Why Now? Bulaga Gets Chance At LG

First-round pick Bryan Bulaga has been given a chance to unseat incumbent starter Daryn Colledge at left guard. Leave it to the Packers — with their chronically mismanaged line — to start an experiment now that could have began a couple months ago.

The Green Bay Packers' track record with their offensive line is mediocre, to say the least, under general manager Ted Thompson, coach Mike McCarthy and offensive line coach James Campen.

It started in 2005, when Thompson took on the dual role of general manager and accountant, jettisoned Mike Wahle and Marco Rivera and turned to Adrian Klemm and Will Whitticker. Talk about a bad omen.

In 2006, Daryn Colledge (second round) and Jason Spitz (third round) were drafted to solidify the interior of the line. Instead, their careers have hit a plateau despite a wealth of experience. Allen Barbre, a fourth-rounder in 2007, was given a chance to unseat Colledge in 2008 but failed, then bombed at right tackle in 2009.

In 2008, Thompson had his moment of enlightenment with fourth-round guard Josh Sitton, who has developed into a Pro Bowl-caliber player, but he struck out with fifth-rounder Breno Giacomini. In 2009 — Thompson's fifth draft — he finally took a left tackle, with Jamon Meredith falling into his lap in the fifth round. Meredith didn't make the final roster, was signed off the practice squad and figures to start for Buffalo. Oops.

We dredge up that horrific history in light of Monday's decision to give first-round pick Bryan Bulaga a chance to compete for the starting job at left guard. At first blush, it sounds like a great decision. Keeping a first-rounder on the bench is like keeping a Porche in the garage during the summer.

But the Packers' history of missteps with their offensive linemen begs one question: Why now?

Ever since Bulaga put on his yellow helmet and Tony Moll's old No. 75 for the rookie minicamp on the weekend following the draft, he had been lining up at left tackle. Not one snap at left guard at the rookie camp or OTAs or the minicamp.

Now, a little over a week into training camp, the move has been made: Bulaga, while still being the backup at left tackle, will get a chance to unseat Colledge.

McCarthy said Bulaga had earned this opportunity to compete with Colledge, who had shrugged off challenges by Spitz and Barbre in the first week of camp without so much as working up a sweat.

"It's a testament to Bryan," McCarthy said. "Bryan has come in here, I mean, he's talented, he's tough, he's doing things the right way. He's got a lot of football in front of him. He's got a lot to learn. We feel from an offensive line depth standpoint, this is the deepest group that we've had in our time here, and we're continuing to try to train the younger players at one position, which is tough, not really realistic, because you start looking at that depth chart and you're trying to get some clarity to it, and we feel by making this move it may add some clarity to it. Once again, not to be redundant, he has earned this right. He's been impressive. I like what I've seen from the individual drills through the group drills all the way through the team drills, and I saw it again Saturday night. So we're going to give him a shot."

Let's be honest here. Bulaga is going to win the job. Make that, Bulaga has won the job. The coaches aren't going to hype a first-round pick's performance at one position, give him a chance to win the job at another position and then jerk out the rug. No, there's no way the coaches are going to waste valuable reps, both for Colledge to get ready for the opener and for Bulaga to hone his craft at left tackle.

"I mean, if coach says that I have, then I have," Bulaga told Packer Report when asked if he thought he was playing well enough to merit this opportunity. "That's kind of just the way I look at it. If he thinks, if Coach Campen and Coach McCarthy think that I've earned it, then I have and I'm just going to continue to do what I do every day and just go out there and work."

If this move was ever in the coaches' minds — and you have to figure it at least crossed their minds about 1 minute after they drafted him — then why not give Bulaga a few reps here and there at left guard since May? The regular season kicks off on Sept. 12, so it's not like there isn't ample time for Bulaga to settle into a position he started at while at Iowa in 2007. Still, with some foresight, there would be at least a couple hundred reps on tape of Bulaga playing left guard. That would prevent experimenting, now that there are only four two-a-days and 10 padded practices remaining on the training camp docket.

Given the Packers' history, this won't be the final chapter. Bulaga will win the job, but at some point, Chad Clifton will go down. Bulaga will have to move to left tackle and Colledge — presuming he's on the team — will be back in the lineup.

After all, in Green Bay, "Bang on the Drum" is always the song of choice for a rousing game of linemen musical chairs.


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.


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