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Jerry Gilbert

When Packer fans discuss the play of the offensive line of the Green Bay Packers, the dominant theme is usually the deficiency in run blocking. A second issue is the age of the tackles. Discussed less often is the fact that the young guards and center improved so much last season as pass blockers that the empty backfield became a key part of the offense. This is the same group of linemen who needed help from backs and tight ends on nearly every pass play a year earlier. Before anyone gives up on this young line, the great progress between 2006 and 2007 in pass protection must be recognized. It should provide a reason to believe that they can improve significantly in the running game next season. The success of Ryan Grant in the second half of last season was partly due to improved run blocking by these players.

Nevertheless, the offensive line could use another player or two to compete at guard and tackle. The ideal candidate could compete immediately at left guard and offer the potential to be a starting left tackle in a couple of years. Any guard who can pass block but also drive back large bodies with his strength would also be welcome. Fortunately, the 2008 NFL Draft presents a number of talented offensive linemen including several who could potentially fit in at either guard or tackle.

As the first round comes to a close, the biggest names such as Jake Long and Chris Williams will be gone, but a number of highly touted candidates, such as Boston College right tackle Gosder Cherilus and USC left tackle Sam Baker, will remain. Baker 6-5 309 USC is a player who might fit in. The stalwart left tackle on a great Trojan unit, Baker was All American for 3 seasons despite playing through some injuries. He was rated the best pass blocker at the Senior Bowl. At his size, Baker could be good fit at guard with the very real potential to return to his college position. Nevertheless, the offensive line talent pool is deeper than the first round, and General manager Ted Thompson will probably decide to wait till later to draft a lineman.

Another college tackle who could begin as a guard is Duane Brown 6-4 315 Virginia Tech. Brown excelled for 2 seasons at right tackle before switching to left tackle as a senior. He performed well as a pass and run blocker playing left tackle at the East West Shrine Game. More recently, Brown impressed scouts with his position skills and athletic ability at the Combine. He was among the top 5 offensive linemen in every test. Brown should be there at the end of round 2 and possibly lower.

Another second round guard prospect is Mike Pollak 6-4 310 Arizona State who would fit into the Packer tradition of drafting centers to play guard. Pollak is strong and fast and would provide excellent depth and competition at center while competing also at guard. At the Senior Bowl he stood out as clearly the top center.

One exciting guard prospect, who should be available in round 2 or 3, played with Sam Baker at Southern Cal. Junior right guard Chilo Rachal 6-5 315 also received some all America recognition. Last season, USC backs followed him into the end zone on an average of once a game. He also allowed zero sacks. Rachal is a young player who, with some coaching, could be special.

Mike McGlynn 6-4 31 Pittsburgh would be an excellent selection at the end of Round 3. One of the more versatile candidates in this draft, McGlynn played both guard and tackle, and also served as the long snapper, at Pittsburgh. At the Senior Bowl, McGlynn played mostly at guard with great success. Arriving at the Combine, he impressed scouts with 30 repetitions at 225# and with his vocal encouragement of other competitors during position drills. McGlynn is not the fastest or most agile lineman in the Draft, but similar to Mark Tauscher, he has quick feet and plays with excellent technique and some attitude.

There will continue to be offensive line prospects in the second day of the NLF Draft. Although he had to drop out of his recent pro day with a slight injury, Jeremy Zuttah 6-4 303 Rutgers remains a talented prospect who is likely to be drafted in Round 4. He proved basic athletic ability at the Combine with a 4.99 forty and 35 reps at 225# which was second only to Jake Long who will almost certainly be the first offensive lineman to be drafted. He demonstrated he can play football by starting all four years. He spent the last two seasons at right tackle and did not surrender a sack. Before that, he played left guard as a sophomore and every position as a freshman. Considered to be a good technician with a mean streak, Zuttah has the versatility that the Packers like.

Mike Gibson 6-4 305 California is a college left tackle who was very successful after being moved to guard in the drills and game at the East West Shrine Classic. Beginning his career in junior college, Gibson held his own at left tackle for two seasons in the Pac Ten Conference. More recently, he produced solid numbers at the Combine. Gibson is viewed as an effective zone blocker who should still be there in the later rounds.

Every year there is a small college lineman who brings back memories of Adam Timmerman. The candidate this year is Chad Rinehart 6-5 320 Northern Iowa. A reliable pass blocker at left tackle at Northern, they also tended to run behind Rinehart because he was effective as a drive blocker. At the Senior Bowl, Rinehart basically held his own with the big school players. In the actual game, while playing guard, he came off his man and eliminated a linebacker to spring a long run. He is big enough to be candidate at right tackle as well as at guard.

The Green Bay Packers will almost certainly draft an offensive lineman this year because of the need soon to replace two tackles and the need for better performance at guard. Duane Brown or Mike McGlynn could fill those needs.

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