Offensive line will be fine

Earlier this off-season, when the Green Bay Packers failed to retain guards Marco Rivera and Mike Wahle, many wondered if quarterback Brett Favre would return behind a revamped offensive line, and if the Packers could continue to be one of the NFL's best offenses.

Nobody will know the answer to the latter, but at least Favre is back.

In an effort to replace Rivera and Wahle, the Packers signed free agents Matt O'Dwyer and Adrian Klemm, and re-signed guard-center Grey Ruegamer. None are as good as Rivera and Wahle, but it doesn't mean the offensive line will suffer a huge decline.

First of all, the top three positions on the offensive line are left tackle, right tackle and center, and we all know the Packers are in good shape with Chad Clifton, Mark Tauscher and Mike Flanagan, who are all Pro Bowl-caliber players.

As for right and left guard, they complete an offensive line, but for the most part guards are not difference-makers, like a left tackle can be protecting the blind side, or a center can be making calls before the snap.

We have seen the Packers lose quality guards in the past – like an Adam Timmerman – only to see the team not skip a beat. An offensive line is a unit – five linemen working together – to move an offense.

Individual talent isn't as important, and if you were to argue it is, having the talent at tackle, where linemen can face the likes of a Michael Strahan or a Jason Taylor, outweighs having the talent inside.

This is why the Packers' decision to move on and not keep Rivera and Wahle doesn't bother me. Yes, it would've been great to retain both, but Rivera received a $9 million signing bonus from Dallas, and less than a month later he had back problems. He'll be playing on artificial turf in Dallas. In addition, he has had knee injuries during his career. Good luck staying healthy.

Wahle was given a signing bonus of more than $10 million by Carolina. This is unheard of for a position normally not labeled as a marquee spot.

The Packers could not have matched these offers.

Now the Packers need to find two solid replacements. They took the first step in signing O'Dwyer and Klemm, and keeping Ruegamer, who played well last season at center when Flanagan was lost with an injury.

If they can stay healthy, the offensive line will continue to be a solid unit. Maybe not as good as the last few seasons, but nonetheless a unit which should hold its own.

Furthermore, what helps this situation is what is behind the linemen. Favre isn't Michael Vick in the pocket, but he has ways of avoiding the pass rush.

Fullbacks William Henderson, coming off his first Pro Bowl, and Nick Luchey will provide gaping holes for running back Ahman Green, who has some talent, too, in case you didn't notice.

So yes, the Packers lost two quality linemen, but it doesn't mean the offense will become a version of the Chicago Bears and go backwards more than forwards. With the three mainstays on the offensive line and the players in the skilled positions, the Packers will be fine.

And if you don't believe me, just wait and see.

Peeking ahead
This past week I was glancing at the Packers' schedule for this upcoming season and noticed they have a great chance to get off to a hot start, and prove most "experts" wrong who believe Minnesota will win the NFC North Division for the first time ever.

Here's the first five games, in order: at Detroit, host Cleveland, host Tampa Bay, at Tennessee and host New Orleans.

Any playoff teams there?

Any teams that scare you?

No and no.

I know Tennessee shellacked the Packers last season on "Monday Night Football," but maybe without "blitzing" Bob Slowik as defensive coordinator the defense will actually make some tackles this season.

Then after a bye in the sixth week, the Packers go to Minnesota. Could be interesting.

One last thought
Tampa Bay waived quarterback Akili Smith after NFL Europe concluded. Did Bucs coach Jon Gruden really believe Smith had something left?

Smith's flameout only makes me wonder what will happen to Detroit's Joey Harrington this season. Harrington, like Smith, went to Oregon, and Harrington's on the hot seat this year.

Doug Ritchay

Editor's note: Doug Ritchay is a longtime sportswriter and former Packers beat writer for the Green Bay News-Chronicle. E-mail at

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