Packers’ White Wall keeping Rodgers’ upright : Packers Insider

Packers’ White Wall keeping Rodgers’ upright

November 10, 2010 by  
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Nov 10, 2010 ~ by Lori Nickel, Journal-Sentinel

~Green Bay — A year ago about this time, the Green Bay Packers were heading for the wrong kind of team record. You could tell the kind of game quarterback Aaron Rodgers had just by looking at his unraveling, turf-stained jersey.

In the first eight games of 2009, Rodgers had been sacked 37 times, an average of about 4½ a game. It seemed like Rodgers was lassoed once every dozen or so plays.

Green Bay got better in the second half of last season, but still, Rodgers was sacked 50 times, more than any other quarterback in the NFL.

Although still not great, the White Wall has done a better job keeping Rodgers upright than last year. Sitton, Wells, Colledge, Clifton, and Tauscher and Bulaga have done okay, other than Bulaga in the Washington and Miami losses.

And then he was dropped five times in the playoff loss at Arizona.

That’s 55 times Green Bay’s offense couldn’t get off a play with Rodgers at the controls. Green Bay still set a franchise record for scoring, and it improved enough in protection to avoid breaking the record of 62 sacks allowed in 1990.

But there was no question the Packers – Rodgers, the offensive line, the coaches – wanted to improve this year.

And they have.

Through nine games, Rodgers has been sacked 17 times, an average of less than two a game. It’s still a bit high – there are only nine quarterbacks who have been sacked as many or more times than Rodgers, with Chicago’s Jay Cutler leading the league at 28. But the Packers have played one more game than other teams.

And the decline in sacks is obvious this year.

Rodgers seems to be getting rid of the ball in a pinch. Against Dallas on Sunday, he bolted upfield if a hole appeared in the Cowboys’ man-to-man coverage. He also hasn’t been holding onto the ball too long, forcing his line to fend off the defense longer than reasonable.

“My movement and the line’s pass protection was very good, hand in hand,” Rodgers said.

Aside from what Rodgers is doing, it is clear the offensive line has improved.

“We’ve been doing a much, much better job protecting the quarterback,” offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said.

Rodgers has said this is the best play he’s ever seen from left tackle Chad Clifton. And from left tackle to right, there have been excellent contributions all along the offensive line.

“I think we learned a lot from last year,” said center Scott Wells. “Communication has improved across the board. There’s a better understanding of the offense.

“Chad’s having a good year. I’m seeing a lot of things downfield out of him that he’s shown. Pushing the pile.”

Coach Mike McCarthy said a healthy Clifton has made all the difference.

“Last year, I think coming off of the four surgeries the year before kind of held him back a little bit,” said McCarthy. “It will be good to get back in pads when we come off of the bye because I think the linemen definitely need it. We need him to stay this course.”

Left guard Daryn Colledge played well Sunday despite a sore back that limited him in practice leading up to the game. But he gutted it out in the 45-7 victory.

“Shows a lot about him and his character,” said Wells. “Anytime you put up that many points, I would think that he did a good job.”

Wells and right guard Josh Sitton have been stalwarts in the middle. In fact, by midseason, the Packers had improved drastically in allowing just 74 “pressures” (sacks, knockdowns and hurries). They had allowed 115 at the midway point last year. In calculating those numbers, the most efficient pass protector so far has been Sitton.

And first-round draft pick Bryan Bulaga, who was used to playing on the left side, has been adjusting to right tackle in place of injured Mark Tauscher.

“Normally when there’s sacks there’s a breakdown of fundamentals,” said Bulaga. “I think we’re just playing better, fundamental football, and when you do that, good things happen. If you keep Aaron clean, you make lots of plays.

“I made some mistakes last week that I didn’t make this week. Just run-blocking, it was better. My overall set was better in pass rush. If you’re nit-picky like I am, you notice that kind of stuff.”

Full story HERE

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