Unit by unit: Offensive line

New scheme will mean changes to interior of line

Starters - LT Chad Clifton, LG Scott Wells, C Mike Flanagan, RG Will Whitticker, RT Mark Tauscher
Backups - T Kevin Barry, G/C Grey Ruegamer, G/T Adrian Klemm, G/T Junius Coston, C Chris White

With Jeff Jagodzinski as their new offensive coordinator, the Packers are expected to use a zone-blocking scheme, which relies on lighter, quicker offensive linemen. Jagodzinski had success with the scheme as offensive line coach in Atlanta and the Denver Broncos use a similar scheme.

"It necessitates guys working closely to one another as opposed to a single offensive lineman blocking a single defender and taking him to the right or the left," new offensive line coach Joe Philbin explained. "With zone blocking, more than one lineman will work together. Sometimes it's two guys. Sometimes it three guys in a zone scheme together. They're going to block an area as opposed to a defender and they're going to adjust to defensive movement after the snap of the football. They'll adjust to things on the run as opposed to isolating on one man."

Jagodzinski already has told bigger linemen on the team, like Kevin Barry (332 pounds) and Mark Tauscher (315 pounds), to lose some weight this off-season.

With a new scheme in mind, look for the Packers to revamp the interior of the line, an area that was under reconstruction in 2005. Veteran guards Mike Wahle and Marco Rivera hit the jackpot in free agency last year, and general manager Ted Thompson decided not to retain them. But Thompson's decision not to find suitable replacements backfired. He gave an $800,000 signing bonus to New England backup tackle Adrian Klemm to play Wahle's spot at left guard, which proved to be a disastrous transition that lasted only eight games. Plugging in the imposing but inexperienced Will Whitticker, a rookie taken late in the seventh round, at Rivera's former domain at right guard presented the team with its share of headaches.

The Packers finished the season with Scott Wells at left guard, veteran Mike Flanagan at center and Whitticker at right guard. Veterans Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher again were the mainstays at the tackle positions.

All three interior line positions may have new faces in 2006. The Packers will give fifth-round pick Junius Coston every chance to play guard, and the Packers were high on practice squad player Chris White, who was activated for the second to last game of the season, but only played on special teams. The 285-pound White, 304-pound Wells, and 317-pound Coston fit the type of lineman that the Packers are seeking for their new scheme.

"You look at Flanagan, you look at Coston… there are some guys that fit that profile. Clifton probably could lose some. He's 325. I don't think he needs to be that heavy. I told Kevin Barry the other day that the days of weighing around 360 are over. He's got to lose some weight, same with Tauscher."

Last year, the Packers struggled with their run-blocking scheme with two new faces at guard. It didn't help that a noble Flanagan played in pain the last 10 games after rushing back from surgery for a sports hernia in early October. Flanagan, 32, will be an unrestricted free agent whose time might be up in Green Bay after a remarkable 10-year run.

No decision has been made on whether the U-71 power-run package, featuring the mammoth Barry as an extra tight end, will survive the change in coaches. Barry is up as an unrestricted free agent, as is cagey veteran backup Grey Ruegamer.

Green Bay's rushing offense ranked 30th (84.5 yards per game) in the league in 2005 compared to 10th in 2004 (119.3 yards per game). Playing from behind often, the Packers were forced to pass more than they wanted to in games and Clifton was saddled with a team-high 10 penalties, including seven false starts. Tauscher was flagged for holding twice, the only times in his career that he drew that kind of penalty.

Todd Korth

Todd Korth is managing editor of PackerReport.com and Packer Report. E-mail him at packrepted@aol.com.

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