2014 DRAFT GUIDE
Green Bay's new and improved OL gets biggest test

    2013-01-10 02:52

(Eds: Updates. With AP Photos.)
By NANCY ARMOUR
AP National Writer

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) - Milk bottles in carnival games are meant to be knocked down.

MVP quarterbacks are not.

Green Bay's offensive line has had its hands full this season as it has tried, often unsuccessfully, to keep Aaron Rodgers from looking like a tackling dummy, and it doesn't figure to get any easier in Saturday night's NFC divisional game in San Francisco.

The 49ers' front seven is one of the most brutish in the NFL, and just the sight of Aldon Smith or Justin Smith is enough to make a quarterback wince.

``It's going to be key for us to play our best here to date,'' Packers left guard T.J. Lang said. ``We understand that it's going to be up to us to keep Aaron clean, let him make some plays back there in the pocket. That's going to be a huge factor in how this game turns out.''

Rodgers is the Packers' most precious commodity, the reigning league MVP and one of the finest quarterbacks of his generation. The Packers (12-5) will only go as far as he takes them, so keeping him upright is a priority. Yet Rodgers was sacked an NFL-high 51 times during the regular season.

That's almost twice as many sacks as New England's Tom Brady took (27), and 30 more than Denver's Peyton Manning.

But that number, ugly as it may be, doesn't quite tell the whole story.

``Is it something that they're proud of? No. Of course not,'' offensive line coach James Campen said. ``I'll just say this, those guys have made a lot of improvements and corrected the mistakes that got to those situations of giving up a sack or having a bad run. There's a lot of things that you could say, `Well, there's 51 sacks.' But does that mean they're a bad line? Absolutely not, because there's a lot of other things that can factor into that.''

Part of what makes Rodgers so special is his ability to turn a broken play into a big gain, getting outside the pocket and waiting until he finds an open man, throwing on the run.

It's resulted in countless dazzling plays and left many a defensive player shaking his head in wonder as he trudges down the field for the next snap.

But it also can leave Rodgers vulnerable. The more time he takes, the more chances a lineman or linebacker has to chase him down.

``Your mentality when you're blocking for him is make sure you stay engaged. You can't have a time clock in your head, thinking the ball might be gone,'' Lang said. ``You've got to stay locked up with those guys, match their effort. As long as they're moving, you're moving to try and stay in front of them. Whenever we do that, we give Aaron some time, he tends to make a lot of big plays. That's definitely something that we work on a lot and we try to make sure we're good at.''

But the bigger challenge in protecting Rodgers - this season, at least - has been consistency.

Or a lack of it.

With a new center in Jeff Saturday and Marshall Newhouse in his first season as the full-time starter at left tackle, the Packers were clearly out of sync early on. Rodgers was sacked 16 times in the first three games, and 21 times through the first five.

No coincidence the Packers began the season 2-3.

Just as the line found its rhythm, right tackle Bryan Bulaga was lost to a season-ending hip injury on Nov 4. Over the next six weeks, the Packers would use four different starting combinations on the offensive line, including rookie free agent Don Barclay at right guard.

``It's a hard thing to do,'' right guard Josh Sitton said. ``I had to do it as a rookie, be the sixth man on the O-line, and having to come in and not knowing you're going to be in, not knowing when you're going to play and then finally getting your chance, it's a tough thing to do.''

And yet, the Packers have found stability among the chaos.

Evan Dietrich-Smith, whom Rodgers has been touting as the Packers' future center, replaced Saturday in the starting lineup Dec. 23, and it looks as if he's been playing the position for years. He's a little faster and a lot more physical, and having that anchor up front sets the tone for the rest of the line.

Barclay has had some growing pains - he struggled in the regular-season finale in Minnesota - but has grown with each week, and he's drawn rave reviews from everyone from Rodgers to coach Mike McCarthy.

``He's given us some stability there,'' Rodgers said. ``We still want him to get off to a good start every week, but you worry less and less about Don every week, and that's a tribute to how he's played and how he's prepared.''

The line's improvement is evident in the entire offense. Yes, Rodgers was sacked five times in that regular-season finale. But even with that, he was taken down only 14 times over the last five weeks. He was sacked three times in last weekend's wild-card win.

The running game, which depends on a stout offensive line, has taken off, too.

``We've been playing some good football the last couple of weeks,'' Lang said. ``We continue to grow with the guys we've got in there now. We feel confident next to each other.

``We definitely know that this week's going to be a huge challenge for us,'' he added. ``But I think we're ready for that challenge and we're excited about it.''

---

Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Fantasy Football Player Notes RSS FeedPLAYER NOTES

Matt CasselMar 4 07:53p

Minnesota Vikings QB Matt Cassel was traded to the Buffalo Bills Wednesday, March 4. The Bills swapped their 2015 fifth-round pick for the Vikings 2015 sixth-round draft pick. Minnesota [ More ]

Andre JohnsonMar 4 11:23a

Houston Texans WR Andre Johnson has asked the team to release him this offseason.

LeSean McCoyMar 3 06:43p

Philadelphia Eagles RB LeSean McCoy will reportedly be traded for Buffalo Bills LB Kiko Alonso.

Kiko AlonsoMar 3 06:43p

Philadelphia Eagles RB LeSean McCoy will reportedly be traded for Buffalo Bills LB Kiko Alonso.

Tyvon BranchMar 3 05:23p

Oakland Raiders SS Tyvon Branch was officially released, as expected, Tuesday, March 3.

DeMarco MurrayMar 3 01:43p

Dallas Cowboys impending free-agent RB DeMarco Murray would likely re-sign with the Cowboys if the offer they make him is equal or similar financially to offers he receives from [ More ]

Cole BeasleyMar 3 01:13p

Dallas Cowboys WR Cole Beasley agreed to a four-year contract extension worth $13.1 million. The extension could be worth as much as $15.1 million.

Andre JohnsonMar 2 11:03p

Houston Texans WR Andre Johnson was asked to accept a reduced role, but he declined and asked to be traded or cut, according to people familiar with the situation.

Bernard PollardMar 2 07:23p

Tennessee Titans SS Bernard Pollard has been informed that he will be released, according to sources familiar with the situation. Pollard asked the Titans to release him last month. [ More ]

Le'Veon BellMar 2 04:33p

Pittsburgh Steelers RB Le'Veon Bell could be suspended up to four games, according to the NFL's new substance-abuse policy. A two-game suspension is standard for a DUI resulting from [ More ]

J.D. WaltonMar 2 04:13p

New York Giants C J.D. Walton was released Monday, March 2.

Lance MooreMar 2 04:03p

Pittsburgh Steelers WR Lance Moore was released Monday, March 2.

Brad JonesMar 2 03:53p

Free-agent LB Brad Jones (Packers) signed a two-year deal with the Philadelphia Eagles Monday, March 2. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Charles ClayMar 2 03:12p

Miami Dolphins TE Charles Clay received the transition tag Monday, March 2, according to a source. The transition tag for tight ends is worth $7.071 million.

Dez BryantMar 2 02:03p

Dallas Cowboys WR Dez Bryant received the franchise tag Monday, March 2. Bryant would make $12.823 million if he signs the tender offer.

Jason Pierre-PaulMar 2 02:03p

New York Giants impending free-agent DE Jason Pierre-Paul received the franchise tag Monday, March 2, according to sources.

Justin HoustonMar 2 09:52a

Kansas City Chiefs LB Justin Houston had the franchise tag placed on him Monday, March 2, according to a source.

Ndamukong SuhMar 2 09:43a

Detroit Lions impending free-agent DT Ndamukong Suh will not receive the franchise tag Monday, March 2.

LaMarr WoodleyMar 1 07:12p

The Oakland Raiders plan to release DE LaMarr Woodley, a league source said Sunday, March 1. He made just five tackles in six games before his season ended due [ More ]

DeMarco MurrayMar 1 02:42p

Dallas Cowboys impending free-agent RB DeMarco Murray probably will hit the free-agent market since contract talks with him have gone slow, according to executive vice president Stephen Jones. Jones [ More ]

Dez BryantFeb 28 10:12p

Dallas Cowboys WR Dez Bryant is expected to receive the franchise tag by Monday, March 2, but during the NFL Scouting Combine, team owner Jerry Jones said that he [ More ]

DeMarco MurrayFeb 28 09:02p

Dallas Cowboys RB DeMarco Murray could give the team a chance to match any offer he receives during free agency, according to executive vice president Stephen Jones. 'There is [ More ]

Dez BryantFeb 28 08:52p

Dallas Cowboys WR Dez Bryant will receive the franchise tag by the deadline Monday, March 2, executive vice president Stephen Jones confirmed Saturday, Feb. 28. The move will guarantee [ More ]

EJ ManuelFeb 28 02:22p

Buffalo Bills QB EJ Manuel still seems to be the No. 1 option at quarterback, for now, with Josh McCown heading to the Cleveland Browns. Buffalo could still add [ More ]

Josh McCownFeb 27 07:52p

Updating a previous report, Cleveland Browns QB Josh McCown signed a three-year deal Friday, Feb. 27, according to a source. Financial terms of the deal weren't disclosed. McCown completed [ More ]

Josh McCownFeb 27 06:32p

Free-agent QB Josh McCown (Buccaneers) has signed with the Cleveland Browns, according to his agent. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Reggie WayneFeb 27 04:42p

Indianapolis Colts impending free-agent WR Reggie Wayne (triceps) recently underwent surgery on his triceps and has started his rehab. Wayne still has not decided if he will play in 2015.

Darnell DockettFeb 27 04:22p

Arizona Cardinals DT Darnell Dockett was released Friday, Feb. 27. The Cardinals would like to re-sign Dockett if he is not able to find a better offer from another team.

Brandon GibsonFeb 27 03:42p

Miami Dolphins WR Brandon Gibson was released Friday, Feb. 27.

Stephen BowenFeb 27 03:22p

Washington Redskins DE Stephen Bowen was released Friday, Feb. 27.

Adrian PetersonFeb 27 02:42p

Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson could be a trade target for the Indianapolis Colts. QB Andrew Luck hasn't had a successful running game behind him so far in Indianapolis. [ More ]

Adrian PetersonFeb 27 02:42p

Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson could be a trade option for the Arizona Cardinals with QB Carson Palmer and WR Larry Fitzgerald nearing the end of their careers in [ More ]

RSS Feeds

NFL News:
 
Player Notes:
 
Forum Posts:
 

© 2015 RealTime Fantasy Sports, Inc.
Email Us  ·  Call Us 636.447.1170  ·  Lost Password
Advertising represented by USA Today Sports Media Group