Improving guard positions a high priority

While many starting positions on the team are solidified, Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy recently indicated that both guard positions will be up for grabs.

Head coach Mike McCarthy didn't give his group of young offensive guards a ringing endorsement at the NFL owners meetings last week in Palm Beach, Fla.

McCarthy stressed that the run blocking in the interior of the line has to get better heading into next season.

"As a whole, this group (of linemen) is one of the better pass-protection units in the league, in my opinion, and one of the better ones as a group that I've been a part of," McCarthy said April 2. "I think that's something that kind of gets swept under the carpet because of the criticism of some of the things that happened in the running game, particularly early in the season.

"In developing an offensive line, pass protection usually comes second. This group has done a great job with it. That's the thing we're excited about because we feel very confident we can throw the ball to win against anybody. We showed signs of that last year, and we need to continue that. But, we need to improve inside in the run game."

The Packers were the worst running team in the league after Week 10 last season. The second-half emergence of fourth-stringer Ryan Grant, who had been obtained in a trade with the New York Giants before the season started, enabled Green Bay to finish No. 21 in the 32-team loop with an average of 99.8 rushing yards per game.

Although Jason Spitz won McCarthy's approval for his consistent play at right guard down the stretch, the coach indicated that both guard spots would be up for grabs.

Daryn Colledge is the incumbent at left guard but was spotty with his performances. Junius Coston has starter's ability but was dogged by an ankle injury late in the season. Allen Barbre, a tackle in college, is athletic and was developed as a left guard as a rookie last year, giving him a shot to compete for the starting job this year.

"We need to continue to find that continuity," McCarthy said. "We'll continue to be competitive as far as how we line those guys up."

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