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Packers' offensive line has made quantum leap

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Dan Arkush

darkush@pfwmedia.com
Executive editor

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Posted Nov. 12, 2010 @ 1:12 p.m. ET
By Dan Arkush

Updated Nov. 12, 2010 @ 6:03 p.m. ET

Through the first nine games this season, Green Bay's offense hasn't performed anywhere close to the high level it consistently displayed last season.

But you certainly can't blame the team's offensive line, which was considered a glaring problem a year ago at this time, for the offense's shortcomings.

In the first nine games in 2009, the Packers' line surrendered 41 sacks, putting it on pace to relinquish a whopping 73 sacks for the season.

Its performance improved significantly after the return of ORT Mark Tauscher, who spent the first half of the season on the mend from his second torn ACL in his left knee, but it still ended up allowing a league-high 51 sacks and imploded in the Packers' wild-card loss to the Cardinals, allowing five more sacks.

So far this season, however, it's been a much different story, with QB Aaron Rodgers going down for the count 17 times.

So what's been the big difference this season?

Team insiders cite three factors in particular:

  • The overall excellent performance of veteran Chad Clifton at the all-important left tackle position.
  • The equally rock-solid efforts of interior linemen Josh Sitton and Scott Wells at the right guard and center positions, respectively.
  • And last, but certainly not least, the ability of first-round draft pick Bryan Bulaga to hold down the fort at right tackle in place of Tauscher, who missed the last five games with a shoulder injury before being placed on injured reserve Nov. 12.

After missing four games due to injury in 2009 and getting forced out of four others, including the wild-card loss to Arizona, Clifton has started every game so far this season and is widely considered to have played as well as he ever has in his distinguished 11-year career.

Clifton drew rave reviews for his prime-time performances in victories over the Vikings and Cowboys, when he made highly regarded Jared Allen and DeMarcus Ware, respectively, virtual nonfactors.

Wells and Sitton have been pillars of strength, quietly performing at Pro Bowl levels, according to most daily team observers.

Bulaga, who is expected to be the team’s left tackle of the future, has had a few glitches, but he has mostly earned high marks.

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