Tackle Chad Clifton will miss several weeks with a hamstring injury suffered in the second quarter of the Green Bay Packers victory over the Atlanta Falcons, coach Mike McCarthy said.
The Packers don’t know the severity of the veteran tackle’s injury yet, but it’s significant.
Not all is lost, though.
Right tackle Bryan Bulaga should return to the lineup this week after missing two games with a knee injury. Marshall Newhouse, who has been solid filling in for Bulaga at right tackle and moved to left tackle after Clifton’s injury on Sunday, will occupy a spot in the starting lineup as well.
Rookie first-round pick Derek Sherrod will be the backup at both positions.
Although quarterback Aaron Rodgers was pressured by the Falcons, both Newhouse and Sherrod held their own against Atlanta. Although he had some lapses initially, Sherrod overcame his jitters and settled in.
In other words, the Packers don’t have a lot to worry about even if Clifton doesn’t play for an extended period.
“You just see the jump that Bryan and Marshall have made from year one to year two, and Derek is going to have to make his quicker,” McCarthy said. “This is our program, this is how we operate, and we need to continue to do a good job making sure our younger players are ready to play. This is a perfect example of it.”
McCarthy and his staff have done a good job of developing their young players. Even if Bulaga is unexpectedly held out for a third week, Sherrod — even though he has room for improvement — proved he was serviceable on Sunday.
Additionally, the Packers next two games are against the banged-up, winless St. Louis Rams and the one-win Minnesota Vikings. Both are games Green Bay can probably win with their C game.
The main question right now is who plays where. When Bulaga returns, the Packers will have to decide if he returns to right tackle, where he’s in his second season as a starter, or if he replaces Clifton at left tackle. Bulaga was a left tackle in college, knows the position and is a better blocker than Newhouse.
That said, Newhouse has played well at both left and right tackle.
Do the Packers protect Rodgers with the better lineman by moving Bulaga to the left side or do they keep him in his now-customary position and leave the job to Newhouse?
Fortunately, Newhouse also played left tackle in college, so he’s not playing out of position.
Even more fortunately, the Packers have a wealth of talent sitting on their bench.