The Sports Xchange
GREEN BAY — The Green Bay Packers’ offensive line depth is a huge concern right now. And quarterback Aaron Rodgers admits he’s a little worried.
“Yeah, we need to shore that up a little bit, you know,” Rodgers said.
Packers starting right tackle Bryan Bulaga sprained an ankle in practice last week and it will sideline him the rest of the preseason. Kyle Murphy, Green Bay’s sixth-round draft choice in 2016, started at right tackle during the Packers’ preseason game in Denver Saturday.
Jason Spriggs, a second-round draft choice in 2016, was supposed to be Green Bay’s swing tackle. But Spriggs has had a brutal summer, and right now, it would be a giant leap of faith for the Packers to play him in a meaningful moment.
The Packers are also thin inside, where Don Barclay appeared set to be the top backup at both guard spots and at center. But Barclay suffered an ankle injury in the Packers’ first preseason game and there’s no timetable for his return.
Making matters worse, No. 3 center Lucas Patrick went down with a head injury in Denver.
“It’ll be nice to get Donnie back here pretty soon,” Rodgers said. “He was having a great camp, but we’ll look at the film and see how the guys graded out. But we need to keep getting better at those backup spots, see who the swing tackle’s going to be and who the next guard is going to be.”
Perhaps the greatest disappointment of the summer in Green Bay has been Spriggs.
Spriggs was at least partially responsible for three sacks against Washington in the Packers’ second preseason game. Then last Saturday, Denver’s Von Miller made a nifty spin move past Spriggs and sacked Rodgers. Interestingly, Rodgers went to the ground before Miller even arrived so the Pro-Bowl defensive end couldn’t do any serious damage.
“You go through and you have struggles sometimes,” Packers offensive line coach James Campen said of Spriggs. “Certainly, his hit now. If there’s a place to have it, it’s better in a preseason game than a regular-season game.”
The Packers gave Murphy the first crack at right tackle against Denver. Murphy and Spriggs then alternated the rest of the first half.
In the second half, Spriggs shifted to left tackle and Murphy stayed at right tackle.
If either left tackle David Bakhtiari or Bulaga missed time, Murphy appears likely to get the first call.
Murphy’s feet are just average, although he’s always played well in space. His leg drive and pad level helped him shine as a run blocker at Stanford, although he was often overpowered by bull rushers.
Murphy was active for just three games last year, but improved his strength this offseason. And while Murphy still has a long way to go, he might be Green Bay’s best option at swing tackle.
“In the offseason, I tried to focus on strength and quickness and all that,” Murphy said. “I think my run blocking, coming from a run-heavy offense at Stanford, I would say my run blocking was always pretty up to par. I’ve been working on my pass protection, trying to stay low, trying to stay explosive. I’ve just been trying to be a better all-around player. I’m feeling good.”
Bulaga said last week he expects to play in Week 1, but his status may not be known until next week. Bulaga has missed 32 games in his first seven seasons, but just five in the last three years. And Bulaga is optimistic his latest injury won’t cost him any time.
“I don’t like to do timetable things, but I’m not too concerned about it,” Bulaga said of his availability in Week 1. “I’m able to walk and it feels better as the day goes on. But I have to see what the results say and kind of go from there.”
In recent seasons, Green Bay had depth the rest of the NFL would love. Today, Spriggs has flopped, Murphy remains a work in progress, Barclay is hurt and rookie sixth-round draft pick Kofi Amichia has been a disappointment.
“There’s a lot of competition still available,” Campen said. “It’s going to be fun to see how it plays out. There’s a lot of guys that work hard and try to do things right. We’ll see if guys respond.”
They’ll need to - or the offense could certainly be compromised.
Packers sign Brooks
Free-agent linebacker Ahmad Brooks has agreed to a one-year deal with the Packers, Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reported Wednesday.
The deal for the 33-year-old Brooks could be worth up to $5 million, according to the report.
Brooks was released by San Francisco last Friday after posting 53.5 sacks in his first 11 years in the NFL. Green Bay is paper thin at outside linebacker behind starters Clay Matthews and Nick Perry, and both of those players have been injury prone. Last season, Brooks had six sacks, 41 tackles and four pass breakups for the 49ers.
NOTES: Long snapper Derek Hart was released on Monday. That means Brett Goode will be Green Bay’s long snapper for a 10th straight year. ... Packers head coach Mike McCarthy is hopeful that outside linebacker Nick Perry, and offensive linemen Bryan Bulaga and Don Barclay — who are all nursing ankle injuries — and defensive end Dean Lowry (knee) will all be ready for the season opener against Seattle. “I’m hopeful. We’ll see how it works out,” McCarthy said. “They’re here every day, and, so, I’m the wrong person to ask. Seriously, I’m the wrong person to ask about injuries, because my conversations with those guys (they all say) they’re all going to be ready. So, we’ll just weigh that vs. the medical staff, but everybody’s optimistic.” … Rookie outside linebacker Vince Biegel underwent surgery for a broken foot in May and has been on the PUP list since the start of training camp. But McCarthy said he was hopeful Biegel might be ready for the opener. “I’m full of hope,” McCarthy said. “I’m the captain of hope.”