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Young Offensive Line Making Strides...

Discussion in 'Packer Fan Forum' started by Bruce, Dec 23, 2006.

  1. Bruce

    Bruce Cheesehead

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    Young Offensive Line Making Strides...

    ... but needs growth and development.

    There were many factors that played into the Packers dramatic drop from 3 time defending Northern Division Champions to cellar-dwellers in 2005. One of the most dramatic factors was the team's failure to field a pair of suitable guards after waving goodbye to 2 talented long time veterans, Marco Rivera and Mike Wahle.

    GM Ted Thompson swung and missed at left guard with UFA Adrian Klemm and Scott Wells, and swung and whiffed again at right guard with rookie 7th Rd. draft pick Will Whitticker, hold over Grey Ruegamer, UFA Matt O'Dwyer (a veteran FA signing that did not even make the roster) and with TT’s other (higher) OL draft pick Junius Coston, who was not only beat out by a 7th Rd draft pick, he could not find his way onto the field despite occupying a roster spot all season. The 2005 offensive line was a disaster zone.

    Ted, not being one to like striking out (and frustrated with his lack of success with finding veteran replacements), took his third swing in the 2006 draft (his area of most competence), selecting Daryn Colledge in the 2nd, Jason Spitz in the 3rd and Tony Moll in the 5th – a heavy draft investment for the offensive line.

    TT and MM did not just pack these picks away for the future; instead they immediately sent them into the trenches where they would need to earn their stripes in "trial by fire." The results have been mixed so far – Colledge has started 13 games, mostly at left guard; Spitz has started 12 games, mostly at right guard; and Moll has started 10 games, shifting back and forth between guard and tackle.

    It has not always been pretty, but you have to love the heart and spirit of Daryn Colledge, Mason Spitz and Tony Moll. They are three battlers who have faced enormous challenges and have not backed down, despite some trying very times.

    Even the biggest skeptics among scouts and fans have to a like these kids upside potential. There is a damned good reason that few rookie offensive linemen start in the NFL. Rookie offensive linemen’s bodies often have not matured and they certainly have never faced the ‘meat grinder’ that is the trenches of the NFL. Here every player they face was a STAR at the previous level, and they are bigger, stronger and faster than anything rookie offensive linemen have ever gone against in college. Add to that the speed of the game and the longer season in the NFL, and rookie’s heads are often spinning and their bodies worn down.

    Take a look at where these three youngsters & the offensive line are at:

    Daryn Colledge, who many compare to a young Mike Wahle, lost his confidence early, but battled back from these yips to reclaim his starting spot by week two of the season. You can see his development week to week, and like Wahle has been a much better pass blocker when inside as opposed to out on an island at LT. Like Wahle or a fine wine, it is easy to see that this kid will improve with age.

    Jason Spitz is a classic aggressive brawler. He seems to have ice water running through his veins when it comes to nerves and just keeps getting back up off the turf and battling -- especially as a run blocker. I think it is fair to compare him to Marco Rivera at an early stage in his career, both love to brawl and neither will back down. Jason gets the most out of his limited physical ability and like Kampman wants to eventually cast off that ‘over-achiever’ label that often is tagged to young guys early.

    Tony Moll is perhaps the biggest surprise of this group. Tony does not seem to understand that college Tight Ends (until his senior season) are not supposed to be able to immediately move into the trenches in the NFL and hold up. Either the kid just doesn't get it, or he has the heart of a Lion -- I think it is the later, because he keeps showing up and battling through. Moll will be a fun player to watch as he grows into whatever position he finally settles into – because he handled himself remarkably well for an undersized guy who had not really done it before who has been playing the role of nomad since the beginning of training camp. Note: Yes, Tony gained weight to make the shift into the NFL but it was not mature weight and strength that holds up over the course of a 16 game NFL schedule. But another great thing about this kid is he has the frame to build on and the feet to play any position in the line.

    While all three of these kids have faced "trial by fire" they have not been "thrown to the wolves" by the coaching staff – especially in pass coverage where their exposure to one-on-one match ups was limited through the use of more seven-man protections. There is no worse confidence deflator for a young offensive lineman than to get exposed and exploited one-on-one in the NFL. Such events often are confidence killers for young offensive linemen and often are factors in deciding whether similarly talented players have short or long careers. Coaches McCarthy, Jagodzinski, Philbin and Campen all deserve props for this wise decision to protect these young guys, even as it caused more than a few fans to scream at the sidelines or their television sets during some of the play calls – because it not only protected our future HOF QB, it was also an investment in each of these three young men’s futures. Besides it is hard to argue with the surprising fact that the Packers rank near the top of the league in fewest percentage of sacks allowed – an incredible feat with up to three rookie starters at any given time.

    The best news in this story is that unlike desperation rookie starter Will Whitticker, all three of these rookie players have great upside potential. Barring serious injury (knock on wood) they are likely to get nothing but better -- and no less an authority on the subject than Brett Favre agrees,

    "There's still a ways to go, but every week they've gotten better and more confident. I think they have all the potential, all the good characteristics you look for. Now it's just a matter of time."

    The Packers have at least one more test before them -- a game with one of the best and oldest rivalries in all of football with 'da bears.' It is not an insignificant contest. Besides any hopes for a postseason spot, there is another score to be settled in this contest. In the opener the Chicago Bears rolled into Lambeau and embarrassed the Pack. Getting killed at home is always disturbing, but something far worse and disturbing happened in that rivalry game.. Chicago punched the Packers in the mouth and they failed to respond.- it was perhaps the only time that MM and his young warriors pulled out the white flag and waved it early. There is a SCORE to be settled -- and it is not dependent upon winning or losing. These kids need to go out and show what a 15 games of seasoning has reaped and do a little punching themselves.

    After Sunday, or knock on wood the play-offs, the next big step in these young men (they no longer will be rookies) development comes. It is here that the Packers need them to develop the most – the weight room with strength and conditioning coaches Rock Gullickson, Mark Lovat and Brandon Johnson. Offensive linemen often mature greatly between their 1st and 2nd season if they put the work into it. Another great thing about these young men is they are guys who are willing to pay the price of success.

    Daryn Colledge carries a well defined 300 lbs on his 6-4 frame and has the room and need to bulk up some. If you watched the Williams brothers throw him around last night on running downs you will understand the work he needs to put in. There is no reason to think he cannot or will not do so.

    Jason Spitz at 6-3 320 has plenty of bulk, but needs to gain strength to match his tenacious nature. This should be very achievable, and if he does I expect to be hearing a lot more of the comparisons to Marco.

    Tony Moll is kid with a frame to build on and upside that is surprising. At 6-5 he is listed at 300lbs but it looks like (and I hear) he has given some of that back through out the year. He has a frame with plenty of room for growth and if he does he will be a great gem harvested in the 5th round of the draft.

    Beyond these three the prospects look promising for the offensive line for 2007 with the major battles looking something like this:

    LT Chad Clifton, Tony Moll (able to play 4 positions), Junius Coston (he is only 22 yr old)
    LG Daryn Colledge, Tony Palmer, Junius Coston, Tony Moll
    C Scott Wells, Junius Coston, Jason Spitz
    RG Jason Spitz, Tony Moll, Kevin Barry (rehabbing on IR & only 26 yr old)
    RT Mark Tauscher,Tony Moll, Kevin Barry

    Tyson Walter 6-4 300 (currently on the roster), Adam Stenavich 6-4 10 (currently on the practice squad and Josh Bourke 6-7 320 (currently on IR) are all young strong and hungry, but will have their work cut out finding a way into the mix in next seasons training camp battles.
     
  2. longtimefan

    longtimefan Super Moderator Staff Member Super Moderator

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    I am under the impression you wrote this?

    if so very nicley done Bruce
     
  3. Yared-Yam

    Yared-Yam Cheesehead

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    It would be nifty to see if we ever use Tony Moll as a reciever in the red zone ala Mike Vrabel with the Pats.

    Something to think about.
     
  4. tromadz

    tromadz Cheesehead

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    I like how the oline is looking. It obviously started off rough, but look now. 3 rookies really coming into their own. You give them another year(offseason,tc,etc) and we will have a nice Oline. Hopefully one good enough to make a serious run!
     
  5. Bruce

    Bruce Cheesehead

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    Yes, I did write it, and thank you.

    Great point!

    You know I have been kind of half expecting them to use Moll sometime in the Red Zone at some point myself from the moment they moved him outside to tackle.

    Your comparison with how the Pats have used Vrabel is a great example - thanks.


    The potenial is certainly there. for them to grow and develop. I think as Packer fans we are all joined in that hope.
     
  6. packedhouse01

    packedhouse01 Cheesehead

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    The line has indeed made great strides this year. However, having said that, for this team to get better next year the offensive line is going to have to improve this much again next year. They have to be able to block on their own more than they do. We need to get more receivers into routes. Right now, too often we have to keep someone in to help block. This is a line that shows some promise. Now they need to draft someone who can be Clifton's replace in two years.
     
  7. showgirl

    showgirl Cheesehead

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    As usual, Bruce, you give some great insight and perspective. I don't post very often, but do check in from time to time just to see what my fellow Packer fans are thinking. This team should get better as the young talent develops. It seems many of the mental & physical errors are committed by veterans, so TT apparently has much work to do in this off season.
     
  8. Bruce

    Bruce Cheesehead

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    I think they may have him in Moll. As an ex-TE I believe he has the feet to play LT and the temperment too.


    Thank you showgirl!

    Everyone in the organization has their work cut out for them this off season.

    I plan to write a piece on the improvement of the LB some time in the next few days -- another area that progressed significantly during the offseason
     
  9. longtimefan

    longtimefan Super Moderator Staff Member Super Moderator

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    I think Yam is onto something, and curious if the Packers have thought about this at all?
     
  10. dxbfan

    dxbfan Cheesehead

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    To my mind this is the key. Even with the addition of WR, TE, RB talent we will be unable to get anything going on offense if we are going to have to be in max protect on most plays. I also think that it is this that has both reduced options and made us predictable in the red zone and lead to the poor red zone efficiency figure of 31%.
     
  11. PWT36

    PWT36 Cheesehead

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    Bruce-Excellent posting on this young inexperience Green Bay Packer line.

    You have impressed this very long time Green Bay born Packer fan with your knowledge of the Green Bay Packers. It will be very interesting to see how much our 28 Rookies, first year and second year players on '06 roster, will progress when they are experienced NFL veterans on '07 roster.

    The real important question will be who is pulling the trigger of the Packer Offense at Quarterback. Will it be Brett Favre coming back for another year or will it be third year Quarter Back Aaron Rodgers coming back off a foot injury? It is of greatest importance that the Packers have a good offensive line to protect the Packer Quarterback in '07
     
  12. Greg C.

    Greg C. Cheesehead

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    Excellent article, Bruce. I hope these guys will be the nucleus of a really special O-line a couple years down the road. They've each had their moments this season, but I'm a little more guarded in my optimism because I haven't noticed any improvement in the second half of the season. Maybe that's just because O-line play is difficult to judge unless you are watching it very closely and know what to look for, which is not often the case with me. Maybe these guys are wearing down, which is very common, maybe even expected, for rookies, as they have never been exposed to anything like the rigors of an NFL season.

    What I hope is that they don't turn out to be William Whittickers. He impressed a lot of people by starting as a rookie last year, but he didn't play well and couldn't even make the roster this season. Really, he was a default starter. I'm pretty sure that all three of these guys are quite a bit better than that, but it's too early to be sure.
     
  13. C-Mize

    C-Mize Cheesehead

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    I love the improvements I see on the line, but I dont think by any means we should stay set with the guys we have. I think we should take advantage of some linemen that will be on the free agent market, and look in the draft for guys who could make an impact. I think a little competition could improve every player and make our line much better. I sure miss the days of Clifton, Wahle, Flanagan, Rivera, and Tauscher.
     
  14. Bruce

    Bruce Cheesehead

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    Yes, they certainly do need to grow beyond the need for max protection. I tried to address that in the article, including why it was wise to do so this season -- despite how frustrating it was at times.

    I cannot see a single reason why they would need to do that again next year. That is where the off-season growth and development aspect I wrote about comes in as so important.

    They have battled and progressed throughout the season, but the leap from the schools and conferences all three of our rookies played in (just last year) to the NFL was enormous. Each of them has clear upside potential that is quite exciting. Each has the kind of frame that can be built on, with room to grow -- something that is not always the case). Simple natural maturity will help all three physically and psychologically and the experience of having done it will benefit them greatly as they head into OTA's mini-camps, training camp.


    Thanks brother! I will do follow up articles some of the other players and positions later, but these three offensive linemen have certainly progressed significantly as rookies, and I anticipate a marked leap between their rookie campaigns in the trenches to them becoming Veterans who head to battle a 2nd time -- having been their before.

    I agree on the need to protect our QB in '07' I am hoping for #4's return, but if it is not him whoever is manning the position in '07' will need an offensive line that lets him play with a full toolbox.



    Thanks Greg!

    Oh, they have improved as the season has progressed - markedly. But it is also true that they are wearing down too. The NFL is so significantly different than playing in college, where teams have rosters of 100 players and there is not the same push to play hurt. In the Pros you hear, "everyone is hurt this time of year..." "you have to learn the difference between hurt and seriously injured."

    All three of these guys are far better athletes than Will Whitticker ever dreamt of being. I never was impressed with Will's play -- you're right he was a sorry default player.

    I would like to comment on the "too early to be sure" declaration.

    It is not too early to be evaluating -- in fact it is exactly what should be and is happening with their play. This idea that you could or should wait to evaluate is just not the case in professional football. I make this comment generally and not just in regards to your comment Greg.


    I think the team has too many holes to prioritize the offensive line in any significant way. They invested 2nd, 3rd and 5th round picks in drafting these rookies -- and invested even more by having them play as rookies. I think if you look at what we have on the roster (practice squad and developmental squad) I do not to see too much more action taken. (I listed everyone currently under contract at the bottom of the article).

    You're right on about the competition pushing improvement, but there is no one they could draft (unless you are talking in the 1st) who could have a more immediate impact than these three guys already have. I am not that impressed with the free agent market -- I expect a 2nd tier signing or two at the most.

    Yes, we all miss that very impressive offensive line -- and it would be folly to claim that this group is close to being there. I believe we have a solid base to develop a great offensive line, but it will not be done without this nucleus continuing to play together
     
  15. slackerbacker

    slackerbacker Cheesehead

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    Bruce, I think you were a little more than fair on the rookie OLmen. I too hope they will continue to improve and get better. However, I have my doubts. While Spitz looks capable of becoming a decent NFL OLmen, I'm not so sure about Colledge and Moll?

    Many of their faults have been pointed out already, but not much has been said about their play in the 4 close games (Saints, Rams, Bills, Seahawks) we lost. Essentially, their/our inability to run the ball late in the game prevented us from closing out these contests and put tremendous pressure on our QB and Def then and all season long.

    More importantly, I think its necessary to mention TT mortgaged this season on the backs of these guys and it more than likely will cost us a chance at the playoffs. That's not the OLmen's fault, but it should be noted as TT's choice to go w/ too much youth on the OL.

    IMO, TT should consider a trade or FA pickup for the OL that could offer real competition for these guys next season. Basically, Spitz and Colledge were gifted starting roles and w/out some comp, I fear both might be too complacent in the off season and not give the TEAM the improvement they need next season. IMO, I would try to find an NFL experienced RG which would force Spitz and Colledge to battle it out for the LG spot.
     
  16. Bruce

    Bruce Cheesehead

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    I think I was just fair 'plain and simple', kind of like baby bear's porridge "just right!"

    Why? Because they were rookies learning the NFL game?

    What I pointed out was that they all battled and hung in there. Each made progress and learned as they went. It will be critical to have them develop a good deal during the offseason, but as I pointed out all three have the bodies that leave room for growth -- each with different needs. This is where the Packers investment in Rock, et al come into play. BTW Colledge is a great athlete who is going to get better -- the comparisons to a young Wahle are very fair; and Moll was a TE two seasons ago -- the guy's upside potential caught me by surprise. Tony is far from a finished product, but he has plugged in wherever the team has asked him to go -- I see him developing into a talented backup for next season with a bright future if he continues to battle and work anywhere near the level he seems to be willing to so far in his young NFL career.

    Yes, no one would dispute they contributed to those losses, but to lay it all on these young men's backs denies the realities of football as the ultimate TEAM sport. I named that all three struggled at times and the team paid a price for going young in '06', but I am not sure that they had a whole lot of options available after failing with FA in '05'.

    Again, yes this is true. But it is something that has been hashed and rehashed over and over. Once he made the decision (after failing to replace Wahle and Rivera with even serviceable replacements in '05') it is what this team had to play with. When you go young, you look for growth, development and improvement -- which was the premise of the thread. I would agree that it should be noted if the thread was an evaluation of TT piece, but rather it was a piece on the offensive line's journey and future -- which is why I gave that so little ink.

    There is nothing in the character of any of the three to make one wonder about complacency. In fact, all three have strong work ethics that would point in the opposite direction.

    And a solid legit opinion it is. I must point out however, that trades are very rare in the NFL today -- unless you are talking about 3rd tier players -- which I would certainly support if the deal made sense for the Pack bring in competition. A FA pick-up is another possibility that I would support, but looking at the players available, I am not seeing anyone who is particularly exciting or that I am certain could make the starting lineup.

    Given the needs at several other positions I do not expect this to be a position that gets flooded with activity in the draft or free agency. Rather, I expect some 2nd or 3rd tier FA signings and perhaps a draft choice expended. Frankly, IMO I think TT will need to see how the off-season workouts are going and who is or is not available before he can decide for certain.

    The positives I pointed out was that of possibilities, not those of sure things. But any fair analysis would see the positive development and the upside of these three young men
     
  17. retiredgrampa

    retiredgrampa Cheesehead

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    For this OL to progress, work on weights in GB will be absolutely necessary. The facilities there are for their use whenever they want to use them. We'll learn which of those guys REALLY wants to get better during the off-season. It will determine continued improvement.
     
  18. CaliforniaCheez

    CaliforniaCheez Cheesehead

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    The Packers offense ranked 23rd in rushing yardage.
    25th most penalized offense(good).
    16th in 3rd down conversion %.
    14th in first downs/game.
    12th in time of possesion.
    9th overall.
    8th is passing yardage.

    Another WR and RB of quality are needed.
     
  19. Cliff

    Cliff Cheesehead

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    Also a quality TE is needed.
     
  20. HatestheEagles084

    HatestheEagles084 Cheesehead

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    Growth is needed especially...what I hate about the zone blocking is how the linemen are so much smaller...Darryn Colledge is doing good at guard but if you put him up against Kevin and Pat Williams, he's gonna get bowled over
     
  21. porky88

    porky88 Cheesehead

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    This off season he needs to hit the weights and use his quickness to his advantage. Bigger lineman can be cut easier. We would know from Super Bowl 32.
     
  22. Bobby Roberts

    Bobby Roberts Cheesehead

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    I agree we already have a competent replacement, but I think that replacement is Colledge rather than Moll.

    In the Miami game they shifted Colledge in for Clifton only 20 minutes before kickoff. With no preparation, he had to take on Jason Taylor. He got torched a couple of times early, as expected. Then he hung in there and played solid the rest of the game, shutting Taylor down for the remainder of the game. That was impressive and showed that he is able to develop into a starter at LT in the future.
     
  23. warhawk

    warhawk Cheesehead

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    This was good stuff Bruce.

    While it has been trying at times the experience these guys have gained will certainly pay in the long run. We should see the max protection far less in the future and, just as importantly IMO, we should see an expanded playbook next season.

    Reading MM's comments there is much more to install but he was rightfully hesitant to overload the young guys with too much stuff. MM actually has non-zone type sets that he was not comfortable adding to this point.

    I am sure there were many times he would have liked to have the option of standard blocking schemes that could have been effective in certain situations. Would it not be great to line up and the defense not know what type of blocking scheme they will see on any given play?

    These are things for obvious reasons we did not see this year that will help our offense be more productive. I have no doubt we will obtain a few guys that can make plays which we need but feel that the biggest contribution will come from better play by these young guys who started out this year with really no clue.
     
  24. slackerbacker

    slackerbacker Cheesehead

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    And once again far too many love to say they'll get better w/ time (they couldn't get much worse) but folks seem to forget there is a time factor involved here. It's not personal people; every team has to have good up and coming players. However, the overall goal should be to win games and get into the playoffs. Not many teams do that w/ a host of rookies and 2 & 3rd year players.

    The simple fact is GB has a core group of vets and the time to try and rebound for a playoff run is now w/ Favre and the other vets still available. That's not going to happen when you can't run the ball enough to keep teams off balance, score in the Red Zone and close out games you have leads in. That was essentially the situation in all four games GB let slip away this season. I don't blame the players nearly as much as I blame TT. Nevertheless, the poor Guard play has been a major road block all season long which makes it hard to say there was any great improvement IMO.
     
  25. tromadz

    tromadz Cheesehead

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    yeah TT blows donkey ****
     

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