Sherrod moves on from shaky start vs. Seahawks
Aaron Rodgers lay flat on his stomach at CenturyLink Field, feet facing the line of scrimmage, watching the football bounce into the Green Bay Packers' end zone.
Stretched on the turf, it was an unenviable position for an NFL quarterback. Rodgers found himself there when, for the second straight play, Packers backup right tackle Derek Sherrod was beaten badly off the edge.
From snap to sack, there was barely enough time to react. The ensuing safety pushed the Seattle Seahawks' lead to 12 points in the third quarter, too much distance for the Packers to recover.
It also highlighted an opener Sherrod would rather forget.
He allowed four pressures, including two third-quarter sacks, in 30 snaps after replacing injured starter Bryan Bulaga. A fifth pressure was wiped out because of penalty. His minus-5.2 grade from Pro Football Focus ranked last on the offensive line.
And, if Bulaga doesn't return from an MCL sprain this week, Sherrod will make his first career start Sunday against the New York Jets.
"If Bryan Bulaga doesn't go, Derek Sherrod will play right tackle," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said.
Judging from Packers fans' reactions following Green Bay's 36-16 loss to Seattle last week, it's likely a cringe-inducing revelation.
Things did not go well for the Packers' 2011 first-round pick. They haven't for some time.
Injuries derailed his introduction to the league. Sherrod missed 26 straight regular-season games — almost two full calendar years — while rehabilitating a broken right leg suffered against the Kansas City Chiefs near the end of his rookie season. Entering this fall, Sherrod had played in only 12 games.
Perhaps the time stashed on the physically unable to perform list stunted his growth. Quickly, fans grew impatient. Sherrod's stumble in Seattle didn't help.
He knows he must play better, but Sherrod isn't bothered by the criticism.
"You can't control what other people think," he said. "As football players, we go and we try to make the most of every single play. There's going to be good plays, there's going to be bad plays, but it's how you focus on the next play afterward."
Sherrod seemed to make the most of the first healthy preseason since his rookie year. He impressed teammates last month, presenting himself as a serviceable backup tackle.
Still, after last week, there's a gap between what Green Bay expects from Sherrod and what the fourth-year tackle continues to give. The Packers need those training camp flashes Sherrod showed to translate onto the field during the regular season.
"I think Derek probably had his best training camp to date, and we just need him to play like that," veteran left guard Josh Sitton said. "He was playing well in training camp, and honestly I think he played well (against the Seahawks), with the exception of a couple of plays. They just happened to be plays that everybody's talking about it. He's just got to continue to get better and build that confidence. If he can build that confidence, he'll be fine.
"For him, it's mental. He's missed a lot of football over the last couple of years. I don't know exactly what he's got to do to get that confidence back, but it starts on the practice field. If he can get that confidence, he'll be fine."
It might not matter.
Bulaga, who has also missed a lot of football because of injuries, plans to return to the field sooner than later. Last weekend, McCarthy said there was "a bit of a gap" between how Bulaga and the medical staff viewed his status. The Packers should have a better idea of his recovery timeline when they hold their first practice of the week this afternoon at Clarke Hinkle Field.
Sitton said Bulaga is in high spirits. He wants to fight through the injury, which typically takes two to four weeks to recover. If he's unable to play, it will be Sherrod's responsibility to keep Rodgers on his feet against the Jets.
"I'm just going to go about it the same way I usually have," Sherrod said. "You have to be accountable at both positions always. Just going to go about it and focus in, and do the same preparation that I always have.
"You just have to go and work on your fundamentals and technique. This is a new week so just go in and practice this week, and just try to make every aspect of the game better."
— firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @ByRyanWood