So who should the Green Bay Packers start at Left Tackle in place of Bryan Bulaga? Yesterday new TSB contributor Ian Culver evaluated four possible candidates from the Green Bay O Line, and now we look at the top three, and then Ian makes his pick.
3. Derrick Sherrod
At A Glance: 6-6, 321 lbs. Third year out of Mississippi State. 1st round draft pick in 2011.
Who He Is: Derrick Sherrod is almost a complete unknown. He was drafted in the first round after relinquishing only a single sack in his entire collegiate career. He got some playing time as a rookie and played as rookies often do – up and down. However, a gruesome leg injury suffered against the lone loss in 2011 robbed him of the rest of that season and all of 2012. Although he’s still on the PUP and has not played a snap in almost two years, Sherrod is reportedly close to getting on the field. At his best, Sherrod is a shut down pass protector and an average run blocker. Whether he’ll ever play his best in green and gold remains to be seen.
Looking Through Green and Gold Glasses: Green Bay has always been about drafting and developing. In early March – when other teams are busy bidding on top free agents – McCarthy routinely says that the greatest improvement will come from players already on the roster. Sherrod typifies that mindset. Even though his rookie season was up and down it’s clear the guy has talent. After almost two years rehabbing, the leg should be darn close to 100%, and with the entire preseason game schedule yet to be played there’s ample time for him to get into game shape. Sherrod’s game is ideal for the type of offense Green Bay wants to run, and if he can get on the field he can jump in and provide a stabilizing force.
A Cynic Would Say: There’s no denying Sherrod has raw talent, but in the unlikely event that the guy actually gets on the field, there’s no guarantee he’ll be effective. He looked overmatched as a rookie, and adding two years of rust won’t help. He may still develop, but at this point he can’t be relied upon to even get on the field, much less play effectively.
Final Verdict: If there ever was a time for Sherrod to make a triumphant return to football, now is that time. If – and that’s a gargantuan if – he can get on the field shortly, we’ll find out if he’s got something left in the tank. Still, at this point it’s not prudent to bank on Sherrod for any production. It has to be assumed that he won’t be ready until mid-season at the earliest.
2. Marshall Newhouse
At A Glance: 6-4, 319 lbs. Fourth year out of TCU. 5th round draft pick in 2010.
Who He Is: Marshall Newhouse is a fantastic backup offensive tackle. Although he was badly exposed at times last season, he actually improved in 2012 compared to a rough 2011. Still just in his fourth season, Newhouse has shown improvement year to year. Although his run blocking is sub-par, he has good feet in pass protection. What he lacks in athleticism he makes up for with high effort and intangibles. He had some notable struggles against elite competition, and is prone to the occasional mental lapse.
Looking Through Green and Gold Glasses: Newhouse has done nothing but get better each year, and although he’ll never be an elite run blocker, Green Bay won with him in the lineup. At the very least, having him in the lineup maintains the status quo from last year with another season of progression.
A Cynic Would Say: Newhouse has proven that he’s nothing more than a solid backup lineman. The status quo from last year isn’t good enough. Newhouse isn’t a starting LT for a Super Bowl caliber team. If Newhouse starts, expect more of the same: solid regular season followed by an early postseason exit.
Final Verdict: As a 5th round pick, Newhouse was drafted to serve as an injury replacement, not a long term solution. While he’s serviceable, he’s less than ideal. Still, there’s nothing to suggest he’s hit his talent ceiling, and the last five Super Bowl winning LTs have been an over-the-hill Bryant McKinnie, David Diehl, Chad Clifton, Jermon Bushrod and Max Starks – hardly a group of HOF candidates. With Newhouse expect more of the same – a prolific offense with a handful of cover-your-eyes moments against athletic defensive ends.
1. David Bakhtiari
At A Glance: 6-4, 300 lbs. Rookie out of Colorado. 4th round draft pick in 2013.
Who He Is: Probably the biggest surprise of training camp this year, Bakhtiari first thrust himself into the competition at RT, and now – according to the incomparable Bob McGinn – is the frontrunner for LT. As a rookie, Bakhtiari is very athletic, although somewhat undersized. Coming out of the draft, scouts were polarized on him and many thought he should have stayed in school for another year. Yet as a one-on-one blocker in training camp, he’s a stone cold killer, and has not lost a rep as left tackle.
Looking Through Green and Gold Glasses: If Bakhtiari had stayed in school – and if that school had been remotely competitive at football – it’s very possible he would have been a 1st or 2nd round draft pick. He has shown flashes of greatness so far in training camp, and when playing at full potential is clearly the most exciting option for Green Bay. Let him play, and next year at this time we might be talking about Bryan Bulaga switching back to RT.
A Cynic Would Say: Rookies are rookies, and 10 days of good play in training camp doesn’t mean much come the regular season. We’ve seen Bakhtiari dominate Nate Palmer for long stretches, let’s reserve judgement until we see him against Jared Allen and Julius Peppers. For as well as he may play in stretches, he’s liable to have mental lapses that will get Rodgers killed. Exactly one rookie left tackle has won the Super Bowl, and that was Matt Light with the New England Patriots. Those are long odds.
Final Verdict: Of all the potential replacements, Bakhtiari is the prospect with the greatest risk and the greatest reward. Thus far he certainly looks the part of an NFL left tackle, but he has long way to go to prove he actually belongs. It makes sense to give Bakhtiari the longest look in preseason to gauge his ability versus live competition. He will undoubtedly go through growing pains, but the experience and long-term benefit outweigh the short term risk.
Who do you think should take over for the injured Bulaga at left tackle? Do you think Bakhtiari is the man for the job? Let us know by commenting below.
Ian Culver is the newest writer to The Sports Bank community and brings a vast knowledge of Wisconsin Sports and marketing. In fact, Culver spends a ton of his free time putting together scouting reports on any athlete to join one of the state’s professional teams. You can follow him on twitter @mushroomcloudmf.
*Pictures obtained from jsonline.com.