Last year’s sixth-round pick, Kyle Murphy, was an All-American left tackle at Stanford but athletic limitations could make him a better fit at guard. Another of last year’s rookies, undrafted Lucas Patrick, battled through a broken hand at training camp last summer and spent the year on the practice squad.
“We have very good numbers on our offensive line,” McCarthy said. “I really like the offensive line group and I look for that offensive group to grow both in on-the-field production with their opportunities for a number of different players that are already here, and I look for that group to really step up in the area of leadership.”
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.