I, a blogger who knows more about F. Scott Fitzgerald than Larry Fitzgerald, saw this coming months ago. How one of the best GMs in the National Football League didn’t is mind-boggling. From the time the 53-man roster was set in early September, the Packers were playing with fire on the offensive line. Well, the conflagration finally hit on Nov. 4. That’s the day Bryan Bulaga went down with a serious hip injury. It’s also the day the chances of Green Bay winning Super Bowl XLVII may have gone up in smoke.
I hope I’m wrong, but I see no way the Packers can get to New Orleans with Evan Dietrich-Smith at left guard and T. J. Lang at right tackle. EDS, as I’ve written over and over the past few years, is nothing more than a third center or fourth guard. Going into the season with him as the No. 1 backup at three positions was foolish. He has neither the size nor the athleticism to match up with the better defensive tackles. Lang is playing his heart out, but this isn’t the MAC. There’s a reason offensive linemen with average athleticism and short arms don’t play tackle in the NFL. Add in the fact that Lang is dealing with an elbow injury and it’s easy to understand why Cliff Avril and Justin Tuck abused him the past two weeks.
Thompson’s unwillingness to acquire a veteran tackle during the summer forced the offensive line to weaken itself at two positions when one player went down. You don’t have to be Albert Einstein to understand that math doesn’t add up. Now the Packers must finish off the season with either average or below-average starters at four of five positions. Marshall Newhouse has improved at left tackle, but he’s still no more than a stopgap solution at the line’s most important position. And Jeff Saturday has been Ted Thompson’s very own Hardy Nickerson – a once outstanding player who had very little left by the time he signed with Green Bay. We already talked about Dietrich-Smith and Lang. Only Josh Sitton can be regarded as a better than average player at his position, and truth be told, he he’s not having a great season.
So what should Thompson have done three months ago? He should’ve acquired a veteran offensive tackle. I proposed signing Ryan Harris, who was released by Denver in late August. The former Notre Dame star is hardly a stud, but he would’ve been an adequate third tackle. If not Harris, there had to be someone out there capable of handling the position better than a career-long guard. I don’t know who that might’ve been, but then again, I’m not being paid big bucks to study tapes of every player in the league.
OK, so what should Thompson do now that it’s probably too late to find a semi-capable tackle on the street? I’d give rookie Don Barclay a look at right tackle. If Thompson and head coach Mike McCarthy thought enough of the former undrafted free agent from West Virginia to keep him on the active roster all season, they must think he has ability. What does it hurt to give him some snaps? If he proves to be overmatched, you could always go back to the status quo. But if he proves even the slightest bit capable of playing the position, the coaching staff will be able to move Lang back to left guard and put EDS back where he belongs – on the bench. And in my humble opinion, such a scenario is the only one that gives the 2012 Green Bay Packers a fighting chance against either the 49ers or the Giants in January.