Status quo best for offensive line

Competition in practice good, but continuity better against Vikings

The Packers have been tinkering with the idea of making a change amongst their guards this week after Brett Favre was hammered to the ground five times last Sunday against the Chiefs. But by the end of today, the offensive line probably, and should be similar to what the Packers have been fielding this season.

Coach Mike McCarthy and his staff are expected to decide on who will start in between tackles Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher, and center Scott Wells, after today's practice. Daryn Colledge and Jason Spitz are the incumbents at left guard and right guard, respectively, for Sunday's game against Minnesota, but they have rotated this week in practice with their backups. Rookie Allen Barbre has gotten some snaps at left guard, and Tony Moll at right guard with the first-team offense. Junius Coston, who held the starting spot at right guard earlier this season probably will not start because of an ankle injury that has sidelined him for the last three games.

Knowing that the Packers are up against the second-best rush defense in the National Football League on Sunday, look for the coaches to give Colledge and Spitz another chance to show that they belong, at least for another week. Both struggled against Chiefs DT Alfonso Boone last week, and they are in for a huge test against a pair of super defensive tackles in Pat Williams and Kevin Williams of the Vikings. Minnesota has surrendered just 70.4 yards per game n the ground this year, and the Williams' are a big reason why.

Making a change at this point at guard just isn't a good idea for the Packers. Unless Colledge and Spitz fail miserably early on against the Vikings, they at least have worked through training camp and the first eight games this season with each other. Barbre is a good prospect, but has only played two snaps from scrimmage in goal line situations this season. Moll and Spitz also were far from stellar playing at right guard against Kansas City. Spitz started the game at center, then moved over to guard when Wells, barely recovered from a bout of pneumonia, entered the game in the second quarter.

If anything, the Packers have gotten the attention of the line this week, which has regressed some this year after finishing strong last year.

"It's going to be good for all of those guys," said offensive coordinator Joe Philbin. "I don't know if there's one guy that is maybe not pulling his weight. There has to be an improved performance for a lot of guys, and they want to see that as well. Proof will be Sunday at noon, as far as how much progress we made with those guys."

If Coston was healthy, the versatile Spitz was under consideration to be moved over to the left side and replace a struggling Colledge, but Coston is still gimpy.

"Not enough improvement is how I'd classify it right now," Philbin said of the play of the guards this season. "You look for guys to make strides and develop. We haven't been able to sink our teeth into five guys consistently starting and working together. There's been some shuffling. Hopefully, we can get to that stage soon and anchor in and get better as a unit. We're not making the progress we'd like to, that's for sure."

There probably will be changing of the guards ahead when Coston gets up to speed, but for now, the Packers are best off with College and Spitz, and hope they react positively to the criticism that they've been receiving this week.

"They're shuffling everybody around," said Colledge of practice this week. "They're trying to find a mix, a group of guys who can get the job done. We're all working hard. We're all trying to get better this week, and we think we've had a great week of practice."

It seems like the line in general is getting a kick in the pants this week from the coaching staff, which is the best way to go at this point.

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


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