Bryan Bulaga injury could put Packers in a bind
The Green Bay Packers, understandably, were not satisfied with Marshall Newhouse's performance as their starting left tackle in 2012. So, they flip-flopped Newhouse and Bryan Bulaga in preparation for 2013, with Bulaga taking up residence on Aaron Rodgers' blindside.
Those plans may have gone out the window on Saturday night.
According to The Journal Sentinel's Bob McGinn, Bulaga suffered a knee injury during the Packers' intra-squad scrimmage, one which had the team "hoping for the best while fearing the worst." The Packers' concerns apparently were well-founded: Pro Football Talk reported that Bulaga tore his ACL during the scrimmage, an injury which would sideline him for the season.
With just a month until the regular season and the free-agent tackle market picked mostly dry, the Packers could have a serious problem. The obvious move would be to slide Newhouse back to the left side, where he allowed nine sacks and a team-high 33 hurries during the 2012 regular season.
A desirable option, that is not. But Green Bay also does not have much of a Plan B. The other tackles in play for roster spots include rookie David Bakhtiari and Don Barclay. Neither is particularly fit for a starting left tackle job, though Barclay started on the right in Bulaga's absence last season. Derek Sherrod, another possibility, has not played since breaking his tibia and fibula during the 2011 season.
This is a headache the Packers did not need. Rodgers was sacked more times (51) than any other QB in the league last season, problematic both because of how much that stat hamstrung the offense and because losing Rodgers to injury likely would be a crippling blow to the Packers' Super Bowl hopes. Green Bay also wanted to churn out more yardage on the ground this season, with rookies Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin arriving. An in-flux or overmatched offensive line, obviously, would limit those opportunities.
GM Ted Thompson opted to mostly bypass any upgrades on his O-line this offseason, adding only Bakhtiari and a host of undrafted free agents. (The Packers also hope to get Sherrod and J.C. Tretter back from the PUP list, at some point.)
That decision may be backfiring already.
The Packers did win the division last year, despite Bulaga missing seven games with a fractured hip. Rodgers still completed 67 percent of his passes and threw for nearly 4,300 yards in 2012, too, despite the loss of his starting right tackle.
There's still no sugar coating how massive a loss this could be for the Packers, especially in a division featuring pass-rushing ends like Julius Peppers, Jared Allen and rookie Ziggy Ansah. Even with Bulaga and Newhouse both entrenched on the left and right sides, respectively, Rodgers was certain to feel some heat. Now the Packers have to figure out exactly how to move forward, if Bulaga is indeed done for the year. They deemed Newhouse unreliable at left tackle. Putting him back there would be a gamble, to say the least.