GREEN BAY – Despite appearances to the contrary based on how snaps were distributed in practice Monday, Mike McCarthy insists that he hasn’t made up his mind on the starting right tackle.
Nonetheless, the witching hour is fast approaching for the Green Bay Packers offensive line, and unless Don Barclay unexpectedly bottoms out or Marshall Newhouse morphs into Anthony Muñoz, it would appear that Barclay is going to get the nod.
Throughout Monday’s practice, Barclay worked with the No. 1 offense at right tackle while Newhouse spent most of practice working with the No. 2 offense at left tackle, behind rookie starter David Bakhtiari. Although Newhouse did take a handful of right tackle snaps, the work was heavily weighted toward Barclay.
The two had alternated series at right tackle during the Packers’ 19-7 victory over the St. Louis Rams on Saturday night, with Barclay getting the starting nod after Newhouse surrendered a sack to Arizona’s John Abraham that resulted in a Graham Harrell fumble in the opener. Newhouse, who spent the entire offseason at right tackle with the No. 1s, has started 31 games the past two seasons (including playoffs), with 28 of those starts coming at left tackle before the offseason shakeup on the line.
“No, there’s no jobs that have been won yet today,” McCarthy replied when asked if he’d picked a right tackle. “As far as those types of questions, we need to play better as a football team. I thought the offensive line as a whole played better this past week than we did the prior week against Atlanta. So with that we’ll continue to make guys compete.”
Asked the simple question of whether Barclay and Newhouse will rotate with 1s in Friday night’s third preseason game against Seattle at Lambeau Field, McCarthy replied: “I’m thinking that we just got done with a Wednesday(-style) practice, we’ll view, we’ll grade it, and we’ll talk about the reps like we do every night for tomorrow’s practice, and continue to try and create opportunities and gather information at any position.”
That non-answer would seem to indicate something is afoot, but neither Barclay nor Newhouse has been told of the team’s plans if the coaches are indeed leaning one way or another. Teams tend to want to have their offensive lines set by the third preseason game so there's some continuity entering regular-season play.
“It was just nice to be out there the whole time with those guys,” Barclay said of working with the starters. “(But) I don’t think it’s going to be determined this weekend. We’re halfway done with camp, still have two more weeks of camp left. Then we have a week of preparation for the 49ers, so there’s a lot of time for it still to be decided with guys battling. At some point guys have to step up and grab the opportunity.”
Newhouse said both he and Barclay are kept in the dark about how reps will be split during practice and that he will assume he’s still under consideration for the starting job until he’s told that Barclay has won the job.
“I feel like I’m in it still. Until they tell me otherwise, I’m in it,” Newhouse said. “I guess in this situation, there’s limited communication between them and us. They tell us when we’re going in, when we’re not going in, and then we let our play speak for that. And then at the end of the day, after a game, after a practice, they go and determine the next day. Each day is kind of its own animal, but then they’re also compounding. A lot of that is assumptions. I don’t know what they say up there.”
Newhouse disputes the notion that he is too cerebral and lacks the “mean streak” that other offensive linemen – including Barclay – are perceived to have.
“I can be as big of an (expletive) as anyone,” Newhouse said. “Since when has that been the defining quality of an offensive lineman? Say a guy gets his block done. When does that ever come into play? Oh, he’s not nasty enough? If he’s getting it done, why does that matter?
“That’s (a mentality) from like 1950. People see what they want to see. We watch film all the time and you’re like, ‘Yeah, he’s nasty, but he’s whiffing half the time.’ Why is that all of a sudden the barometer?”
Nastiness isn’t the only measure, but it’s certainly one of Barclay’s strengths. He started the final six games (including two playoff games) at right tackle last year as an undrafted free agent from West Virginia, and while he’s perhaps viewed as more of a run-blocker than pass-protector, all of the Packers’ tackles – Barclay, Newhouse and Bakhtiari – can expect a test on Friday night from Seattle pass rushers Bruce Irvin and newly added Cliff Avril, the ex-Detroit Lion.
The last time the Packers saw the Seahawks, a controversial game-ending touchdown wasn’t their only problem. Then-starting right tackle Bryan Bulaga was eaten alive by Irvin (two sacks) and was charged with eight pressures as well.
According to ProFootballFocus.com, Barclay gave up a pair of quarterback hits during Saturday night’s game at St. Louis – his only sacks, hits or hurries in 65 preseason snaps. In 68 preseason snaps, the only quarterback sack, hit or hurry Newhouse has given up is Abraham’s sack.
“I think I’ve bounced back well. I played well this week and got better. It’s still a work in progress, but I’m on my way,” Newhouse said. “I just kind of keep doing what I’m doing. I know I’ve gotten better, I know I’d had a good camp up until that (play).”
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