The Green Bay Packers are making moves along the offensive line to keep their biggest investment upright. Head coach Mike McCarthy spoke to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Thursday, relaying his plans to move Bryan Bulaga to left tackle and Josh Sitton to left guard for the 2013 season.
Bulaga was playing at right tackle last season before suffering a season-ending hip injury in the middle of the year, while Sitton will switch guard spots with T.J. Lang. The move, as McCarthy says, aligns his two best offensive linemen with the two most important positions up front (via the Journal Sentinel):
"I sat down with Bryan and Josh on Monday and I told them I wanted to make the move to where they're on the left side. Those two are our most accomplished and experienced players. I told them about the responsibilities and my expectations about playing the left side."
Those responsibilities and expectations start with quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who was sacked 51 times last season, the second-highest total in the league. It's an alarming statistic regardless, but especially now that Rodgers has the NFL's biggest contract to date after signing that five-year, $110 million contract extension last week.
Marshall Newhouse played left tackle last season and was often overmatched in one-on-one situations, allowing 11 sacks, the highest total on the team. He will be in play for the right tackle spot, according to McCarthy, along with Don Barclay and Derek Sherrod, whose status remains unknown as he continues to recover from a fractured leg.
But back to Bulaga and Sitton. Drafted in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft, Bulaga was a left tackle at Iowa but filled a pressing need, at the time, for Green Bay at right tackle. He is expected to be ready, following last season's injury, for training camp. Moving Sitton with him on the left side, as Silverstein says, should help the transition for both players because of the familiarity they have playing alongside one another. And Sitton has arguably been the Packers' most consistent and dependable guy on the offensive line over the last few seasons, where stop-gaps and replacements have been commonplace.
Green Bay needed to make changes to their plan for protecting Rodgers, and it's clear that is the endgame with these moves. Bulaga, if healthy, appears to be an upgrade over Newhouse at left tackle, though he will need to readjust to an old position. Still, if he and Sitton are the best the Packers believe they have, it makes sense to move them where they can have the greatest impact on the productivity of Rodgers and the offense.