Packers’ backup offensive tackles must improve their pass blocking The preseason has given Green Bay Packers fans a lot to talk about. There’s the wide receiver depth chart www.packerscheapshoponline.com , the backup quarterback spot, the pecking order of the cornerbacks, the badly needed emergence of Oren Burks and Reggie Gilbert, Mike Pettine’s scheme on defense, the addition of Mo Wilkerson to an already stacked defensive line, and even the performance of rookie punter JK Scott. But one group that doesn’t get mentioned much is the offensive line.Typically, that’s a sign that everything’s OK with the big hogs up front.So far in this preseason, however, the poor play of backup tackles needs to be added to the discussion list as its becoming increasingly apparent that the current substitutes do not appear up to the task.Let’s get the obvious out of the way; the backup offensive linemen are backups for a reason.The expectation is that they are inferior to their starting counterparts, and as such need to work on their craft in order to progress as a player.Additionally, continuity along the offensive line allows everyone to be on the same page with blocking schemes on any given play, and with the rotational style of preseason, that isn’t going to happen. With those caveats in mind, the backup offensive tackles have not been playing up to expectation at even a replacement so far this preseason, especially while protecting the quarterback.Let’s take a look at some pass protection issues.Byron BellBell has started 74 games in his career but hasn’t had much success with any team.With Green Bay, he looks lost more often than he should.Brought in as a veteran swing tackle who also has experience at guard, Bell seemed like a savvy pickup to possibly spot-start for the questionable Brian Bulaga.For the sake of the Green Bay offense, let’s hope he doesn’t have to see the field much this year.Bell, seemingly an imposing physical specimen standing at 6’5” and weighing 320 lbs, doesn’t play with much strength.At his pro day, he managed only 20 reps on the bench press, and it shows in his punch.In pass protection, rather than forcefully striking his defender, Bell often seems to simply lay a hand on them and absorb the contact.That’s not necessarily a bad strategy; if you’re able to move your feet fast enough to handle the edge rush or have enough strength to absorb a bull rush, there’s hope.If you don’t use the traditional punch (any variation of inside, outside, or both hands), you use your patience and go with the outside hands once the defense has made their move.Bell also hasn’t been able to do that, at all.He forgets to keep moving his feet when he goes in for the punch, and when he doesn’t punch, he jumps the gun on the outside hands block. For the uninitiated: the ‘punch’ technique is just as it sounds — a pass blocking technique that everyone is taught when they first learn the game, where the objective is for the offensive lineman to get his hands on the defender first and dictate their path of travel with an open handed punch.It works well to throw the defender of their planned route of attack giving the blocker more time to get their feet in good position, and you can do it out of any type of pass set.It’s prone to upper body over extension and counter attack by smarter defenders, but its a good basic setup.The ‘outside hands’ technique is a fairly new coaching technique where offensive linemen hold their hands back and out of the way of the defender until the defender puts his hands into the blocker, who then gets his hands on the outside of the defender’s hands and grabs on.Here Bell is failing at a punch, and without the necessary foot speed to make up the difference.For comparison’s sake Green Bay Packers T-Shirt , go back and watch the opposite tackle on each clip and spot the differences.Here, Bell is using the outside hands move.His hands are placed well but he hesitated with his drop steps and can’t keep up with the speed rush.Having good upper body strength can help mitigate this lack of foot speed as with the outside hands technique you’re essentially holding your defender in place, but Bell hasn’t showcased the strength to do that either.You probably noticed that these clips are from the Tennessee game; I will admit that Bell did play marginally better against Pittsburgh, but he was also quickly shuffled inside after one series as Justin McCray went out with an ankle injury.Bell seems better suited to take up space in the middle, where he doesn’t have to deal with speed rushers on the edge. At the very least, he will need a tight end or running back to chip/double team any competent pass rusher.Kyle Murphy Bell hasn’t been the only tackle playing poorly.Murphy has looked better than Bell at times, but still doesn’t have the foot speed to make up for any mistakes in hand placement, or for that matter, the foot speed to simply stay in front of his guy no matter his hand work.Time and time again, Murphy simply gets beat around the edge.He held up OK against power moves, as he was able to sink his base and reset his feet, but he just didn’t move well horizontally.While the next clip is a pretty good move by Harold Landry (<3 you Harold), Murphy doesn’t get deep enough in his pass set as his upper body stays horizontal to the line of scrimmage.In order to keep your shoulders square while dropping deep enough in your pass set, the kick steps have to be exaggerated a bit, and Murphy doesn’t do it.Thank goodness both backup quarterbacks can run, because so far this preseason they’ve been running for their lives with Bell and Murphy are in.Notice a certain backup tackle who wasn’t mentioned above, someone who has drawn the ire of Packers fans?You guessed it: Jason Spriggs.Despite not starting in game one of the preseason as expected, Spriggs has played better than he’s shown in the past and — this is pure speculation here — he seems to be bigger and stronger.I’m looking forward to continued progress from Spriggs, as one of the backups will need to step up this season and Byron Bell and Kyle Murphy have some work to do. Two first-year head coaches will be on the sidelines when the Detroit Lions meet the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, and both have had a rough season."Yeah, your first year you're going to have struggles," Detroit defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois said. "If you don't, you lucked up."Most of the luck for these teams has been bad.Matt Patricia's Lions (4-8) have lost five out of six. Steve Wilks' Cardinals (3-9), though, are coming off the best performance of what's been a miserable season, a surprising 20-17 victory over the Packers in Green Bay.But the Cardinals have been decimated by injuries. When left tackle D.J. Humphries and wide receiver Christian Kirk went down this week, that left 14 Arizona players on injured reserve, six of them offensive linemen."We've got guys who weren't on the team a week ago that are out there starting and playing," said receiver Larry Fitzgerald, in his 15th season with the Cardinals. "We're not making excuses. We're paid to do a job. Whoever is lined up, doesn't matter where they're from, what their number is, whoever those 11 are on the field, we're going to do our best."The Lions, who also don't have a lot to play for as far as the standings go, echoed that theme."It's all about confidence Green Bay Packers Hats ," defensive tackle Damon "Snacks" Harrison said. "If a guy can gain some confidence from some wins, it's hard to gain confidence when you're losing. Just stay in it and be able to go into the offseason on a good note."Detroit is 0-3 against the NFC West this season and has lost eight in a row at Arizona. Here are some things to consider when the Cardinals host the Lions:WHO ARE THOSE GUYSOnly one player from the offensive line remains for Arizona, rookie center Mason Cole. And he became a starter only because A.Q. Shipley blew out his knee in preseason.Cole is one of three rookies who will start on the O-line for the Cardinals. The others are seventh-round draft pick Korey Cunningham at left tackle, and left guard Colby Gossett, an undrafted free agent who made his NFL debut against the Packers. Oday Aboushi, signed on Oct. 23, is the right guard. Will Holden, who was with the Cardinals a year ago but released in training camp, re-signed last week and will start at right tackle."We can't worry about what we don't have this time of the year," Wilks said. "We've just got to go out and execute."NO KERRYONDetroit's rookie running back Kerryon Johnson showed what he is capable of before he hurt his knee last month in a win over Carolina. He averaged 5.4 yards per carry, totaling 641 yards with three scores and caught 32 passes for 213 yards and a touchdown. Johnson didn't practice all week, though, and was ruled out for the game on Friday.It's his third straight missed game.JOHNSON & EDMONDSDavid Johnson, like most of the Arizona offense, isn't having a great year, but his understudy, rookie Chase Edmonds, had something of a breakout game against the Packers.Edmonds, a fourth-round pick out of Fordham, gained 53 yards on just five carries, including touchdown runs of 6 and 8 yards. Johnson was productive, too, with 69 yards, but needed 20 carries. Overall, the Cardinals rushed for a season-best 182 yards.Patricia expects to see both backs in the game at times."They have a lot of good players, a lot of skill players that can step in, and they've shown other packages like when the two backs are out there," he said.STAFFORD'S STRUGGLESTurnovers late in the game plagued Matthew Stafford in Detroit's last two losses, to Chicago and the Los Angeles Rams, both at home. He threw two interceptions against the Bears and fumbled away the ball against the Rams.But his struggles aren't solely his fault as his receiving corps has been hit hard by injuries.Stafford has a fierce defender in Patricia."Let's not lose the fact that I don't think anyone's out there trying not to win," Patricia said. "I think everybody's out there really trying to work really hard to go help this team win, and he's certainly at the top of that category."ONE MOREFitzgerald needs one catch to pass Jerry Rice for most receptions for one team in NFL history.He only had three catches last week, but one was a sliding grab of a 32-yard pass from Josh Rosen on a third-and-23 play. Arizona went on to kick the winning field goal.AP Sports Writer Larry Lage contributed to this report.
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