Last week, the big debate amongst fans of the Green Bay Packers centered around the team’s left tackle position.
Some felt veteran Chad Clifton needed to give way to rookie Bryan Bulaga, using age and/or injuries as the main reason for their beliefs. On that one, I firmly backed Clifton.
With that said, the following statement may come as some surprise: Right tackle Mark Tauscher needs to be benched.
Outside of a strong performance against Buffalo in week two – who didn’t have a strong showing in that one, though? – Tauscher has spent much of the 2010 season being either pushed around or, worse, flat-out spooked out by opposing pass rushers. The Packers can no longer afford to send him out there in the hopes he can regain his old form.
In turning in two very bad performances, Tauscher has shown that the game has simply passed him by, struggling in both the physical and mental aspects.
In week one, it was the physical. Philadelphia’s ends/outside linebackers simply pushed Tauscher around for much of the contest – that is, when they weren’t flying past him. That could be forgiven at the time, though, because of the Eagles’ elite front-seven talent. And, hey, everyone has a bad day, right?
After the performance against the Bills, as bad as they are, you hoped Tauscher had gotten back on track. Then came Monday night.
As bad as Tauscher was, physically, in his matchups with Chicago defensive ends Julius Peppers and Israel Idonije, he was even worse in the mental areas. It became very clear, even before the penalties reigned down on Tauscher in the second half - three in all, two false starts and a holding – that Tauscher was mentally overwhelmed by the matchups. The reasons behind that are anyone’s guess, but go back and look at his facial expressions/body language throughout the night. He just didn’t look like the Tauscher we’ve come to know.
You remember the old Tauscher, right? The gamer, the battler, the man who held Seattle’s Patrick Kearney to zero defensive stats in the 2008 divisional playoff win (the most impressive right tackle performance I’ve ever seen). That Tauscher is gone and maybe we shouldn’t be surprised. He was never the most physically-gifted tackle, but he always had enough to make him a good player when you threw in his knowledge of the game/mental toughness. But now it appears his already-limited physical skills have left him completely, and they’ve taken his mental strength with them.
It’s time to turn the page there and give either Bulaga or second-year man T.J. Lang a go. Bulaga has already practiced at the position more than once this season, so he should get the first shot. He’s got the youth, strength and disposition (i.e., nasty, as does Lang). The team’s putrid running game should also see a boost from his insertion into the starting lineup (even though Mike McCarthy really doesn’t want to run the football).
I know what you’re saying: Chris, why are you in favor of putting Bulaga in long-term at right tackle when you just said last week that he should not replace Clifton?
Well, there are a couple of reasons.
First, the right tackle position is less daunting on a rookie than is the left tackle spot. Right tackles face some good pass rushers, yes. And, as we saw Monday, teams will shift their best pass rusher to the side they feel is the weakest (as the Bears did when they moved Peppers to left end in the second half). But, more often than not, the right tackle draws a matchup that isn’t as intimidating, good for Bulaga as I still think he’ll struggle with pure speed rushers, at least for year one. It’s more a game of strength over there, something that should suit Bulaga just fine.
Secondly, I never thought the game passed Clifton by, proven by his overall strong showing Monday. With him, it was simply an injury issue. If healthy, I was – and still am – fairly certain Clifton has at least one more year in him. Tauscher, on the other hand, doesn’t appear to be injured, unless the team is hiding something from us. He just appears to be shot.
If that’s the case, it’s time to have Tauscher – a man Packers fans have all come to love – step aside. As a smart, crafty backup, Tauscher can still provide excellent value, both to his replacement and the team as a whole.