GREEN BAY – The Green Bay Packers are standing pat on their offensive line, despite the unit’s struggles in last Sunday night’s loss to the New York Giants.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy said that the same starting five – left tackle Marshall Newhouse, left guard Evan Dietrich-Smith, center Jeff Saturday, right guard Josh Sitton and right tackle T.J. Lang – lined up in practice on Wednesday and that he had no intent of changing things for Sunday’s game against Minnesota based on how the group played against the Giants, even though quarterback Aaron Rodgers was sacked five times, pressured on half his dropbacks and running backs Alex Green and James Starks managed only 65 yards on 18 carries.
“Our offensive line performance Sunday was not our best performance. It wasn’t our best performance as a whole offense, and you can start with me,” McCarthy said after practice Wednesday. “When we line up Sunday, we’ll be playing with the same people.”
The Packers’ lack of depth on the line was highlighted Wednesday when Newhouse appeared on the injury report with a wrist injury. With 2011 first-round draft pick Derek Sherrod not being activated from the physically unable to perform list, the Packers are still only carrying two backup offensive linemen, and both are undrafted rookie free agents – tackle Don Barclay and guard/center Greg Van Roten.
“Not close enough,” McCarthy replied when asked how close Sherrod, who broke his leg last Dec. 18, was to being activated. “If Derek Sherrod was close enough, we might entertained the thought of taking the chance and bringing him along and putting him on the 53.”
The only option the Packers would seem to have at the moment would be to move Lang back to his best position, left guard, and start Barclay at right tackle, relegating sixth man Evan Dietrich-Smith to the bench. Dietrich-Smith entered the lineup when right tackle Bryan Bulaga suffered a season-ending hip injury Nov. 4. (Bulaga declined to be interviewed when he was in the locker room with crutches Wednesday.)
McCarthy made it clear, however, that he’d rather have his best five linemen on the field – even if Lang is playing out of position – than make a change.
“You always try to get your five best on the field,” McCarthy said. “You cross-train players to play different positions. In my time here, we’ve had to cross-train linemen from Day 1 and played young rookie offensive linemen frankly before they were ready to play. That’s where you are as a team. It’s the responsibility of the coaches to get those guys ready and put them in positions to win. It’s the player’s responsibility to go out and win. That’s no different at any position.
“We’ve been in this position (before) and to me football isn’t played that way. It’s not just about a bunch of Xs and you line them up and this X beats that X and that O beats that X and you win the game. It’s really what you do within that unit. Every guy has a responsibility to beat his guy. And some of our guys may struggle against their match-up from week to week and we also have a responsibility to help those that are struggling.”
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