Different personalities clash at guard

Barbre vs. Colledge at guard is the lone hotly contested battle for a starting job at training camp.

Allen Barbre fired off the ball and pile drove A.J. Hawk 7 yards backward — a manhandling snowplow of a block.

After the whistle blew, a frustrated Hawk swung his right arm at Barbre and slapped him in the head. Barbre simply kept walking away, maybe because he's used to the results of instigation by now. It wasn't the first time Barbre ticked off a defensive player, and it won't be the last.

He has a knack for sparking scuffles.  

Barbre doesn't masquerade his style. He wants to bring nastiness to the Green Bay Packers' offensive line.

"Yeah, totally. I feel I play like that," said Barbre on playing with attitude. "When the games go along, we'll see what happens. ... It's competitive (at practice) and sometimes it gets heated. After we're done playing, it's all good. The locker room is chill."

Barbre is part of one of the only starting competitions at training camp, battling incumbent Daryn Colledge for the left guard spot. Colledge and Barbre have worked with the No. 1 unit on a rotating basis.

"It is going well," coach Mike McCarthy said last week. "I think Daryn has been very consistent, and I can't say enough of both of those guys with what they have done in the offseason. You are seeing it carry over to the field. I think Allen needs to be a little more consistent."

Colledge usually goes toe-to-toe with Johnny Jolly or Cullen Jenkins at practice — matchups that have turned into a game within the game. On one play last week, Jolly used a swim move to easily dispose of Colledge and corral Vernand Morency for a 2-yard loss. But for multiple plays soon after, Colledge fended Jolly and Jenkins safely to the outside in pass protection.

"I've had some ups and downs through camp, but it's been good," Colledge said. "I feel like I'm playing better at this camp than I have at the last two, so I'm excited for this season."

The key to winning the left guard spot come September may lie in mastering the zone-blocking scheme. Guards are required to pull and pick off defenders.

In this sense, Colledge has the early edge.

"It's not really the concepts. I know my concepts now," Colledge said. "I've been here long enough, I feel like I know all of the positions. It's more of a technique thing now. It's a different pad level than at tackle."

Colledge, who has started 28 of 32 games at guard, was a starting left tackle throughout college at Boise State. The transition has been hot and cold. While he's looked solid at times (see: pin of the Giants' Justin Tuck on DeShawn Wynn's 38-yard touchdown burst in Week 2 last year), Colledge had his share of lookout blocks. At Dallas, he was yanked from the lineup after repeatedly getting burned, including when Stephen Bowen flew past him and crunched Brett Favre on an interception. The problem seemed to be pad level. The 6-foot-4, 308-pound Colledge was stood up and lost leverage.

But Colledge said he's moved past that forgettable game. He played a key role in Ryan Grant rushing for 201 yards against Seattle in the playoffs, and now he said he's having his best training camp. For him, it's not about the X's and O's, rather the basic fundamental body leverage necessities of offensive guard.

"You just have to be a physical guy and be smart," he said. "There's a lot of technique. It was a big change from tackle to guard. I think I'm slowly progressing to being the guard I want to be."

It's a unique competition. Both players bring starkly different styles to the boxing ring.

Barbre was a virtual redshirt rookie last year. The Division II fourth-round pick only played in seven games, briefly teasing in spot duty. His seal of Detroit's Ernie Sims triggered Brandon Jackson's longest run of the season — a 46-yard burst in the finale. Like Colledge, Barbre was a four-year starter at left tackle in college and is considered a possible heir apparent to Chad Clifton.

With Missouri Southern State, the 6-foot-4, 305-pound Barbre was a gunner on the punt team, which is kind of like asking Shaquille O'Neal to break a press in basketball. The guy can move for his size. He ran a 4.96-second 40-yard dash at the scouting combine last year (Colledge ran a 5.04).

As he flew under the radar last year, Barbre absorbed the offense and adjusted from D-II to NFL game speed. He did play in a zone-blocking hybrid at college, which helped the transition.

"I picked up a lot of things going up against our defense all the time," he said. "(Now), I'm seeing things and recognizing things. The more and more I play, the more things I see from the defense."

It's far too early to declare a winner. Preseason games, starting tonight against Cincinnati, will carry the most weight.

Colledge summed up the battle best. In a way, both players have a mental edge. They just have different mind-sets — beyond the fact Barbre seems like the one who would brew up a skirmish and Colledge seems like someone who'd diplomatically break it up.

"There is a little bit of pressure off me because I know the system," Colledge said. "It's just a matter of me physically doing the job. But then again, there's a lot of pressure on me because I'm the starter. Barbre's got nothing to lose, theoretically. It's two different types of pressure on both of us."

Tyler Dunne is a regular contributor to PackerReport.com and Packer Report magazine. E-mail him at tydunne07@yahoo.com.

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