Last season, the Packers again had a revolving door of players rotating across their offensive line.
After left tackle Chad Clifton went down with injury, second year tackle Marshall Newhouse stepped into the starting role. Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel suggests that Newhouse may also enter the 2012 season as the starter at left tackle. After spending back-to-back first round picks on offensive tackles, Newhouse’s ascension to the top of the depth chart has been an unlikely one and handing him the starting job permanently is a gamble.
With an abundance of feared edge rushers in the NFC North right now, the need for a blind side protector has never been greater.
Julius Peppers, Jared Allen, and Cliff Avril combined for 44 sacks between them last year and that does not even account for new Bears defensive end Shea McClellin or the interior pass rush the Lions can create with Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley.
According to ProFootballFocus, a company who charts every play throughout the NFL season, Newhouse ranked 76th, dead last, amongst all offensive tackles last year. He received a rating of -21.3 for his pass blocking, third worst in the league and the second worst amongst all starters.
The only starter who ranked lower was Levi Brown in Arizona who many speculated would be replaced this offseason.
ProFootballFocus also notes that Newhouse allowed 39 quarterback pressures, fifth-most in the league and second-worst amongst left tackles only to Levi Brown. Brown allowed 40, but also started 16 games at left tackle while Newhouse started 12.
Considering the investment Green Bay has put into Aaron Rodgers, playing Russian Roulette by throwing Newhouse into the starting left tackle spot is a dangerous game to play.
Unfortunately, there may not be many other options. Chad Clifton was cut, 2010 first round pick Bryan Bulaga is entering his third year; but looks far more comfortable at right tackle, and 2011 first round pick Derek Sherrod but was unimpressive in his short stint last year and is coming off of a broken leg.
While the newspapers and coaches continue to rave about the improvement that Newhouse has made since coming into the league as a fifth round pick in 2010, the staggering numbers cannot be ignored.
It is likely that Green Bay will once again struggle to protect Aaron Rodgers.
Luckily for Green Bay fans and the organization as a whole, Rodgers has proven to be a tough competitor and a great player outside of the pocket. His ability to extend plays and pick up first downs with his feet is part of what makes him great.
The team’s success the past two years despite inconsistent offensive line play has shown that they can overcome this obstacle.