Daryn Colledge has started 60 games in the NFL at left guard. Bryan Bulaga has barely taken 60 snaps at the position all summer. And yet it seems almost inevitable that the first-round draft pick from Iowa is going to be in the starting lineup at some point this season – perhaps as early as week 1. That’s because Bulaga has looked pretty darn impressive at a position that he hadn’t played since his freshman year in college, and let’s be honest, the Packers have been trying to replace Colledge since 2008. Allen Barbre wasn’t nearly good enough to take the job two summers ago and Jason Spitz’ expected challenge this August has been derailed by a calf injury. But just when it looked as if Colledge would pull another Houdini and escape with his starting job once again, coach Mike McCarthy brought out Bulaga – who could wind up being the football equivalent of the Chinese Water Torture Cell.
Bulaga obviously has a lot to learn about playing left guard, but working between veterans Chad Clifton and Scott Wells will make things a lot easier. And it’s important to remember that Colledge played his entire college career at left tackle before starting 16 games as a rookie in the NFL. And he played that season at a pumped-up 300 pounds. Bulaga is around 315, and he’s been that weight since sophomore year. That added size and strength should make him far more physical in the running game – something desperately needed on an offensive line that features three veterans who are far at better protecting quarterback Aaron Rodgers than they are at opening holes for running back Ryan Grant.
If – and it’s still an if and not a when – Bulaga does win the job at left guard, general manager Ted Thompson might be able to trade Colledge for an outside linebacker. Of course, dealing the former Boise State star would only be an option if either Spitz is healthy and/or Barbre proves capable of playing the position. And as of now, neither of those things are even close to being certainties. And while it’s easy to be critical of Colledge, the young man deserves credit for stepping up every time he has either been benched, threatened with being benched or challenged. The only difference this time is that the challenge won’t be coming from a small-school lineman who scored an embarrassing 11 on the Wonderlic test or from a banged-up vet whose third-best position is left guard. The challenge will be coming from a talented first-round draft choice, and that might be too much for even the resilient Colledge to overcome.