Injuries taking toll on Packers' O-line

Posted Nov. 26, 2011 @ 3:27 p.m.
Posted By Dan Arkush

If the Packers are to remain perfect in the standings, it appears they will have to do so with a far-from-perfect situation on their offensive line.

Already forced to make ends meet the last six games without veteran starting OLT Chad Clifton, who remains sidelined with a significant hamstring injury, the Packers might also have to get by for a while without ORG Josh Sitton.

Sitton, who had been having his share of struggles due in part to a nagging knee injury, was forced to leave the Week 12 game in Detroit late in the second quarter with a new knee injury. That head coach Mike McCarthy said only one day after the game that Sitton would be "hard-pressed" to suit up for the Week 13 game against the Giants is an indication that Sitton might be on the shelf for a while.

As for Clifton, the recent announced target date of the Giants game for his return to action might have been premature, as team insiders are indicating the veteran tackle might have suffered a setback. McCarthy said Clifton was not expected to be able to even practice this week.

If Sitton is sidelined, his most likely replacement in the starting lineup figures to be Evan Dietrich-Smith, although McCarthy said first-round rookie Derek Sherrod and undrafted Ray Dominguez could compete for the starting job.

Dietrich-Smith's decent job replacing the injured Sitton against the Lions was greatly overshadowed by the unnecessarily rude treatment he received on one play from Lions DT Ndamukong Suh.

While he is considered better-suited to play center, daily team observers give Dietrich-Smith high marks for his strength, determination, decisiveness and the same kind of initial quickness that C Scott Wells consistently provides.

With Clifton likely to remain out a while longer, the onus at left tackle continues to fall on Marshall Newhouse. The second-year pro has struggled at times but is coming off a very solid effort against Lions veteran DE Kyle Vanden Bosch.

The Packers look to be in good shape at the other three positions on the line. Wells, OLG T.J. Lang and ORT Bryan Bulaga have done a rock-solid job for the most part, although Bulaga had his shakiest performance of the season vs. Detroit.