Bryan Bulaga

Training Camp Preview: Packers

GREEN BAY, WI - AUGUST 22: Defensive end B.J. Raji #90 of the Green Bay Packers runs in pursuit against the Buffalo Bills at Lambeau Field on August 22, 2009 in Green Bay. Wisconsin.  (Photo by Scott Boehm/Getty Images)

The Packers are expecting Raji to start at nose tackle

Biggest Question Mark: B.J. Raji
Is their 2009 1st-round pick ready to step into the role of nose tackle? The Packers are moving Ryan Pickett to defensive end with hopes that Raji is ready to live up to lofty expectations. In a reserve role in 2009, Raji didn’t show much promise. But to be the fair, the Packers didn’t do him any favors by lining him up at both end and tackle. Now that he’s limited to one specific role, they hope his career takes off.

Position Battle to Watch: Left Tackle
Chad Clifton returns to the position he’s held for a number of years, but 2010 1st-round pick Bryan Bulaga is the left tackle of the future. The Packers are geared up to win immediately, so they won’t rush Bulaga into the lineup. But they’ll certainly give him a look if the Packers offensive line struggles the way they did at the start of the 2009 season.

Impact Rookie: Bryan Bulaga
The Packers aren’t expecting much immediate impact from this year’s rookie class – Bulaga included. He doesn’t have a starting role guaranteed, but should provide depth at both tackle positions and possible at guard as well.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Packers Comments Off

2010 Draft Grades: Packers

Ted Thompson has built this Packers team through the draft and he impressed on draft day once again this year.

Having Bryan Bulaga fall to No. 23 was a dream scenario for the Packers. They re-signed Mark Trauscher and Chad Clifton this offseason, but both tackles are over the age of 32 and are noticeably declining. Bulaga could be used in a reserve role this year, or potentially at guard, but his future is definitely at left tackle.

I don’t think the Packers reached for Mike Neal nearly as much as some other draft analysts have suggested. He’s an elite athlete for his size and should be able to make a seamless transition to defensive end in the Packers 3-4 defense. If injuries hadn’t slowed his development, its possible he would have been in the mix to come off the board in the 1st round.

Morgan Burnett is a steal in the 3rd round. His ball skills are on par with Eric Berry’s and he has the size to be effective against the run. He’s probably best suited to play free safety early in his career, but with some work he could be an effective strong safety as well. There isn’t a starting job available for him right now, but he should be a starter down the road.

Andrew Quarless is a solid 5th-round pick. He’ll have to fight to make the roster, with Jermichael Finley and Donald Lee likely to earn the top two spots on the depth chart, but his upside makes him worth the pick. He’s an impressive athlete who just never lived up to expectations at Penn State.

I was surprised the Packers didn’t address their interior offensive line earlier in the draft, but they got lucky when Marshall Newhouse fell to them in the 5th round. He played left tackle at TCU and excelled as a run blocker. His athleticism will be an asset, as will his ability to provide depth at both guard and tackle. While he’s penciled in as a backup, don’t be surprised if he earns a starting job by the end of the season.

James Starks is a low risk-high reward pick in the 6th round. He’s coming off a shoulder injury which caused him to miss the entire 2009 season, but he has the potential to develop into a starter. The key to his career will be his ability to bulk up without losing speed. If he puts in the necessary hard work in the weight room, the Packers could have found themselves one of the gems of the draft.

C.J. Wilson is about as good a prospect as you’ll find in the 7th round. He’s a perfect fit for defensive end in the Packers 3-4 defense. He may have a hard time making the roster, considering their depth at the position, but he was well worth the 7th-round pick.

This was a great draft for the Packers from start to finish. They didn’t make any unnecessary reaches and they landed a good mix of players ready to contribute and guys to develop over the next few years. That is the blueprint for a successful draft and Ted Thompson executed it perfectly.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Draft Grades - 2010, Packers Comments Off

Could Bryan Bulaga fall on draft day?

Most mock drafts have Bryan Bulaga in the top six, and few have him any lower than No. 9 overall. However, in Don Banks’ latest article on SI.com, one “league personnel man” was quoted as saying:

I know some people have him graded out as a third-round pick. A lot of pass rushers beat him badly last year. And if you watch that film, and add in that his arms are shorter than you’d like a tackle to have, how high can you take him?

2010 NFL Combine - Day One

Could Bulaga fall outside the top 10?

So could Bulaga fall on draft day?

While some scouts may view him as a 3rd-round prospects, its safe to say far more see him as a top-10 pick. He isn’t going to be the next Joe Thomas or Jake Long – a Pro Bowl-caliber left tackle from day one – but there are plenty of reasons to like him.

For one, Bulaga is the most NFL-ready lineman in this year’s draft. Russell Okung comes from an option-based offense at Oklahoma State, meaning he’ll need to learn a new style of play in the NFL. Trent Williams has only one year of experience at left tackle, and an unimpressive one at that. And Anthony Davis, Charles Brown and Bruce Campbell are all very raw in at least one aspect of their game.

Bulaga, on the other hand, is as polished as they come. He doesn’t have elite size, strength or athleticism but there’s no reason he can’t be plugged into a starting lineup from day one.

He will be most attractive to a team like Chiefs, who are looking for a hard-nosed player who can immediately step on the field and make a difference. Scott Pioli loves players like Bulaga, that come from pro-style offenses and are fundamentally sound.

Again, Bulaga may not be the next Orlando Pace or Walter Jones, but I don’t see a scenario in which he falls outside the top 10.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, Chiefs Comments Off

Will someone please sign Jared Gaither

I’ve asked this before, but he remains unsigned, so I’ll ask it again: Why doesn’t anyone want Jared Gaither?

WI: Baltimore Ravens v Green Bay PackersIn his third year in the league in ’09, Gaither blossomed into a Pro Bowl-caliber left tackle, more than adequately filling the shoes of his predecessor Jonathan Ogden. He ultimately wasn’t selected to the Pro Bowl, primarily due to the fact that he missed five games last season, but the honor is surely in his future.

If you don’t know much about Gaither its probably due to the fact that he skipped the April draft process, entering the 2007 Supplemental Draft instead. In July ’07 Gaither was ruled academically ineligible for the upcoming season, which prompted the decision. As a result, the Ravens landed themselves a 1st-round talent with a 5th-round selection.

After backing up Ogden in ’07, Gaither took over in 2008. He was impressive as a sophomore, but reached elite status in 2009. Despite his performance, the Ravens only tendered him at the 1st-round level, leaving them susceptible to Gaither signing elsewhere.

Personally, I would rather spend my 1st-round pick on a proven 24-year-old than take a chance on anyone in the draft, even this year’s top prospect, Russell Okung.

ProFootballFocus grades Gaither very favorably, ranking him 6th overall among offensive tackles. However, their ratings are accumulated throughout the season, favoring the players who appeared in all 16 games. Given the fact that he only played 11 games in 2009 I decided to take their ratings and adjust them based on number of snaps played to see where Gaither would rank. Taking the overall rating and dividing by snaps played you get this list “per snap” rating list:

It should be noted that Gaither’s injuries are part of the equation as to why teams may not be interested, but if you simply look at his production on the field there’s no denying his status as an elite left tackle.

Applying this to the draft, how could any team targeting an offensive tackle not give serious consideration to Gaither?

Teams like the Redskins, Seahawks, Raiders, Bills, 49ers, Cardinals and Cowboys are all in the market for an upgrade at left tackle. Would they honestly rather take a risk on Okung, Bryan Bulaga, Trent Williams or Anthony Davis instead of Gaither?

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, 49ers, Bills, Cardinals, Cowboys, Free Agency, Raiders, Ravens, Redskins, Seahawks 2 Comments

Who’s going to sign Jared Gaither?

Pittsburgh Steelers v Baltimore RavensJared Gaither may be the most under-appreciated offensive lineman in the game, even by his own team.

Despite an impressive 2009 season the Ravens only placed a 1st-round tender on Gaither, making him an intriguing option for someone else to sign to an offer sheet.

The folks at ProFootballFocus have been pleading for someone to sign Gaither via Twitter, and I couldn’t agree more with their sentiments. Why waste time developing a draft pick when you can get a Pro Bowl-caliber 24-year-old for the same price?

Gaither wasn’t just good in 2009, he was among the game’s elite. He allowed just four sacks in in the 430 pass plays in which he was on the field for, an impressively low percentage. According to ProFootballFocus’ grading system Gaither ranked 3rd among left tackles who played at least 10 games last season, trailing only the two best young tackles in the game, Joe Thomas and Jake Long.

Numerous teams own mid-to-late 1st-round picks and are in the market for a left tackle. The 49ers, Cardinals, Cowboys and Packers are just a few of the teams that would benefit from bringing Gaither aboard rather than trying their luck with Bryan Bulaga, Trent Williams or Anthony Davis.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, 49ers, Cardinals, Cowboys, Free Agency, Packers, Ravens 2 Comments

Falling Stock: Anthony Davis

I can’t say that Anthony Davis‘ stock is really falling in my mind (it wasn’t high enough to begin with), but his consensus stock is certainly slipping after deciding not to work out at Rutgers’ Pro Day on Wednesday.

Apparently Davis was expected to be a full participant but pulled out after showing up for interviews on Wednesday morning. His agent stated that Davis wasn’t feeling well and was suffering from tweaked hamstring.

There’s no denying Davis’ potential. He’s a physically imposing figure and a projects as a left tackle in the pros. But scouts who were in attendance on Wednesday came away less than impressed with the way he handled the situation.

A scout speaking to the New Jersey Star-Ledger had this to say about Davis:

“He ticked off a lot of NFL people today. I don’t know what his agent was thinking. People came here specifically to see him and he wasn’t here. They didn’t even send out a memo telling us he wouldn’t be doing any drills. Apparently, they decided [Tuesday] night and that was it.

Ouch. Not exactly words you want to hear if you’re hoping to sneak into the top 10.

Its a very deep class for offensive tackles, with as many as six potentially receiving 1st-round grades. Davis is in the mix to be the second offensive lineman off the board, but his actions Wednesday may not knocked him down the rankings in the eyes of some teams.

Bryan Bulaga, Trent Williams, Charles Brown and even Bruce Campbell have had nothing but positive buzz surrounding their offseason performances and Davis may have cost himself a large sum of money on Wednesday.

If his agent is doing his job, he’ll scramble to put together an individual workout for Davis later this month in an effort to swing momentum back in his favor.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft Comments Off

Bill Polian: Offensive Line was “Outplayed”

coltsOn his weekly radio show on Tuesday, Colts president Bill Polian talked about the Super Bowl loss. Most of the conversation was nondescript, but he did bring up one interesting point that may tip his hand on his offseason plans.

Speaking about the Colts offensive line Polian said: “by our standards, [they] did not have a good game. They were outplayed by the Saints’ defensive line, I thought, pretty decisively.”

Super Bowl XLIVThose are some fairly harsh words for a soft-spoken man such as Polian, but its tough to disagree. ProFootballFocus gave negative pass-blocking grades to three of the Colts linemen: Charlie Johnson, Ryan Lilja and Jeff Saturday. And only right tackle Ryan Diem received a significantly positive overall grade for the game.

Given that Peyton Manning has a sixth sense for the pocket around him, the Colts offensive line managed to allowed just 13 sacks in the regular season and just two in the playoffs. But that doesn’t change the fact that they have one of the worst units in the game. Despite allowing the fewest sacks in the league, the Colts ranked just 14th on ProFootballFocus in pass blocking.

So what does this mean for the Colts offseason plans?

Manning could certainly survive another season behind the patchwork offensive line. However, Polian’s frustrations with their Super Bowl performance may indicate that he’s looking to make a change.

Polian does have a history of putting an emphasis on the offensive line in the draft. Following the retirement of Tarik Glenn in 2007, the Colts traded up to acquire Tony Ugoh in the early 2nd round. Ugoh was benched this season in favor of Charlie Johnson.

Assuming Charlie Johnson isn’t the long-term answer at left tackle, the Colts could be in position to select one in the late 1st-round. Once Russell Okung is off the board, its anyone’s guess as to the order that the next three or four linemen will come of the board. Bryan Bulaga, Anthony Davis, Trent Williams and Bruce Campbell all generate a wide range of grades, anywhere from the top-10 to the 3rd round. Should any one of them be on the board when the Colts are on the clock at No. 31, they should give strong consideration to bringing one in to compete for the starting job at left tackle.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, Colts Comments Off