Aaron Rodgers says he’s comfortable with the situation at right guard, where the Green Bay Packers have to replace Pro Bowler T.J. Lang.
Easy for him to say. He doesn’t have to stand behind that line against an NFL defense for almost four months.
Rodgers spoke with confidence when asked about the options at right guard on Tuesday — nine days before the start of the draft.
“I don’t know that we need a guy in the draft, I really don’t,” Rodgers said as the team started its offseason program. “I like the guys that we have, and I think there’s going to be a great competition between those guys.”
If the Packers were getting ready for a game this week rather than the draft, veteran Don Barclay would be the starter. Barclay’s track record in five seasons is pretty ugly but most of that history is from 22 sack-filled starts at right tackle. He’d be much more at home at right guard.
“Obviously, Donnie’s played a lot of football for us and I was really happy to see him come back,” Rodgers said, alluding to Barclay’s one-year contract. “Not only is he a great friend and a great locker room guy, but he can play.”
The other in-house alternatives are Kyle Murphy, a sixth-round pick last year, and Lucas Patrick, an undrafted rookie last year. Murphy was an All-American left tackle during his senior season at Stanford. With an offensive tackle background, he fits the Packers’ mold. However, at a towering 6-foot-6 3/8, he fits no one’s mold as a guard. Patrick fought through most of training camp last summer with a broken hand.
“I think they offer depth for us, and the biggest jump that I tell you guys every year and you guys see, (are) Years 1 and 2 and 2 and 3. A lot of things happen. The rookie year is a tough year. You go from your college season right into training for the draft. The schedule those rookies have to go through is really difficult on the body and the mind. Having an offseason to refresh and rebuild your body back is huge for those guys. I look for them to make jumps and to push Donnie. We always add a receiver to the mix and a lineman to the mix who can help us, and I’m sure it will be no different this year, but I like the guys we’ve got.”
General manager Ted Thompson has viewed guard as a primary position and a throwaway position. He paid Josh Sitton and Lang huge contracts, only to throw them both overboard following Pro Bowl seasons. Thompson got away with dispatching Sitton, thanks to Lane Taylor’s strong play. Rodgers, however, depends on a solid pocket so he can perform his extended-play magic. Can Barclay, Patrick or Murphy consistently give Rodgers the time to do his thing?
Perhaps, but can Thompson take that to the bank? You wouldn’t think so — and he shouldn't think so. Lang and Sitton were fourth-round picks and center Corey Linsley was a fifth-round pick. All three had the athleticism that Thompson has coveted on the offensive line. This draft class, however, doesn’t have that kind of depth. So, will Thompson treat guard as a primary position by using a premium draft pick on Western Kentucky’s Forrest Lamp, Indiana’s Dan Feeney or San Diego State’s Nico Siragusa, three players on a short list of prospects who have significantly above-average athleticism? Or will Thompson let Barclay and Co. battle it out with a late-round pick?
Whoever it is will have big shoes to fill.
“We’re going to need that guy to step in and be productive from Day 1,” Rodgers said.
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.