Backup offensive linemen of concern to Packers

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By Tom Silverstein
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Sunday, August 17, 2014

ST. LOUIS--The Green Bay Packers went from feeling pretty good about their backup tackle position to wondering whether what they saw the week before at Tennessee was merely a mirage.

Just seven days after tackles Derek Sherrod and Aaron Adams played spotlessly in a torrential downpour in Nashville, the two nearly got backup quarterback Scott Tolzien decapitated in a miserable second quarter against the St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome.

Typically, when a backup offensive lineman enters the starting lineup it’s in the middle of a game after someone gets hurt. In Sherrod and Adams’ case, they came in after the No. 1 unit had knocked around the Rams defense for 166 yards and 10 points on two possessions.

“Every game is a learning experience,” said Sherrod, who was playing in only his second game since suffering a horrific leg injury in December 2011. “You go out and play hard, and sometimes good things happen and sometimes bad things happen.

“I’ll go in and watch the tape and make the corrections and go from there.”

The Packers are watching the tackle position carefully after all-purpose backup Don Barclay suffered a season-ending knee injury early in training camp. They would have liked to give Sherrod more time to sharpen his game after two surgeries and almost two years of relentless rehab, but Barclay’s injury leaves Sherrod as their most talented option to fill the swing position.

Their choices after Sherrod, should a tackle be needed, are moving guard T.J. Lang to tackle; second-year pro Aaron Adams; or a couple of young free agents. Adams looked like someone the Packers could continue to develop until he slipped up Saturday as well.

“We had some pressures there that really hurt us in some of our drives,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “We’ll look at video.”

Sherrod probably benefited from playing on a wet track against the Titans, and this was his first game on turf in an indoor environment. He struggled with the speed of the game and was lucky the Rams weren’t playing starters Robert Quinn and Chris Long, who combined for 27 sacks last year, when he came into the game.

On Sherrod’s first snap, with the ball at the Packers’ 7 following a kickoff, he set up to take away an inside move by 6-foot-6, 269-pound backup end Eugene Sims, only to let Sims bend low around the corner and hit Tolzien right in the back as he let go of a pass to receiver Davante Adams.

“I got a little bit high,” Sherrod said of his posture while setting up to block. “I just have to adjust off it. First play of the game, you’re ready to go. But I have to just move on and go on to the next play.”

The Packers got a break when a penalty moved the ball out to the 12, allowing Tolzien a little bit more room. But on Tolzien’s second pass attempt, Adams completely whiffed on undrafted end Ethan Westbrooks and allowed Tolzien to get drilled in the chest just after he completed a 13-yard completion to Alex Gillett.

Finally, on third and 8 at the 27, Tolzien went across the middle to receiver Myles White and got drilled again by Sims, who beat Sherrod around the corner again. The pass wasn’t affected, but Tolzien paid a heavy price for standing in the pocket and trying to throw down the field.

Sherrod admitted that playing on turf again might be something he needed to get used to, same as with getting used to playing with a silent count in a loud environment. It’s something the Packers have worked on a lot during training camp and will face in the opener against Seattle.

“Every field is a little bit different, going from grass to turf,” Sherrod said. “That’s why you have to get adjusted to it first and go from there, make sure your cleats are right and you’re processing your run-blocking right.”

Sherrod settled down and didn’t allow any jail breaks after the first half. He moved from left tackle to right tackle in the second half and was on the field when Tolzien moved the ball down the field on the team’s second possession.

Adams, who had caught some people’s eyes with a strong performance in Week 1, suffered the same kind of letdown as Sherrod. He appeared to be out of sorts when he allowed Westbrooks to hit Tolzien on his first series and to beat him around the corner for a sack on his second series.

“I guess in my head I felt I needed to speed it up and got out of my own technique,” said Adams, who started out at right tackle and moved to left tackle in the second half. “It happens. I think the second half, I calmed myself down and did better.

“It’s one of those ones you want back.”

If there’s any comfort for McCarthy it’s that the offense put together a couple of nice series in the second half, including a three-play, 43-yard scoring drive that ended in receiver Jeff Janis’ 34-yard touchdown reception. However, those series did not come against St. Louis’ best defenders, which would have been the case had this been a regular-season game.

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