Offensive linemen growing into the job

DANA POINT, Calif. -- One way or another, there will be change on the Green Bay Packers' offensive line. Whether it's Jason Spitz replacing Scott Wells at center or a rookie playing right tackle or more size at guard or more variation in the run-...

DANA POINT, Calif. -- One way or another, there will be change on the Green Bay Packers' offensive line.

Whether it's Jason Spitz replacing Scott Wells at center or a rookie playing right tackle or more size at guard or more variation in the run-blocking scheme, things are going to be a little different upfront this year.

As much attention as there has been this off-season to the Packers' switch to a 3-4 defense, the development of the offensive line may be just as important to the team's success.

Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy is expecting bigger and better things from a group he began molding almost from the first day he took the job.

"I think our line is getting ready to take that jump," McCarthy said. "They're second, third, fourth-year players. We're not playing a 285-pound guard. We're 305, 310. I think our maturation process on the entire line group is definitely where it needs to be. I think it's going to be a big year for that."


Youth won't be much of a factor this year.

Veteran Chad Clifton returns and 2006 draft pick-ups Daryn Colledge, Tony Moll and Spitz are entering their fourth seasons. Recent free agent pickup Duke Preston is entering his fifth season and guards Allen Barbre and Josh Sitton both have experience under their belts.

How things shake out on the line is a question that won't be answered until training camp, although McCarthy would like to establish a set group and go with it instead of flip-flopping players around every time there's an injury.

His goal is to have enough depth that if there is an injury all of the other starters can stay put.

Last year, Spitz played both guard positions and center. Colledge played left guard and both tackle positions. Moll played guard and tackle.

Starting out this year, McCarthy is going to allow Spitz to compete with Wells for the starting center job. The 303-pound Wells is coming off a back injury that has limited him in off-season workouts and will keep him out of minicamps and possibly organized team activities.

Though he's been a very solid player, it has taken all his strength to stand up against the NFC North's big defensive tackles and the Packers want to see if the taller and heavier Spitz can be more effective. McCarthy wouldn't say how much Spitz weighed, but he said he has been urged to bulk up from 302 pounds.

"I think Daryn and Jason, and, I don't recall Tony's weight, but I think they're all coming into the weight they feel comfortable at," McCarthy said. "Particularly the inside guys, when you talk about getting ready for the season, who's the best defensive line you play against? You have to talk about the two tackles in Minnesota."


If Wells holds off Spitz, it's likely Spitz will wind up back at right guard, depending whether the 320-pound Sitton lands at guard or tackle. The one thing McCarthy does know is that Clifton will be at left tackle and Colledge at left guard.

The addition of Preston gives the Packers a potential backup at all three interior positions. He'll have a hard time breaking the starting lineup, but he'll be allowed to compete for a job at two positions.

What happens at right tackle isn't clear yet. It doesn't appear veteran Mark Tauscher will be back, so the possibility of a rookie taking over exists. The Packers may be presented with an interesting choice of whether to take Alabama left tackle Andre Smith, the Outland Trophy winner.

The other top tackle prospects, Jason Smith of Baylor and Eugene Monroe of Virginia, probably will be gone when the Packers select at No. 9.

Smith is an impeccable pass blocker and will ultimately play left tackle, but he could start out on the right side. He has made some bad personal decisions, which might make him available when the Packers select.

The Packers also have second-year tackle Breno Giacomini, who is coming off minor ankle surgery.

McCarthy's goal, besides having the same five linemen together for the entire season is to make the line the strength of his offense. He said he and offensive coordinator Joe Philbin have already started making adjustments to the run scheme.

Though their base run scheme is zone, McCarthy said they have gotten away from that more and more and are incorporating a number of "power" or man-to-man plays in their playbook. He said he wants to see the line get off to a fast start and get on a season-long run of effective play.


"We do a little more and more each year and that will probably be the case this year," McCarthy said. "We've really, really tailored the scheme to the players and the maturation of the players. That's something we've as an offensive staff felt we we've been a lot more aggressive with our installation part of it coming off the evaluation.

"So I'm excited about some of the new things we're going to be doing upfront."

Packers' Offensive Line

Pos. Name Ht. Wt. Age Exp. College How acquired

G/T Allen Barbre 6-4 305 24 3 Missouri So. State D4-2007

C Brennen Carvalho 6-1 300 22 1 Portland St. FA-08

T Chad Clifton 6-5 320 32 10 Tennessee D2-00

G/T Daryn Colledge 6-4 308 27 4 Boise State D2a-06

T Breno Giacomini 6-7 311 23 2 Louisville D5-08

G Nevin McCaskill 6-4 315 25 1 Hampton FA-08

T/G Tony Moll 6-5 306 25 4 Nevada D5b-06

C/G Duke Preston 6-5 326 26 4 Illinois UFA-09

G Josh Sitton 6-3 317 22 2 Central Florida D4b-08

C/G Jason Spitz 6-3 302 26 4 Louisville D3b-06

T Mark Tauscher 6-3 316 31 10 Wisconsin D7a-2000

C Scott Wells 6-2 303 28 6 Tennessee FA-04

NOTE: D draft; FA free agent; UFA unrestricted free agent.

-- Copyright (c) 2009, Milwaukee

Journal Sentinel/Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune

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