All week we are examining the starting offensive line players for the NFC North teams—yesterday we did the Centers. Today, we look at right guard.
The right guard position is a huge question mark for both the Bears and Vikings—or at least an unknown factor. Both teams changed guards this off-season.
Admittedly, the previous owner of those spots make it hard to be anything but an improvement.
As that's the case, there is only so much analysis to do on those players, giving the Packers and Lions a leg up from the get go.
As before, I am using my own eyeballs, as well as Matt Miller's offensive line lists from his B/R 1000 pieces and various stats and articles from Pro Football Focus.
Louis was all set to play right guard in 2011, but ended up hurt and lost his job to Chris Spencer (who has now shifted to back-up center). Louis shifted to right tackle for injured Gabe Carimi, but was ill-suited for the move and struggled quite a bit.
Louis struggled both in pass and run blocking—though like most of the Bears' offensive line, he was better at run blocking. That's akin to damning with faint praise, though, because he was so awful at pass blocking (PFF mentions five sacks he gave up to Kansas City in their Oline ranking article) that anything is an improvement.
He's also been hurt often in his short career.
What does this mean for the 2012 season? Well, a lot of uncertainty for the most part. Louis didn't look good at tackle, but that doesn't mean he'll be terrible at guard—in fact many would-be tackles end up at guard.
If he can stay healthy and hold onto his job, Louis has some untapped potential.
Pushing him will be former 49er Chilo Rachal. Normally I just go with the incumbent starter, but there is enough uncertainty here to where Rachal is worth mentioning. He lost his job in 2011, but had a very good 2010. Consistency is what makes him struggle.
He could be an upgrade if he played well, but there is no guarantee of that.
DETROIT LIONS—STEPHEN PETERMAN
As uncertain as the Bears' right guard situation is, the Lions' is equally certain. Matt Miller has Peterman 12th in his B/R rankings and after watching his film, I can't find a big argument with that.
Peterman was hurt in 2010, and his efforts suffered because of it. But he played very well over the second half last year and all should be forgiven.
At 30, Peterman is closer to end of a career than the start, and there has been some loose talk that he could be supplanted by rookie Riley Reiff if Reiff can't step in at left tackle.
It's not unusual to see, so it could happen.
That said, I believe in Reiff, so in my estimation, Peterman will start the year as right guard.
His biggest issue is that he's not very good at run blocking. That hasn't been critical before because the Lions tend to throw—a lot. That could be more of an issue this year as the lions should have both Jahvid Best and Mikel Leshoure (as well as Kevin Smith) 100 percent and ready to go.
So he should pick up his pace on that end. At his age though, improving could be a real struggle.
I'm not nearly as high on Peterman as Miller is, but we both agree he's a good, solid starting guard, though certainly getting on in years.
GREEN BAY PACKERS—JOSH SITTON
Sitton sits a big number four in Miller's rankings and who could blame him for that? Especially when Pro Football Focus has him ranked as the fifth best pass blocking guard in the business.
Sitton is a lights out pass blocker, and as noted in the PFF piece, allowed only nine pressures in 526 snaps in 2011. That's a fantastic number considering how vital passing is to the Packers' success.
Miller has issues with his run blocking, and while I don't vehemently disagree, I think he'd look better if the run game was a bigger focus of the offense. In other words, he can run block but rarely has to, and as such, it's not as polished a part of his game.
Anyway you look at it, though, he is a tremendous addition to this line.
There is no question he is the starter and will be, barring injury, for some time.
MINNESOTA VIKINGS—GEOFF SCHWARTZ
Like the Bears, there is some uncertainty here. Brandon Fusco is a guy I have seen on very (read: too) early depth charts as a backup center but he could compete for the right guard job.
Schwartz is my bet, despite losing all of 2011 to injury. He has starter experience (in Carolina in 2009) and played very well after switching from right tackle to guard. According to PFF, he never allowed more than three pressures in a game and went three weeks without allowing any pressure.
He's also a solid run blocker—not shockingly a must for Vikings line personnel.
This could come down to health and whether or not Schwartz can stay healthy.
However, as far as I am concerned, Schwartz gets them younger (which, as PFF points out was why they cut ties with Anthony Herrera at right and Steve Hutchinson at left guard—though Herrera just wasn't very good on top of it) and has the potential to be a very good right guard.
Who is the best right guard in the NFC North?
THE CALL—GREEN BAY PACKERS' JOSH SITTON
It's a bit close with Peterman, but Sitton is just a better all around guard. I don't worry much about Reiff taking over for Peterman, although again, it's possible. Sitton has no such issues, however unlikely they might be.
Really though, it comes down to talent and consistency, which Sitton has in spades.
Could either Schwartz or Louis (or possibly Rachal) have such a good 2012 that they jump the top two? Possibly, but the unknown factors in their situation (and lack of material to analyze at right guard) make it hard to really do more than hazard a guess at this point.
They have a year to close the gap though—we could have a new ranking by next February.