Critical time for O-line

Starting five need as much time as possible to work together

Mike Sherman and his staff are expected to name the team's starting five offensive linemen this week, and probably as soon as today's afternoon practice. After the New England Patriots blew holes in Green Bay's line on Friday night, the decision won't be easy for Green Bay, but must be made now.

Three of the five positions along the line are set: Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher will man the left and right tackle positions, respectively, while Mike Flanagan returns as the starting center. Those three have started together since the 2001, and part of the 2000 season. The starters at each guard position, left open by the departed Mike Wahle and Marco Rivera, will likely be revealed today.

Throughout training camp the Packers have rotated players in at both guard positions. The favorites to start are free agent Adrian Klemm on the left side and rookie Will Whitticker on the right side. Those two started against the Patriots, but may have fallen out of favor with the coaches based on Green Bay's inability to move the ball. The other two candidates are veterans Grey Ruegamer and Matt O'Dwyer. Ruegamer played well early in training camp but has fallen out of favor with the coaching staff. O'Dwyer has missed some practices in camp with a neck injury and did not play against the Patriots.

Second-year pro Scott Wells, the team's backup center, is a sleeper to start at left guard. Wells played behind Klemm on Friday night. It is possible that the Packers may go with him, but unlikely. Klemm received an $800,000 signing bonus as part of a two-year, $2.6 million contract he signed on March 17.

With 14 days before the season opener at Detroit, the Packers have to give the first-team line as many reps as possible. Against the Patriots, Flanagan said that the line had a number of breakdowns, including missed stunts by the Patriots, missed blocks, poor footwork, etc. "They just beat us," Flanagan said.

Flanagan said the Packers will never be able to instantly replace Wahle and Rivera, the team "has to move on." In other words, don't expect any miracles. It will take some time for the line to perform like it did last season when it only gave up a team-record 14 sacks as part of an offense that rolled up a team-record 6,357 total net yards.

"These guys just broke the bank," Flanagan told a bunch of reporters gathered around his locker after Green Bay's 27-3 loss. "There's a reason they got $13 (million) and $10 million dollars (signing bonuses) apiece just to sign on the dotted line … because they're that good. Hopefully we can get somewhere near that level again as a group."

The Packers' offensive line should begin that journey today. The clock is ticking on the start to the 2005 regular season, and the Packers will need everything they can get out of Brett Favre and the offense.


Todd Korth

Note: Todd Korth is managing editor of PackerReport.com and Packer Report. E-mail him with your thoughts and comments at packrepted@aol.com.


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