Green Bay Packers beat writer Paul Imig will be analyzing the 25 most important players to the Packers’ success in the 2013 season. Check back each day to see the latest player on the list.
Note: This is not a list of the team’s 25 best players or a series about past success, but rather which of them means the most to how Green Bay will fare this year. Criteria such as depth at that player’s position, general expectations and overall importance of that player having a good season are all highly considered.
NO. 22 — MARSHALL NEWHOUSE, OFFENSIVE LINE
AGE / EXPERIENCE
24 (turns 25 in September) / Fourth NFL season
WHY HE’S NO. 22
Newhouse was part of a huge switch made this offseason by coach Mike McCarthy. After nearly two full seasons as the Packers’ starting left tackle, Newhouse will now compete to become the starter at right tackle in 2013.
Unlike the rest of the offensive line (including T.J. Lang moving to right guard, Josh Sitton heading to left guard and Bryan Bulaga’s jump to left tackle), Newhouse is the only one truly in a battle for a starting spot. Newhouse will have to beat out Don Barclay and rookie David Bakhtiari in order to continue his career in a starting role.
Newhouse has already been given the first opportunity to win that job. When Green Bay lined up its starters during OTA workouts and minicamp practices, Newhouse took the first few snaps alongside Bulaga, Sitton, Evan Dietrich-Smith and Lang. Soon after, Barclay stepped in and got a few reps with the starting lineup. Bakhtiari is a long shot, but as a fourth-round pick in April, he’ll get a chance, too.
Newhouse is ranked No. 22 on this list because starting right tackle is his job to lose. It’s also because the Packers’ offensive line has to greatly improve as a whole in 2013. Last season, Aaron Rodgers was sacked more than any quarterback in the NFL. It’s not as if Rodgers wasn’t already the most valuable piece of Green Bay’s hopes at another Super Bowl, but after becoming the highest-paid player in league history this offseason, the Packers can’t let him get hit that often again.
EXPECTATIONS FOR 2013
The expectation from the Packers is that Newhouse begins the 2013 season as the starting right tackle. Despite that expectation, it’s far from a lock that Newhouse is at that spot in Week 1. Newhouse has become a fairly well-rounded player who showed another step in his improvement over the final two regular-season games in 2012. He also played well in the wild-card win over the Minnesota Vikings but was not as good in the divisional-round loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
There will be a little less responsibility and pressure on Newhouse at right tackle in comparison to his time spent in recent years at left tackle. Now, if he gets beat around the edge, at least Rodgers’ blind side isn’t exposed.
Green Bay’s coaching staff will also expect that Newhouse hasn’t reached his potential yet. McCarthy has gotten quite a bit of production out of him, despite Newhouse being a relatively unheralded fifth-round pick in 2010. But, if Newhouse has maxed out his talent, the Packers will sooner or later go in a different direction at right tackle.
WHAT WOULD THEY DO WITHOUT HIM?
Newhouse’s biggest competition is from Barclay, a 2012 undrafted free agent signee. Barclay started four games as a rookie and showed just how good of a run-blocker he can be. With McCarthy promising that Green Bay’s running game will be better this season, Barclay is a better bet in making good on that promise than Newhouse.
However, though Newhouse has struggled in the running game, he’s a better option than Barclay in protecting Rodgers on passing downs. Those are the differences that McCarthy and his staff will ultimately have to choose between: To go with Barclay’s run-blocking ability or Newhouse’s more proven talent in preventing pass rush.
Behind Newhouse (and Barclay) is Bakhtiari. While Bakhtiari is a lock to make the 53-man roster, earning a starting job so early in his career is unlikely. The Packers also have 2012 seventh-round pick Andrew Datko, but he played a lot of guard during OTAs and minicamp.
Derek Sherrod remains the biggest question mark on the team. He could be cleared from the broken leg he suffered in the 2011 season and quickly beat out Newhouse and Barclay, but Sherrod is on Month 18 of recovery and has a lot of ground to make up.