Packers Annual Checkup: Bryan Bulaga
Bryan Bulaga, right tackle
FOX Sports Wisconsin’s Paul Imig gives an in-depth statistical analysis and film study of every Packers player in his annual offseason checkup. You can find every report here.
Season stats (playoffs included): 17 starts (1,091 snaps; 89.7 percent of total offensive snaps); four sacks allowed, 23 quarterback hurries allowed, seven penalties
ProFootballFocus.com season rating: 12.7 (ranked No. 15 out of 79 among NFL offensive tackles this season, No. 3 among NFL right tackles; ranked No. 3 among Packers starting offensive linemen)
Best game: Week 15 loss at Buffalo (played 64 of 75 snaps); zero QB hurries allowed, zero sacks allowed, one penalty committed; 4.4 PFF rating
Worst game: Week 8 loss at New Orleans (played all 71 snaps); six QB hurries allowed, one sack allowed, zero penalties committed; minus-3.9 PFF rating
Expectations at the start of training camp: Medium
Expectations were … Exceeded
Looking live: During the 2013 offseason, Mike McCarthy identified Bryan Bulaga as the Packers’ best offensive tackle and decided to shift him to left tackle. That experiment didn’t last long, though, as Bulaga tore the ACL in his left knee during the Family Night scrimmage and was out for the season.
During Bulaga’s absence, then-rookie David Bakhtiari stepped up at left tackle and performed well enough for McCarthy to want to keep him there. So, when Bulaga was healthy again and reported to training camp in July 2014, the left tackle job stayed with Bakhtiari. Bulaga returned to right tackle, the spot that he manned for 33 starts between 2010 and 2012.
Bulaga was No. 17 on FOXSportsWisconsin.com’s pre-training camp "Most Important Packers in 2014" series. The reason for him not being higher on that list was because Bulaga had missed the previous 23 regular-season games, first with a hip injury to conclude 2012 and then the ACL tear in 2013. It left plenty of uncertainty as to how well Bulaga would perform and whether he could stay healthy the entire year.
Bulaga got off to a great start in training camp. With the team in pads for the first time during its July 28 practice, Bulaga showed no signs of rust. Bulaga was recognized in the "Movin’ On Up" category of the FOXSportsWisconsin.com Training Camp Report series by winning all three of his matchups in the one-on-one pass-blocking drills. He beat Julius Peppers twice and Clay Matthews once, so it was as tough of competition as Bulaga could have faced.
Upon further review: After taking 78 preseason snaps, Bulaga got off to a rough start to begin the 2014 regular season. He sprained his knee on the 20th play of Week 1 in Seattle, which led to Derek Sherrod getting the final 42 snaps in that game and playing very poorly. Bulaga then missed Week 2, as well. By the looks of how Bulaga went down, though, he was fortunate for the injury to only cost him one start.
Bulaga had consistently average performances over the next month of the season after getting back on the field in Week 3. He gave up two sacks in Miami in Week 6, which accounted for half of his season sacks-allowed total. Two weeks later, right before Green Bay’s bye, Bulaga struggled in New Orleans by allowing six quarterback hurries. He didn’t have another game all season allowing more than two quarterback hurries, so it was a significant deviation from the norm.
In the second half of the season, Bulaga was great. He gave up just one sack in the final 10 games (playoffs included) and fought off some great pass-rushers along the way. Matched up frequently against 10-sack defensive end pass-rusher Jerry Hughes in Buffalo, Bulaga was dominant. Bulaga also continued to run block well on his side of the line.
All things considered, this was the best season of Bulaga’s five-year career. He was a big piece of what made Green Bay’s offensive line the best it’s been in the era of McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers. Bulaga established himself as one of the NFL’s five best right tackles and, as he turns 26 years old this offseason, still has room to grow.
Overall 2014 grade: B-plus
Status for 2015: 75 percent chance of being with the Packers when the 2015 season begins. The career-best season came at a perfect time for Bulaga as he approaches unrestricted free agency. High-caliber right tackles don’t make nearly what their left tackle counterparts do, but Bulaga could command in the range of a $6 million per-season average. At the moment, the Packers don’t have a replacement ready to step in at right tackle if Bulaga isn’t re-signed. Derek Sherrod is gone, and JC Tretter needs more experience before being considered as a full-time starting right tackle. Don Barclay, a restricted free agent, is better suited as a swing lineman capable of performing in a variety of roles rather than as a starting right tackle. Green Bay could draft a right tackle this year, but that would be a much riskier proposition compared to bringing back Bulaga.
Next: Safety Morgan Burnett
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