With Newhouse out, offensive line's lack of depth exposed

Aug. 6, 2012

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Green Bay Packers tackle Herb Taylor, right, contains linebacker Dezman Moses during training camp practice inside the Don Hutson Center on Friday, July 27, 2012. / Evan Siegle/Press-Gazette


The Green Bay Packers will get a sense this week of just how precarious the depth is on their offensive line.

With starter Marshall Newhouse out because of a concussion and backup Derek Sherrod still on the physically unable to perform list while recovering from the broken lower right leg from last season, the Packers were down to their third option at the critical left tackle position in practice on Sunday. They still might be there Thursday night, when they open their preseason at San Diego.

Herb Taylor was working at left tackle with the No. 1 offensive line, though there’s also a chance the Packers would move T.J. Lang to left tackle and replace him at left guard with Evan Dietrich-Smith for a regular-season game. Whether they would move Lang to left tackle for Thursday’s preaseason opener at San Diego, when the No. 1 offense might play only a series or two, remains to be seen.

“It’s not what you want to be doing, you want the guys you think you’re going to play games with to be working together and fitting in,” center Jeff Saturday said before practice on Sunday. “(But) very few times do you go a whole season with all five guys playing every snap of every game, so guys are going to have to get accustomed to moving around and making adjustments.

“Every line I’ve ever been on has changed somewhat, and I think we’ve got the guys to do it. It’s tough for (Newhouse), you don’t ever want to miss time, but you’ve got to get healthy. The reality is, I know everybody is amped up about preseason, but (the games) don’t count yet. I want him to be healthy when it really counts.”

Coach Mike McCarthy said Newhouse sustained a concussion in the Packers’ Family Night scrimmage on Friday. However, McCarthy left open the possibility that Newhouse will play Thursday night.

“I wouldn’t rule out Greg (Jennings) or Marshall this week,” McCarthy said, referring to a second player who sustained a concussion Friday. “They’re going through the concussion protocol.”

Newhouse's injury exposes the Packers’ depth issues because of Sherrod’s slow recovery from breaking the two bones in his lower right leg last December at Kansas City. He had surgery to implant a rod in his leg that night in Kansas City, and though the recovery from such an injury can vary widely, the Packers were hoping for about six months. That would have had Sherrod back just as offseason practices were wrapping up in mid- June, so he at least would have been ready for football at the start of training camp 1˝ months later.

However, the 2011 first-round draft pick was walking with a slight limp at organized team activities and minicamp practices in May and June, and McCarthy has said Sherrod suffered a setback in the spring. The limp is gone, but there’s no indication whether Sherrod is close to being cleared to practice. He didn’t practice Sunday night, and McCarthy said he wouldn’t play Thursday.

If healthy, Sherrod would have been competing with Newhouse for the starting job at left tackle and at worst been the backup swing tackle. But with all the time he has missed away from the field, there’s reason to wonder whether Sherrod can be ready to back up their tackle spots by early in the regular season.

“Hopefully will be back as soon as possible,” Sherrod said early Sunday afternoon. “That’s why I’m working hard each and every day.”

The injuries at tackle also highlight the Packers’ depth issues elsewhere on the offensive line.

Dietrich-Smith is their top backup at center and both guard spots, and started three games at right guard last season in place of injured Josh Sitton. But behind him are players who are just trying to make an NFL roster, let alone play adequately in a regular-season game.

Ray Dominguez, a backup guard, split last season on the Packers’ practice squad and 53-man roster but is far from a lock to make the team and missed Family Night because of an ankle injury. Undrafted rookie Don Barclay of West Virginia has been working at left guard with the No. 2 offensive line. Undrafted center-guard Tommie Draheim has shown some potential but might be a longer-term prospect who needs a season on the practice squad after playing left tackle in college at San Diego State.

Another undrafted rookie guard, Jaymes Brooks, has a shoulder injury and has not practiced since the team signed him shortly after the draft.

At tackle, with Sherrod out Taylor and seventh-round draft pick Andrew Datko have flip flopped from the right and left sides with the No. 2 offensive line.

Datko, who missed most of his senior season at Florida State because of a recurring shoulder injury, has struggled in pass protection since the pads came on and apparently needs time to show whether he can play in the league.

Taylor, 27, entered the NFL out of TCU in 2007 as a sixth-round draft pick by the Kansas City Chiefs and started one game for them in 2008. But he spent only one regular-season game on an NFL roster from 2009 until the Packers signed him late last year.

At the Family Night scrimmage, the No. 2 offensive line had trouble protecting the quarterback and gave up significant pressure on backup Graham Harrell against the No. 2 defense on three of the final four incompletions that ended a two-minute drill.

Sitton pointed to Taylor as a viable option when asked about his concerns at backup left tackle with Newhouse and Sherrod out.

“What’s wrong with Herb?” Sitton said. “It all depends on who’s active (on game day) and who isn’t. During the regular season things are a lot different than they are now. Herb’s a good football player, he’ll be fine.”

The 6-foot-4, 305-pound Taylor suited up for 18 games early in his career but except for one game was out of the NFL the last three seasons after Kansas City, Denver and the New York Giants, respectively, released him on final cuts.

In 2010, Taylor played in the UFL, and last year, after Sherrod’s injury, the Packers signed him off the street.

The Packers liked what they saw in practice last season enough to bring Taylor back for their offseason workout program and training camp this year.

“I’m not a quitter,” Taylor said of his time out of the NFL, “so until absolutely nobody calls me and says my time is up, I’m going to keep on fighting.”

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