There are plenty of worthy candidates to consider when trying to decide the most underrated player on the Green Bay Packers roster, from wide receiver Jordy Nelson to linebacker Desmond Bishop to punter Tim Masthay.
But offensive lineman Josh Sitton tops the list.
Entering his fifth year as a professional, Sitton is in the conversation when discussing the best guards in the NFL.
Earning High Praise
According to Nathan Jahnke of ProFootballFocus.com (PFF) in an interview with Bleacher Report, Sitton ranked as the website's third-best right guard and fifth-best overall guard in 2011.
That follows a 2010 season during which Sitton was PFF's top right guard and second-best overall guard, behind only Carl Nicks of the New Orleans Saints.
Such lofty rankings would seem to jive with the NFL Alumni Association's assessment of Sitton during the Packers' Super Bowl season, when he was named the league's Offensive Lineman of the Year.
Eric Edholm of Pro Football Weekly would echo those sentiments (see embedded video) when he said, "[Sitton] got a lot of attention during the playoff run as the Packers were going towards a title. But even before then, he kind of solidified things up front when there was a lot of mayhem at one point on that Green Bay offensive line."
With distinctions such as these, it's hard to believe Sitton hasn't been named to the NFL's Pro Bowl or All-Pro teams. This is part of the reason he falls into the "underrated" category.
Like Pitching a Shutout
What sets Sitton apart from other interior offensive linemen in the NFL is his superior pass-blocking ability.
"Over the last two years, Sitton was in for pass-blocking on 1,427 plays and only allowed two sacks in that time," said Jahnke.
Specifically, during the 2011 season, Sitton gave up only two sacks, two hits and six hurries on his 582 pass blocks, which ranked first among all guards in terms of PFF's pass-blocking efficiency metric.
Considering the Packers' reliance on the passing game, these stingy statistics come as all the more impressive.
And it's not just pass-blocking where Sitton is effective.
Road-Grading Run Blocker
If any proof is needed to affirm his status as one of the league's top run-blocking guards, all anyone has to do is look at film from the Packers' season-opening victory over the Saints last season.
The game itself was about as pressure-packed as it can get in the NFL. Televised nationally on a Thursday night, the Packers were defending their crown as Super Bowl champions against the league's champs the year prior.
"(Sitton) played very well and did it in a different couple ways," explained Jahnke. "Early on in the game, the Packers asked him to go to the second level to block linebackers and, in particular, Jonathan Casillas."
With the Packers up 21-17 late in the second quarter, Sitton perfectly executed a zone cut block on Casillas that allowed running back James Starks to scamper 17 yards for a touchdown (see 1:30 into embedded video).
"Later on in the game, (Sitton) was more guarding the defensive tackle, Sedrick Ellis, and there were a number of times near the end where he was able to push Ellis around where he wanted Ellis to go," said Jahnke.
The Packers would go onto win 42-34 in a game that came down to the final play. The Packers defense stuffed the Saints offense knocking on the door of the end zone at the 1-yard line as time expired.
That game kick started a season in which the Packers would go on to compile a 15-1 record, thanks in part to the solid play of Sitton.
With many of the key playmakers and pieces back in Green Bay for another season, there isn't a reason why the Packers offense can't be just as effective in 2012 as it has been for the past several seasons.
Perhaps with success will come acknowledgement of Sitton's high level of play.
Without statistics such as touchdowns, yards, sacks or interceptions, there are few ways to measure an offensive lineman's effectiveness. Being named to the Pro Bowl is one of the few ways fans can judge their worth.
Sitton has, however, been named a Pro Bowl alternate the past two seasons, so perhaps he'll soon be getting the recognition he deserves.
Brian Carriveau is a Green Bay Packers Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations in this article were obtained through an interview on June 28.
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