Since the day that Mike McCarthy became the head coach of the Green Bay Packers back in 2006, he said he wanted to play a physical brand of football. Only, until recently, the Packers didn’t have the horses up front to make it happen. But, with some smart draft choices and solid development, McCarthy’s offensive line is now one of NFL’s elite.
And one reason why McCarthy has said that the Packers offensive line in 2015 could be the best during his time ten seasons at the helm is the fact that not only are all five starters back, but the top three backups are also returning as well, giving Green Bay more depth and talent than it’s had in the offensive trenches in over a decade.
Josh Sitton, T.J. Lang and Bryan Bulaga were added in 2008, 2009 and 2010 respectively, with left tackle David Bakhtiari coming in 2013 and center Corey Linsely coming in 2014. All five starters were drafted by general manager Ted Thompson and four of the five picks came in the fourth round or later, showing the genius of Thompson and the ability of McCarthy and his staff to develop players. The development of Bakhtiari and Linsley over the past two seasons has been especially important. Finding long-term answers at left tackle and center, in back-to-back drafts and in the mid-rounds, was a major coup and with all five locked up for the next two seasons, few teams are in the great shape Green Bay is in up front.
For years the Packers were known as simply a pass-happy team. But over the past two seasons, a resurgent offensive line, coupled with the power running of Eddie Lacy and James Starks, has given Green Bay a new identity. No longer do the Packers have to rely solely on Rodgers to beat opposing defenses. Now, they have the force up front and the back good enough to win games ground-and-pound style.
And not only are the starters good, the depth is good too. Don Barclay, who should be the swing tackle this season, started for parts of two seasons in Bryan Bulaga’s absence due to injury and held his own. Then on the inside, the Packers have J.C. Tretter, who was slated to start over Linsley at center last season before an injury forced him to miss half the season. Tretter can play both and backup at center and guard, which will probe invaluable on game day. The other backup that saw time last season was Lane Taylor, a third-year guard from Oklahoma State that has been on the active roster in each of the past two seasons. Taylor will have to fight off some undrafted rookies and returning practice squad players, but he has a good chance to earn the eighth and final spot along the offensive line.
Green Bay may still be a throwing team, but with this offensive line, expect to see McCarthy adopt a more physical brand of offensive football as the Packers look to win their second Super Bowl of the decade.