Gray: Patience needed with young linemen

Packers Hall of Fame safety Johnnie Gray has re-joined to offer his thoughts on the Green Bay Packers. In his column today, Gray explains how the Packers will eventually thrive behind Daryn Colledge, Jason Spitz and Tony Moll.

Around the league, there are many schools of thought about the length of the pre-season but not in Green Bay. After watching that loss against the Chargers last Saturday, playing in the Hall of Fame game a week earlier could not have hurt the Packers. After winning only four games the previous year, six new faces on defense, an unsettled offensive line and possible a pair of new kickers, the more preseason games the better!

The offensive line has looked good throughout training camp when running the football with an assortment of running backs. The area of concern during training camp and, as we witnessed against San Diego, was the pass protection. That performance or lack thereof prompted a change in the offensive line. Daryn Colledge is out at left guard and replaced by Jason Spitz who was the right guard. His replacement is Tony Moll. In just a week of practice, there was not a lot of improvement as the guard position continued to break down in pass protection.

Please be patient while I try to explain my reason behind the changes and/or experimentation with the offensive line. First, look at the Packers' defensive tackles Ryan Pickett, Colin Cole (both 6-foot-2), Cullen Jenkins who is 6-3, which is normal for defensive tackles throughout the league with the exceptions of someone like Kendrick Allen who is 6-5. I'm thinking if the Packers can get both Colledge, Spitz (both 6-4) and Moll (6-5) to be successful at the guard position, they can get back to the smash-mouth football that has been lacking at Lambeau for a while. Usually players with that height will play the tackle position to hold the edge against speed rushers. The guards are normally in the 6-2 to 6-3 range, powerful and squatty enough to be at the same pad level as the defensive tackle. If you can find a tackle with quick feet who is strong enough to battle the bulky defensive tackle and stay low on the snap of the ball when in pass protection then you should be able to overpower and dominate the line of scrimmage.

I'm sure we'll be having this same conversation next week as the Pack continues to move bodies around to get the best combination of players versus the run and the pass. I don't think the wait will be as long as last year, but we'll know more after the Falcons game on Saturday at Lambeau Field.

These days coaches and general managers are always looking for that athlete with multiple skills that can do it all or change their way of thinking. If you are talented, you are good at what you do but sometimes it can be scary when coaches are labeling you as being very athletic. Just ask middle linebacker Nick Barnett.

Johnnie Gray

Editor's note: Former safety Johnnie Gray played for the Packers from 1975-84. He was inducted into the Packer Hall of Fame in 1994. E-mail him at

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