Green Bay Packers: The Debacle in the Desert

There is no real simple answer as to why the Green Bay Packers were royally throttled 38-8 on Sunday by the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium.

But if you peel back the onion deep enough, it all comes back to one thing. That would be inconsistent, ineffective, inadequate and at times inept play by the offensive line of the Packers.

Listen, I know there have been a ton of injuries on the line. We will get to that point a bit later.

A little over a month ago NFL scout Chris Landry talked about all the problems the Packers were having on offense on 620 WDAE’s Steve Duemig Show.

“You know, it’s a few things,” Landry said. “But it really stems from this. In the early part of the season, they were running the football fairly well.

“They’re not playing well up front. They are not running the football well. Against Denver, they were really exposed. And Aaron Rodgers doesn’t have time to make plays.

“The receivers are having a hard time getting off press-coverage. So, they are really out of sorts on offense. And it starts from up front. And if they can’t run the football any better, they are going to have a hard time because they are struggling to hold up under pressure.

“Listen, Aaron can extend plays, but guys aren’t getting open and making plays for him. And he’s starting to miss things and see things and it’s just not working.

“They’ve got to settle down and it’s got to start with from up front. I’ve kind of looked at it and thought maybe it’s time that Mike [McCarthy] looks at play-calling again.

“Listen, they miss Jordy Nelson. But it’s not all about Jordy Nelson. They were a little more effective in the first few games where didn’t have him in either, and Mike’s not ready to do that yet (call plays again).

“But they are going to have to start scheming people (receivers) open a little bit. Really, it’s a long-winded answer, but really it’s the offensive line which is the biggest culprit.

“If they can’t run the football any better, they are going to be in trouble. Listen, they’ve got a shot, because they’ve got Aaron Rodgers. They’ve got the ability to make some plays, but at this point it really is an issue up front.

“They have to figure that out, because I do think they are a team which is potentially dangerous. But right now, they are only dangerous to themselves.”

Landry said those things prior to the first game against the Minnesota Vikings in Minneapolis.

Since then, the Packers have begun to run the ball very well at times and Mike McCarthy is again calling plays for the Packers.

But in games where the Packers can’t run the football consistently, like in Arizona yesterday, the offensive line is just not getting it done protecting Aaron Rodgers when he goes back to pass.

Nothing was ever worse than the job the line did on Sunday. Rodgers was hit 12 times, sacked eight times and fumbled three times (two of which were returned for touchdowns).

Yes, I know left tackle David Bakhtiari didn’t play. I also know that right tackle Bryan Bulaga missed most of the second half with an ankle injury.

In addition to that, left guard Josh Sitton (back), center Corey Linsley (ankle) and right guard T.J. Lang (shoulder) are all playing hurt.

With Bakhtiari and Bulaga out of the lineup, Rodgers was facing an onslaught of pass pressure from the edges as both left tackle Don Barclay and right tackle Josh Walker were blocking like they were swinging gates.

That all goes back to general manager Ted Thompson and the lack of quality depth he has put together for the offensive line, most notably at offensive tackle.

The Packers have adequate depth at center (JC Tretter) and at guard, but it’s a different story at tackle.

I have always liked Barclay, but there is a reason why he wasn’t drafted after he had played left tackle at West Virginia. No. 67 just doesn’t have the foot speed necessary to take on edge rushers at the offensive tackle position in the NFL.

That’s why the Packers moved him to guard initially, because he is a much better fit there. But due to injuries, Barclay moved to right tackle, where he started 18 games in 2012 and 2013.

Barclay is a better-than-average run blocker, but his pass blocking is very suspect, especially taking on edge rushers. That has been quite apparent over the course of his NFL career.

Josh Walker held up pretty well playing offensive tackle this preseason for the Packers, but that was against second and third string competition.

When he had to play right tackle on Sunday against Dwight Freeney  of the Cardinals, he put together an embarrassing performance.

It got so bad that the Packers had to put in Tretter to play right tackle.

Any of you who have followed me throughout the years at places like Packer Report and Bleacher Report, know that I spend a lot of time evaluating various NFL draft prospects.

I’ve been doing draft articles and mock drafts for over a decade now. I’ve had a pretty good track record as well. A lot of my insight comes from the many conversations I’ve had with Landry.

In my final mock draft I did for the Packers for the 2015 NFL draft while I was still at Bleacher Report, I correctly named two of the players (Quinten Rollins and Jake Ryan) that the Packers ended up drafting.

But I also had the Packers taking an offensive tackle fairly early in the draft. I did that in all of my mock drafts before the actual 2015 NFL draft.

To me, Bulaga was too injury prone going into this season. When healthy, No. 75 is one of the best right tackles in the NFL, but he seems to be hurt a lot. In fact, in his six-year career with the Packers, Bulaga has missed 28 games due to various injuries.

Up until this year, Bakhtiari had been relatively healthy, having never missed a game in two years. But No. 69 has been struggling with knee issues since training camp and now has an ankle injury which caused him to miss the game versus the Cardinals.

I believe selecting an offensive tackle early in the 2016 NFL draft should be a priority for the Packers.

The Packers have a number of other issues, but the lack of depth at the offensive tackle position is glaring.

Finally, I realize that the Packers are having all sorts of problems on offense that can’t just be blamed on the offensive line.

Rodgers is missing on his passes far too often this season. The receivers have been struggling to get open, plus have dropped way too many passes. The running game has been either a hit or a miss, plus the backs have fumbled too many times.

The ineffectiveness of the offense has led to the defense being on the field far too often.

Bottom line, the Packers have less than a week to figure out all of their issues going into their matchup versus the Minnesota Vikings next Sunday night at Lambeau Field.

The winner wins the NFC North. Either way, both teams will be in the NFC playoffs.

But that situation won’t last for long, at least based on the way the Packers played yesterday.

No matter what happens, Thompson and his scouting staff will have a lot of work to do this offseason to address a number of positions on the team.

Offensive tackle has to be one of the first priorities.

One thought on “Green Bay Packers: The Debacle in the Desert

  1. Pingback: A Scout’s Take on the Offensive Line Issues for the Packers | Bob Fox

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