When the Green Bay Packers selected Jason Spriggs in the second round of the 2016 NFL draft, one thought immediately came to mind — 2010.
Let me explain. That season, the Packers opened the year with Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher as their starting tackles, but they also had Bryan Bulaga, who they picked in the first round of the 2010 draft.
That season, it turned out that the Packers needed Bulaga and he ended up starting 12 games that season, including all four playoff games en route to a Super Bowl championship.
Back then Green Bay needed a third tackle and Ted Thompson was rewarded for getting one. Going into the 2016 draft, the Packers also were in desperate need of depth at tackle and thanks to a aggressive move to trade up and take Spriggs, they got it.
(If you don’t believe me, check out Spriggs in the video below. He’s No. 78, the LT)
Long-term, Spriggs could eventually wind up as one of the team’s starting tackles. He has incredible feet and athleticism and his 4.9 forty was tops among offensive lineman in the draft. At 6-6, 300 pounds, he also has elite size and according to Pro Football Focus, he was the third most-efficient pass-blocker among Power 5 left tackles.
Spriggs oozes potential, but in addition to being an outstanding athlete, he’s also a tough-nosed football player. He stands out in the run and could eventually bump inside to guard if needed. Yet, in 2016, he will be most valuable to Green Bay as a swing tackle.
When healthy, Bulaga and left tackle David Bakhtiari are effective. They form one of the better tackle pairings in the league and are up to the task of protecting Aaron Rodgers. The problem, however, is that they each had health issues last season.
Bakhtiari missed two games last year and those were the first missed starts of his career. Bulaga is much more injury prone. He has missed 32 starts over the last five seasons, including five over the past two.
Their combined absences have left players like Don Barclay, Derek Sherrod, Josh Sitton and J.C. Tretter playing tackle in their absence. And that has led to some bad moments: Rodgers getting sacked in the end zone in the season-opener in 2014; same thing happening in Arizona in regular season in 2015; two strip sacks that likely cost Packers NFC North title in 2015.
Tretter actually held up well in his one start against the Redskins last season, but he is clearly better as an interior player and if he had to play for an extended period of time, the results may be different.
For a time it appeared that Don Barclay was capable of being the swing tackle, but after an injury cost him 2014, he played terribly in 2015. He’s on the roster now, but his chances of making the final 53 are slim.
That’s why getting Spriggs was essential for 2016. I know that Bakhtiari is also a free agent next season and if he happens to leave, Spriggs will be a terrific insurance policy. Yet, Spriggs won’t have to wait for 2017 to make a contribution, he will get that chance this season.
It’s highly unlikely that both Bulaga and Bakhtiari make it through the season with suffering some type of injury or missing at least a game or two. That means at some point, the Packers will need a backup to play and that player will be Spriggs.
And much like Bulaga was in 2010, Spriggs, who started 47 of 48 career games in the Big Ten conference playing for Indiana, will be ready.
In Spriggs, the Packers finally got their swing tackle, That’s why if an offensive tackle goes down to injury this season, the Packers can breathe easy.