Battered Packers offensive line braces for Redskins pass rush

BY foxsports • January 8, 2016

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The injured starting left tackle could be inching closer to a return.

The left guard has been bothered by a sore back but has been playing well enough to be an All-Pro selection again.

The tight ends could play bigger roles come Sunday.

The Green Bay Packers are bracing for the Washington Redskins' pass rush in a wild-card playoff game Sunday.

Washington has 17 sacks over the last four games. Green Bay's offensive line has been battered by injuries all season.

"They chase after the ball and punch the ball out. Everywhere, they're very solid across the board," left guard Josh Sitton said Friday.

Sitton was named to the AP All-Pro second team Friday, the third time in his career that he has been a first- or second-teamer.

He's best at guard, where coach Mike McCarthy intends to keep him against the Redskins on Sunday after getting the start at left tackle in the loss in the regular season finale last week to Minnesota.

David Bakhtiari, the usual starter at left tackle, was listed as questionable on the injury report Friday. A final determination on whether he is ready to return to protect quarterback Aaron Rodgers' blind side won't be made until after practice on Saturday.

Bakhtiari has missed two games with an ankle injury. Rodgers has been hit hard since then, having been sacked 13 times the last two games.

"Tomorrow, he's projected to do some work. I'll have a better answer tomorrow," McCarthy said. The Packers don't practice on Fridays.

Bakhtiari didn't offer much more insight.

"We'll see come game day," said Bakhtiari, who was limited for practice on Thursday after missing Wednesday.

Bakhtiari has been studying up on the Redskins regardless. The Packers haven't faced them since 2013, so film work is essential.

They'll see a pass rush led by linebacker Ryan Kerrigan, who has amassed three of his 9 1/2 sacks this season over the last four weeks.

"I think they've accumulated a couple sacks off the edge. But I'm confident in what we have in our tackles, and I'm confident in myself that we can do what we need to do win a football game and negate their pass rush," Bakhtiari said.

Rookie linebacker Preston Smith has also been impressive of late, with five sacks over the last three weeks. Tackle Chris Baker adds heft up front with six sacks this year.

"There's a defensive end in a linebacker's spot, a linebacker in a defensive end's spot," Packers right guard T.J. Lang said. "So I think the big key for us is to make sure we communicate and make sure we're clear and concise with our rules and who we're blocking."

Sacks have been one just one of the problems for the floundering Packers offense this year. Rodgers has been sacked 46 times, second most in the league behind Jacksonville's Blake Bortles.

Only Sitton has started all 16 games this year on the offensive line. Of all the position groups on a football field, offensive line is probably where continuity matters most.

"That's something, unfortunately, we haven't been able to do this year because of injuries," Sitton said. "But we've got a chance to get healthy for the playoffs and make a little run here."

It can only help that the Packers are getting healthier at tight end.

Veteran Andrew Quarless returned in Week 16 after missing 13 games with a knee injury. Justin Perillo returned this week to practice after missing time with a hamstring injury.

Richard Rodgers tied with James Jones for the team lead with eight receiving touchdowns.

Quarless and Rodgers started in a two-tight end formation last week, a lineup that the Packers haven't used much this year.

McCarthy said he the Packers were "definitely leaning that way as we game plan and the ability to run the ball and have the action game come off. I mean that's always part of our thinking."

NOTES: After Bakhtiari, the four remaining offensive line starters were listed as probable for Sunday's game. ... CB Sam Shields (concussion) is doubtful. ... CB Damarious Randall (groin) was probable after being added to the injury report on Thursday. McCarthy said he was just being cautious with Randall, a standout rookie.

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