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The Packers Offensive Line

Discussion in 'Packer Fan Forum' started by tromadz, May 1, 2006.

  1. tromadz
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    tromadz Cheesehead

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    It's all on the line
    Packers counting on blockers
    By BOB McGINN


    Green Bay - If Daryn Colledge becomes another Logan Mankins and if one of five other guards can develop into a capable starter, the Green Bay Packers might make people forget about Mike Wahle and Marco Rivera.

    If not, the infrastructure of coach Mike McCarthy's offense will be compromised and the Packers could be headed for another dismal season.

    "Obviously, we can say we want more playmakers at this position or that position," offensive line coach Joe Philbin said Sunday. "But I've always believed that if you're not good up front, you're going to struggle to do anything. We've got to answer those questions in the middle and get the thing right."

    Until the weekend, general manager Ted Thompson hadn't done anything more than re-sign backup Kevin Barry. He let center Mike Flanagan go to Houston in unrestricted free agency, erasing the best performer in the middle of the line in 2005.

    But in the draft, the Packers used three of their first eight picks on offensive linemen, all of whom could figure at guard. Colledge, center-guard Jason Spitz and tackle-guard Tony Moll were among the first 30 offensive linemen taken but on the Packers' board they ranked among the top 11.

    "We definitely helped ourselves, no question about it," Philbin said. "They're bright kids so that's not going to slow their development down. Then we can find out if they're good enough to do the things physically that we want."

    Colledge's coaches at Boise State compared him to Mankins, who was drafted by New England with the 32nd pick in the first round last April. Mankins started all 16 games at left guard and made the all-rookie team.

    Mankins started for three years at left tackle for Fresno State, a member of the Western Athletic Conference along with Boise State. Colledge started the last four years at left tackle but almost definitely will follow Mankins' lead and move to left guard.

    Mankins and Colledge are alike in height (6 feet 4 1/8 inches for Mankins, 6-4 3/8 for Colledge), weight (307 pounds for Mankins, 301 for Colledge) and 40-yard dash time (5.05 seconds each). Mankins probably had a slight edge in toughness but Colledge has a slight edge in athletic ability.
    There's a lot to like

    Although Colledge has never played guard, the Packers would have taken him over any guard in the draft. He went third behind Oklahoma's Davin Joseph and Southern California's Deuce Lutui, neither of whom interested Green Bay. In fact, Philbin said he liked Colledge as much if not more than any lineman in the draft except tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson.

    "You can't predict he is going to play 16 games for you because we've still got to get him used to playing inside," Philbin said. "He will have to do some things he hasn't been doing. Aside from that, you feel very, very good about him."

    Wahle stands about an inch taller than Colledge and is bigger-boned, but Philbin points out there's not much difference in body type.

    "We're making a little bit of a projection, not a huge one," Philbin said. "He can run and he's smart. He's got to build there (upper body) a little bit."

    Still, it's way too early for Philbin to establish any kind of pecking order, especially in view of the disaster at the position last year.

    "We really don't have starting guards right now," he said.
    Coston shows potential

    The nominal starter at left guard in the last month has been Junius Coston, a developmental fifth-round draft choice from North Carolina A&T who played three snaps in '05. His weight is up to 317 and he has toiled diligently this off-season.

    Despite the fact that Coston has been in the league for a year, he is 21 months younger than the 24-year-old Colledge and comes from a smaller program.

    "He's a damn good athlete," Philbin said, referring to Coston. "I like what I'm seeing. You'd certainly have to give him an opportunity to be (a starter)."

    If Colledge fulfills expectations and nails down the starting job at left guard, that would make Coston a candidate at right guard along with incumbent Will Whitticker, perhaps Barry, perhaps Spitz and perhaps Moll.

    Whitticker, a seventh-round pick in '05, was overmatched from the start and had a brutal season. He started only because Thompson failed to procure anyone better.

    Colledge and Moll (6-4½, 310) might not have appealed to the Packers in the past but were high on their list now because of their switch to the zone running game. The emphasis is on finding taller, leaner linemen who can stay on their feet. Whitticker's lack of speed and quick-twitch movement might make him as a poor fit.

    "His weight hasn't been bad but we'd like to get it lower," Philbin said, referring to Whitticker. "How good can he be? Physically, he still needs to take some steps. We hope that translates to better performance on the field."

    In mid-March, Thompson gave Barry $1.2 million in bonus money. His weight is up but not as bad as in other off-seasons. Could Barry play guard in a zone scheme?

    "I think he has a chance at the right weight," Philbin said. "We have to find out if he can be one of the five best guys."
    Spitz a tough guy

    Spitz started at guard at Louisville but the Packers are thinking about him and undersized returnee Chris White (289 pounds) as backups behind Scott Wells at center. Yet, if Wells does as well at center as Philbin envisions and Spitz has a strong camp, there's no reason why Spitz couldn't get in the mix at right guard.

    "Spitz is more of a standard inside type player," Philbin said. "He's certainly a good fit in a zone scheme but he can really be a fine fit in a gap scheme, too. His numbers won't necessarily knock you dead in terms of testing. But Spitz is a tough guy."

    Moll begins as a backup tackle but there's reason to think he could challenge at guard, too.

    "I think he could be a guard, I really do," Philbin said. "If you just look at the measurables of the two guys, Colledge's will obviously be better but you wouldn't say they're two different animals."

    Adrian Klemm, the starting guard left guard over the first half of '05, now is a backup tackle.

    Just four of Wells' 12 starts have come at center in his first two seasons but he has been declared the starting center.

    "You can sleep at night," Philbin said. "The guy is tough, strong, smart. He will fight his (expletive) off. You've got to feel good about him."

    There's no question in the coach's mind that Wells will run-block as effectively as Flanagan and can reach Flanagan's level making line calls.

    "Is he going to be as good a pass-protector as Mike?" Philbin said. "That will take him a little bit more time. But I'm convinced in the run game it can be done."

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