Flawed Approach: How Ted Thompson Miscalculated Building the Packers' O-Line

Ryan CardarellaCorrespondent ISeptember 22, 2009

GREEN BAY, WI - SEPTEMBER 13: Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers rolls out to find a receiver against the Chicago Bears on September 13, 2009 at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Packers defeated the Bears 21-15. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Through two games, it's no secret that the Packers' Achilles' heel is clearly protecting franchise quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Rodgers has competed valiantly through two games, but suffering 10 sacks in two games is simply unacceptable in the NFL.

Even when he isn't getting sacked, he is still getting drilled and being prevented from stepping into his throws.

Couple that with the fact that the Packers have struggled mightily in the running game as well, and you have a potentially explosive offense that is getting handcuffed by the line and its inability to allow plays to develop.

Having all of those playmakers at receiver doesn't matter if you don't have time to get them the ball.

As a result, Rodgers is on borrowed time if he continues to get hit like he has, and the holes Ryan Grant needs to break big gains just aren't there.

At least some guys are happy with Green Bay's line play. Antwan Odom sends his regards, Daryn Colledge.

I think he'll send you the really nice watch Rodgers won't be buying you for the extra $10 million you made him on his next free agency deal.

Odom had three sacks last season for Cincinnati—three!—and 17.5 for his six-year NFL career before his five-sack effort Sunday.

I shudder to think what a Jared Allen or Justin Tuck would do to Rodgers at this point. Hide the women and children!

So where did the line play go so wrong?

What it really comes back to is the game plan put in place by general manager Ted Thompson to rebuild the line following the departure of two blue-chippers in Mike Wahle and Marco Rivera in 2004.

Those two were the last All-Pro caliber guys the Packers featured along the offensive line, and while they weren't worth the money they received in free agency considering their age at the time, Green Bay has yet to replace them.

The harsh truth is that Thompson's philosophy since then has been quantity over quality along the line.

While he has spent high draft picks at other less urgent areas offensively on guys like Brandon Jackson and Jordy Nelson (a blue-chipper in the first round for Justin Harrell sure sounds good right now as well), Thompson has used mostly mid-round selections on the line.

Sometimes you get what you pay for.

The result has been an offensive line that lacks physicality and that blue-chip anchor that every unit needs.

The highest pick of the bunch, former second-round pick Colledge, has been mediocre at best on the interior and is now being asked to fill in for Chad Clifton after giving up three sacks at tackle on Sunday.

Hard-working but smallish former seventh-rounder Scott Wells will retake his center spot, while the beefier Jason Spitz will likely slide over to left guard with Clifton out.

Fourth-rounder Allen Barbre, who got beat like a drum by Adewale Ogunleye last week, and fellow fourth-rounder Josh Sitton round out what the Packers will put out there in St. Louis.

Outside of Clifton, who is getting up there in age, the Packers are trusting their potentially prolific offense to a group of young, mid-round picks who haven't shown the ability to consistently perform at the NFL level.

Meaning the Packers offense is sort of like owning a Ferrari in the middle of a Green Bay winter—you've got a sweet car, but you can't figure out how to get it out of the garage.

The other glaring issue along the line has been the Packers' inability to add a quality veteran to a young group.

Thompson is famously reluctant to make free agency splashes, but he has helped stabilize other areas of the team with some key signings.

Obviously, Charles Woodson has been a godsend for the defensive backfield, but the Brandon Chillar signing was huge for the linebacking corps, and Ryan Pickett has been an anchor for the defensive front as well.

But he has made no attempt to bring in a quality veteran to aid his young line, and they are in crisis mode now because of it.

Head coach Mike McCarthy and offensive line coach James Campen have an enormous task ahead of them. Their leaky line is threatening to sink an explosive offense, and they will likely have to fix it without reinforcements.

Maybe they bring Mark Tauscher back, but who knows what he has left?

Teams have no doubt seen what Cincinnati and Chicago have done to the Packers' offensive front and have to smell blood in the water coming after Rodgers right now.

Bottom line, no matter how well the revamped defense plays, this team will struggle if they don't find a way to shore up their line play.

And if they don't, Packer fans may have a familiar villain to blame for the mess.