How Much Should the Packers Really Expect from Derek Sherrod in 2014?

Bob FoxContributor IJuly 12, 2014

DETROIT, MI - NOVEMBER 28:  Derek Sherrod #78 of the Green Bay Packers wacthes the action during the third quarter of the game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on November 28, 2013 in Detroit, Michigan. The Lions defeated the Packers 40-10.  (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
Leon Halip/Getty Images

The 2014 season will be a very interesting season for offensive tackle Derek Sherrod of the Green Bay Packers. The same holds true for offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga.

Both are former No. 1 picks and have shown a history of being injury prone, and both will also be unrestricted free agents in 2015.

Bulaga has proven to be a very capable tackle when he is healthy. Unfortunately for the former Iowa Hawkeye star, he has missed 27 games over the past three seasons due to knee and hip injuries.

Things have been even worse for Sherrod. After being taken in the first round of the 2011 NFL draft, just a year after the Packers selected Bulaga in the same round, No. 78 suffered a gruesome injury late in his rookie season.

Sherrod broke his right leg in two places and needed to have two procedures to repair the injury. He missed all of the 2012 season, and though he was featured in seven games in 2013, most of that playing time was spent blocking for extra points and field goals.

Overall, Sherrod has played in 12 games during his three-year career with the Packers and never started a game. One can see why the Packers did not pick up the option on Sherrod's fifth season of his rookie contract.

The good news is that Sherrod looks to be in the best health he has been in since his rookie season before the injury.

Bulaga also looks like he is ready to go and is slated to start at right tackle this season, with David Bakhtiari starting at left tackle. If Sherrod plays like he did coming out of college, he could certainly be the swing tackle and perhaps even push for more playing time.

If Sherrod was effective enough to be the swing or third tackle, then Don Barclay could move inside to guard, where the Packers believe he is better suited to play.

With all of those scenarios in mind, I had an opportunity on Friday to talk with NFL scout Chris Landry on Steve Duemig's radio show, which was guest hosted by Tom Krasniqi.

Landry gave his take on how big the 2014 NFL season will be for both Sherrod and Bulaga when I mentioned their injury history: 

On the two tackles, you hit on it. You can't do anything with them because availability comes before ability. So you can't do anything with either long term. Your whole decision-making process will be on the health of those guys.

I think the same thing now about both of those players [as I did] when they came out [of college] in terms of their ability to be quality, next-level players—and they are when healthy. But the sustainability of that is critical. So whether they move forward with them or move on away from them will depend upon how consistently they play this year and how available they are.

Because I think it's time and they did it obviously with a couple of moves that they have made the past couple of years. [David] Bakhtiari is an example. They are going to have to move on from both of those guys if they can't rely on them health-wise. That's just the reality of this game. That's an unfortunate part, but that's the reality.

Obviously, the 2014 season will be critical for both Sherrod and Bulaga. The best-case scenario would be for both to be completely healthy for the entire year.

Bulaga has missed 23 straight games to injuries, while Sherrod has never really gotten an opportunity in terms of meaningful playing time in the NFL.

GREEN BAY, WI - AUGUST 16: Bryan Bulaga #75 of the Green Bay Packers awaits the snap against the Cleveland Browns during a preseason game at Lambeau Field on August 16, 2012 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Browns defeated the Packers 35-10. (Photo by Jonatha
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

If Bulaga can play right tackle like he did before his recent injuries, the Packers would be ecstatic. Likewise if Sherrod can look like the player he was coming out of Mississippi State in 2011. If that happens, Sherrod would be—at the very worst—a swing tackle and maybe even compete for a starting position.

But you have to crawl before you can walk. You have have to walk before you can run. The Packers have to have the same mindset with Sherrod going into the 2014 season.

The Packers also must be aware of the worst-case scenario with these two players and that the injury bug continues to bite both Sherrod and Bulaga in 2014. If that's the case, the Packers would need some of the younger offensive linemen on the team to take a step up at tackle.

That would also mean the end of line for both Sherrod and Bulaga in Green Bay, and drafting an offensive tackle would be high on Ted Thompson's priority list for the 2015 NFL draft.

The bottom line is that the 2014 season will be a great opportunity for both Sherrod and Bulaga to stay healthy and also to play consistently well. If that happens, they both might have a future in Green Bay.