It has been a great run for Green Bay Packers left tackle Chad Clifton. He came back from Warren Sapp’s vicious hit in 2002. He’s done a great protecting the blind side of just two quarterbacks in the past 11 seasons, keeping them both upright for the most part.
But after Sunday’s benching, his run as the left tackle could be nearing an end. Teams do not draft offensive lineman in the first round to sit the bench and that’s where Bryan Bulaga comes in. First round picks are usually ready to play right away.
In Bulaga, the Packers have a guy they were fortunate to just draft. Sitting at pick No. 23, they had a host of needs they could fill (some that still haven’t been filled), but when the talented underclassman was available, Ted Thompson didn’t hesitate to use this year’s first rounder on Bulaga.
Thompson passed on taking either a cornerback or outside linebacker, a player who would be a big contributor on this year’s defense.
So when you pass on a potential defensive starter or offensive playmakers like Jahvid Best or Dexter McCluster (think they wouldn’t help fill the void left by Ryan Grant) for a big offensive lineman, that’s a guy who should be on the field.
If Clifton is held out this Monday vs. the Bears because of a bad knee and Bulaga plays well, how does Mike McCarthy not leave the rookie in the starting lineup foreseeabl0065 future?
The moment Bulaga was picked; the Packers had themselves a luxury. After re-signing Clifton in the off-season and then drafting Bulaga, they had both their veteran left tackle in place, as well as the guy who would be groomed to take his position.
Not too often does this happen. Many teams fail with the left tackle position about as often as the quarterback position.
The Packers had the option to be patient with Bulaga, bring him along slowly and after his own injury in training camp cost him the chance to start at left guard, he was able to just focus on learning the left tackle position.
But with Clifton being struck injury bug for the second year in a row, the time is not later for Bulaga, it is now.
The last time the Packers had a rookie from Iowa manning the left tackle position, they advanced all the way to the Super Bowl. If Bulaga is any bit as good as Ross Verba was back in 1997, Green Bay could be in that same position by the end of this season too.
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Written by Mitch McLaughlin