Offensive line on the spot

Group needs to bounce back Sunday against New York Giants

Entering the season, the Green Bay Packers' offense had two spots where there weren't any questions – quarterback Brett Favre and the offensive line.

After one game this season, however, that has changed. Favre appears to be the only non-worry, as long as he doesn't throw interceptions like he did two seasons ago.

But the offensive line opened 2007 in pathetic fashion. Reliable tackles Mark Tauscher and Chad Clifton struggled. Clifton allowed 1 ½ sacks, moving his career total to 16 ½.

The running game mustered a puny 46 yards. Some of the rushing problem had to do with running backs who weren't even in the NFL last season, but the offensive line still didn't open holes or protect Favre (sacked four times and hit 11 times) against the Eagles like you would expect. The Packers escaped with a 16-13 win, but at least coach Mike McCarthy recognizes the offensive line must be better Sunday at Giants Stadium.

"Fundamentally, we need to clean up a lot of things," McCarthy said. "We just had a bunch of common mistakes, and that was the most frustrating thing for myself watching the film."

The running game struggles with the offensive had to do with multiple areas, but one which I know was a problem was cut blocking, which the zone-blocking scheme uses. The Packers don't practice this technique during training camp, because they don't want to hurt their own defensive players. Also, it's debatable how much the Packers do it in preseason as a show of respect in games which don't count.

Because of this, the running game is bound to open slow until Green Bay becomes a team which has used this scheme for many seasons. This is only Green Bay's second using this method. However, the Packers started the season with the same offensive line as they played with most of last season. Notwithstanding, second-year guard Jason Spitz struggled and is expected to be replaced by Junius Coston on Sunday.

As for the pass protection, the four sacks have the Packers on pace to surrender an absurd 68 for the season. They gave up 24 last season, an average of 1.5 per game.

The Packers won't allow 68, as the Eagles have one of the best defenses, in terms of rushing the passer, so you would hope as the season progresses and the Packers play weaker defenses, that pace will drop.

"When you do call plays or when you do get into offensive game-planning, there's always something you know you can hang your hat on, and (the offensive line) is something that I still believe I can," McCarthy said. "We didn't do very good, but we will do a much better job with it as we move forward."

To realize how much the offensive line's improvement is needed, all you have to do is look at the other side of the ball. The Packers' defensive line had a good day against the Eagles, rushing quarterback Donovan McNabb, who completed less than half his passes.

The defensive line gave the Eagles fits and because of it the Packers stayed in the game. Because the season is just one week old, on a scale of 1-10, how much I'm concerned about the offensive line is a 6. There were problems, but some of the problems came from two of the best players on the roster – Tauscher and Clifton. They will clean up their play.

It's up to the guards – Coston/Spitz and Colledge and center Scott Wells to shake off Week 1 and look ahead. If they do, the Week 1 struggles will fizzle like a wet firecracker.

It also will help if the running backs can learn week to week. Rookies Brandon Jackson and DeShawn Wynn are learning every time they hit the field, but they need to develop quickly, because good running backs can also make an offensive line's job easier. If they can hit the hole quicker and be more decisive, the offensive line will return to form.

Based off last season, the offensive line will rebound, but the Packers need this to happen sooner rather than later. An offense with a suspect line cannot be successful in the NFL.

Doug Ritchay is a frequent contributor to and Packer Report magazine. E-mail him at

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