FOX Sports Wisconsin’s Paul Imig gives an in-depth statistical analysis and film study of every Packers player in his annual offseason checkup. Check every weekday through mid-April for his latest report.
Bryan Bulaga, left tackle
Season stats: 0 games (suffered torn ACL during Family Night scrimmage)
Looking live: Before the start of training camp in July, the "25 Most Important Packers in 2013" series ranked the players who were, well, most important to the team’s success that season. Bryan Bulaga was No. 3 on that list. No, he wasn’t Green Bay’s third-best player, but he was the key name of a major offseason shift on the offensive line. Coach Mike McCarthy had decided, in an effort to get the team’s two best offensive linemen on the left side, to move Bulaga from his spot at right tackle (along with Josh Sitton moving from right guard to left guard). Remember, this was an offensive line that in 2012 was under fire for allowing Aaron Rodgers to get sacked more than any quarterback in the NFL. It was going to be up to Bulaga to protect Rodgers’ blind side and keep the franchise QB (who had just signed his $100 million-plus extension) healthy. Bulaga never got a chance to show how he would have done in that role.
Upon further review: It was the seventh play of the Packers’ Family Night scrimmage when the thing that general manager Ted Thompson fears most with his football team happened: a key player was seriously injured in a practice-type environment. Bulaga didn’t think it was a major injury at first, but he had torn his ACL. After the diagnosis, Bulaga held out hope for a couple days to see if it might be possible to play through it, but the smart decision was made to have him undergo surgery and miss the entire 2013 season. That opened the door for fourth-round pick David Bakhtiari to get a starting job sooner than what Green Bay was anticipating. Combined with the seven games that Bulaga missed at the end of the 2012 season with a hip injury, he’s sat out the past 23 games (26 with playoffs included). Still, not turning 25 years old until March 2014, Bulaga is plenty young — and plenty talented — to have a very good NFL career if this can be his last significant injury.
Status for 2014: Seventy-five percent chance of being one of the Packers’ starting offensive tackles in the 2014 season. If there is a positive aspect to Bulaga tearing his ACL, it’s that it happened when it did: in training camp. It also gave Bakhtiari a chance to show what he could do, which, all things considered, was a positive development for the future of Green Bay’s offensive line. Bulaga will be nearly a full year removed from the injury when the Packers begin training camp in late July 2014. That means it’s highly likely that he’ll be completely ready to go. Don Barclay likely slides to the bench, and Derek Sherrod (now finally healthy) shouldn’t be forgotten about, but the bigger question with Bulaga isn’t if he starts, it’s where he starts. The most logical outcome would be keeping Bakhtiari at left tackle and letting Bulaga settle back into the right tackle job where he’s started 33 games in his NFL career.