Offensive line used to be a position of weakness for the Green Bay Packers. Now, after a slew of successful mid-round draft picks replenished the talent pool, Green Bay’s 2014 offensive line could be the best of the Mike McCarthy era and in his pre-training camp press conference, the man entering his ninth season as head coach, said as much.
McCarthy, who can sometimes be a bit brazen, had this to say to a group of reporters before camp officially opens today, “This offensive line has a chance to be the best we’ve had in our time here.”
After thinking about that statement for a moment, it’s easy to see why he believes it to be true.
The Packers are going to bring back one of the most experienced, cohesive offensive lines in his time as head coach. Never has there been a more solid foundation. There is the turn over at center after not re-signing Evan Dietrich-Smith but J.C. Tretter has impressed this offseason and is a bigger, more athletic option than EDS, who wasn’t worth the money Tampa Bay paid him.
” I know JC is the first time, but I was very impressed with him in spring.” McCarthy said. “I need to see him in pads. I think we have a chance to be very good. We have a very healthy situation at the tackle spot. Dave has gotten bigger and stronger. Nice to have Bryan Bulaga back. We have some young guys who are going to battle.”
Dave as in David Bakhtiari was a fourth-round pick in the 2013 draft that turned out to be gold for the Packers filling in at left tackle Bulaga succumbed to injury. Bakhtiari showed he could play left tackle in the NFL and if he can take a step forward this season, Green Bay would have its best set of tackles since winning the Super Bowl in 2010.
Bakhtiari’s development also allows a healthy Bulaga to move back to right tackle, where he has proven that when healthy, he can be a pro bowl caliber player. The Packers are also blessed with one of the best guard combinations in pro football with Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang.
Thanks in large part to Sitton and Lang, Green Bay ran for 133.5 yards per game and averaged 4.7 yards per carry. The pass protection was a little shaky at times but that’s to be expected with a rookie playing left tackle and a your best tackle (Bulaga) missing the season due to injury.
Even with those obstacles, the Packers won the NFC North title, ranked third in the league in yards per game and eighth in points per game and that’s without Aaron Rodgers for half the season.
Bulaga’s health, which is a legitimate question mark, will play a key role in the determining the success of the Packers 2014 offensive line but if he can regain his form and Bakhtiari can develop as expected, Green Bay will be in business.
The Packers also have solid depth with Don Barclay, who started 14 games at right tackle last season, Derrick Sherrod, a former first-round pick that finally appears to be healthy and some talented youngsters like rookie center Corey Linsley and second-year guard Lane Taylor.
If this line is going to truly excel this season, Bulaga will need to be healthy and Tretter needs to prove he is up to the task of being Rodgers’ starting center. If those things happen, McCarthy will be right and his comments will be justified because this is the most talented offensive line group he’s ever had.