Position Series: Offensive Line

With three young building blocks — T.J. Lang, Josh Sitton and Bryan Bulaga — the Packers' offensive line could be one of the NFL's better units

OVERVIEW

Aaron Rodgers has been sacked 145 times in his four seasons as the Green Bay Packers' starting quarterback.

Over the last two seasons, the Packers' running game has ranked 26th and 27th in yards per carry.

Those ugly numbers notwithstanding, Green Bay's offensive line has a chance to be one of the better units in the league. The Packers might have the best young tandem of guards in Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang. Bryan Bulaga might be the league's best right tackle. Marshall Newhouse should be better with a year of experience and a full training camp at left tackle. Center Jeff Saturday, the team's key free-agent addition, should allow the Packers to run their offense with no drop-off after losing Scott Wells to St. Louis.

The big question mark is whether Newhouse will take that step forward, and if not, will 2011 first-round pick Derek Sherrod be recovered from his broken leg in time to challenge for the starting spot.

DEPTH CHART

LT Marshall Newhouse (6-4, 319; third year): Instead of Chad Clifton or Derek Sherrod, it was Newhouse playing left tackle for much of the season. He allowed eight sacks and 54 total pressures in 13 starts and ranked 57th out of 58 tackles measured by ProFootballFocus.com in pass protection. But the Packers never deviated from their plans and finished second in NFL history with 560 points.

LG T.J. Lang (6-4, 318; fourth year): Lang beat out Sherrod at left guard and never looked back as a clear upgrade over Daryn Colledge. A man on the move his first two years in the league, Lang started 15 games at left guard and one game at right tackle, allowing two sacks and one quarterback hit. He's entering his final year under contract.

C Jeff Saturday (6-2, 295; 14th year): How would the Packers survive without Scott Wells? By signing Saturday, who even in the abyss that was the "Suck For Luck" Colts wound up being the NFL's fifth-ranked center, as graded by Pro Football Focus. He allowed two sacks and no additional hits. PFF's three-year study showed Saturday being the NFL's best pass-blocking center.

RG Josh Sitton (6-3, 318; fifth year): Sitton was named a Pro Bowl alternate last season, when he allowed two sacks and one additional quarterback hit in 14 starts. It was a continuation of his breakout 2010, when he allowed no sacks and two hits. A knee injury that cost him two games impacted his run blocking.

RT Bryan Bulaga (6-5, 314; third year): Bulaga, the team's first-round pick in 2010, established himself as one of the best right tackles in the game while making 12 starts. Only Houston's Duane Brown (no sacks) and Tennessee's Michael Roos (one sack) did as well as Bulaga (one sack) in pass protection among offensive tackles.

T Derek Sherrod (6-5, 321; second year): Last year's first-round pick was just starting to round into form when he suffered a broken leg at Kansas City on Dec. 18. He played in five games (no starts) and was charged with one sack and seven total pressures.

T Herb Taylor (6-4, 305; third year): Taylor was signed after Sherrod's injury. He played in 18 games for Kansas City in 2007 and 2008, including his one and only start in 2008. He hasn't played in an NFL regular-season game since 2008.

T Andrew Datko (6-6, 315; rookie, R-7): Datko started 40 of the 41 games he played in for Florida State but missed considerable action the last two years due to injuries. If he's overcome chronic problems with his left shoulder, he could be the steal of the draft.

T Shea Allard (6-5, 305; UDFA): Allard, a three-year starter at left tackle for Delaware, was signed after trying out at the Packers' rookie camp. He was third-team FCS All-America as a senior. He played nothing but left tackle during the offseason work.

T Mike McCabe (6-5, 313; UDFA): McCabe closed his career at Holy Cross with 34 consecutive starts, including the last two years at left tackle. He was a three-time Academic All-America. McCabe, who received a $2,500 signing bonus, played right tackle during offseason practices.

C/G Evan Dietrich-Smith (6-2, 308; third year): Dietrich-Smith made the club as an undrafted rookie in 2009. He got cut at the end of camp in 2010 but was re-signed in time for the Super Bowl. Last year, he played in all 16 games and started three games at guard.

C Sampson Genus (6-1, 315; first year): Genus went undrafted in 2011 and spent the season on the practice squad. He was a three-year starter at South Florida, including on defense as a sophomore.

C Tommie Draheim (6-4, 309; UDFA): Draheim, who was recruited as a center by San Diego State, closed his career with 30 consecutive starts at left tackle. Learning behind Saturday was a main reason why he signed with Green Bay. That and his $8,500 bonus was tops among the Packers' UDFAs.

G Ray Dominguez (6-4, 334; second year): Dominguez started 33 games for Arkansas, including 13 at left tackle in 2010, but went undrafted. He was promoted from the practice squad early in the season but never played.

G Don Barclay (6-4, 305; UDFA): Barclay was a three-year starter at left tackle for West Virginia, earning first-team all-Big East honors as a senior. Three coaching changes meant learning three different schemes. He received a $2,500 signing bonus.

G Grant Cook (6-4, 318; UDFA): Cook started seven games in his first three seasons before winning the guard job as a senior. He was signed after trying out at the rookie camp.

G Jaymes Brooks (6-2, 300; UDFA): Brooks was a three-year starter at right guard and made 42 consecutive starts for Virginia Tech. He missed all of the offseason work with a hamstring injury. One of the top remaining linemen after the draft, Brooks received a $4,500 signing bonus.

Total: 17. On 2011 opening roster: 8.

Final prediction (8): Newhouse, Lang, Saturday, Sitton, Bulaga, Sherrod, Dietrich-Smith and Datko.


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.

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