Bryan Bulaga's Health a Key for Green Bay Packers Offense

Giancarlo Ferrari-KingFeatured ColumnistSeptember 4, 2014

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The Green Bay Packers season opener against the Seattle Seahawks took a turn for the worse when right tackle Bryan Bulaga went down with a knee injury during the second quarter.

Bulaga was pushed back at the line of scrimmage and proceeded to collide with rookie tight end Richard Rodgers.

Watching the replay, the injury didn't look great. Although he was able to walk off under his own power, based on what we've seen in past regarding catastrophic knee injuries, that isn't an indicator of severity.

Fortunately, Bleacher Report's Jason Cole reports the team seems optimistic:

Headed into the third quarter, the Packers announced that Bulaga would not return for the remainder of the contest. The injury itself has been diagnosed as a knee sprain:

Last year, he tore the ACL in his left knee, which resulted in him missing all 17 games the Packers took the field for.

Bulaga certainly has all of the physical gifts you'd want in a premier right tackle. At 6'5", 315 pounds, he has the length and power to consistently win at the line of scrimmage. The concern has always been with his health.

Dating back to the 2012 season, Bulaga has only suited up for 10 games. You have to venture all the way back to 2011 to find a time when he played more than 10 games in a single season. That year, Bulaga was efficient.

According to Pro Football Focus' (subscription required) data, Bulaga finished 2011 with a plus-18.9 overall grade. That number was good enough to make him the seventh-best tackle in the NFL.

The Packers were historically good that season. They finished with a ridiculous 15-1 record, led by the play of an offense that averaged 405 total yards per game. That's not to say the Packers would automatically get back to that level with a healthy Bulaga, but it does show that he's able to contribute in a big way when he stays on the field.

Against the Seahawks in the season opener, the game started to shift in the second half. As noted by ESPN's Todd McShay, replacement right tackle Derek Sherrod was abused all evening long:

He was slow off the ball and unresponsive to the Seahawks' edge-rushers, which resulted in one of the league's most vicious defensive units hunting Aaron Rodgers down like prey.

Derek Sherrod struggled throughout the night replacing Bulaga.
Derek Sherrod struggled throughout the night replacing Bulaga.USA TODAY Sports

Continuity is vital for the success of any offensive line. But when you run a no-huddle offense like the Packers do, a crack in that continuity can register on the Richter scale.

During the preseason, Bulaga looked in top-form. Rob Demovsky of wrote about the 25-year-old tackle getting back to his old self. "Perhaps what jumped off the film the most was the play of the right tackle," he wrote.

"You've got a darn good football player back and a guy that works extremely hard, is very professionaljust his presence out there, he's a strong man that moves very well," Packers offensive line coach James Campen told Demovsky.

It's obvious that the Packers were counting on Bulaga to have a big year and once again emerge as a stalwart on this line.

If the injury turns out to be another serious one, it's going to be yet another huge loss for the Packers long-term. They lost their starting center J.C. Tretter for an extended period of time during OTAs.

Against the wall looking for a way out, the Packers will have to pray that the news isn't too grim for Bulaga.

If it is, finding a way to shore up an already-decimated line is going to be a monumental task—a task that could severely affect the chances of Rodgers and company fighting their way out of a hyper-talented division like the NFC North.


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