Packers Offensive Line Problems Adding Insult to Injury in Green Bay

Gary DavenportNFL AnalystNovember 28, 2013

Nov 28, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (90) sacks Green Bay Packers quarterback Matt Flynn (10) in the end zone for a safety during the third quarter during a NFL football game on Thanksgiving at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports
Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

It was plainly evident during Thursday's 40-10 loss to the Detroit Lions that the Green Bay Packers badly miss injured quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

However, Rodger's absence has only served to amplify an issue that was already there in Titletown. It's going to be there when Rodgers gets back into the lineup.

The Packers' offensive line isn't playing very well right now.

Nov 28, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions defensive end Ezekiel Ansah (94) sacks Green Bay Packers quarterback Matt Flynn (10) during the first quarter during a NFL football game on Thanksgiving at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sp
Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Granted, some of Thursday's struggles can be attributed to the Packers being on their fourth starting quarterback of the season. But, when a team gains only 13 rushing yards and 40 total yards in a half (as the Packers did in the first half Thursday) and get outgained by 500 yards, it's reasonable to assume there wasn't much room to roam or time to throw.

Sure enough, running back Eddie Lacy, who has been tasked with carrying the offense since Rodgers went down, managed only 1.6 yards per carry. Matt Flynn was sacked seven times, including a safety.

The odd thing is, as a unit the line had been performing at a fairly high level. Entering Week 13, Football Outsiders ranked Green Bay seventh in run-blocking and 12th in pass protection this season. Their 25 sacks allowed through 12 games was the eighth-fewest number in the league.

Yeah, um...about that:

So what happened? How did a seemingly competent offensive line fall apart so completely?

Well, the problem would appear to be on the outside.

Green Bay Packers OL Starters 2013
PlayerPos,OVR RankPass Block Rank
D. BakhtiariLT67th56th
J. SittonLG3rd1st
E. Dietrich-SmithC13th1st
T.J. LangRG10th15th
Marshall NewhouseRT65th64th
Data Courtesy of Pro Football Focus

As this data from Pro Football Focus (subscription required) demonstrates, Green Bay's decision to insert Marshall Newhouse into the starting lineup at right tackle hasn't worked, and both tackle spots continue to be a problem.

A problem that was on full display at Ford Field.

It's not a new problem either. No quarterback in the NFL was sacked more than Aaron Rodgers in 2012. Now that same Rodgers is rushing back from a broken collarbone to try to salvage Green Bay's season behind a line that looked absolutely abysmal against Detroit.

Unfortunately, there's not a lot the Packers can really do about it. Head coach Mike McCarthy can shuffle personnel around, but the last time he did that (with Newhouse), things got worse.

This late in the game, the offensive line the Green Packers have is what they have.

And that doesn't bode well for their chances of running the table and making the playoffs.