If the season goes as hoped for the Green Bay Packers, first round pick Bryan Bulaga won't see much time at left tackle. The Packers feature former Pro Bowler Chad Clifton on the left side and certainly don't want to have to trust Aaron Rodgers' blindside protection with a rookie.
However, with Clifton, Rodgers and the rest of Green Bay's starters comfortably on the sideline, Bulaga has been impressive working againt Seattle's starting defense throughout the second quarter of the team's preseason game tonight.
Bulaga, playing left tackle matched up against Seattle's best pass rusher -- DE Chris Clemons -- throughout much of the second quarter. While Clemons has occasionally challenged Bulaga with a speed rush, the former Iowa Hawkeye has done a nice job protecting backup quarterback Matt Flynn and providing big running lanes.
Bulaga has the footwork necessary to remain at left tackle, though he isn't an elite athlete. He's shown good upper body strength, routinely latching onto Clemons and controlling him. Bulaga's anchor has also been impressive. Clemons was flagged late in the second quarter for getting his hands too high into Bulaga's facemask, but the No. 23 overall pick of the 2010 draft held his ground surprisingly well. He's also done a nice job in the running game, popping Clemons quickly and turning him either inside to set the edge or outside to open up a clear gap for the Packers' backup runners.
Beginning in the third quarter, Bulaga was moved inside to left guard. While his play there has been solid, his inexperience at the position was obvious. Quinn Pitcock, a backup defensive tackle struggling to earn a roster spot, beat him off the snap on a few occasions with a quick burst early on. There were also times when his initial punch was too high, giving the Seattle DTs an opportunity to rush the passer after being stopped initially. As the third quarter went on, however, Bulaga seemed to gain confidence inside. Again, the power that was evident against Clemons when playing left tackle proved helpful at left guard. Bulaga was consistently able to land the initial pop to the defender and generate running lanes.
Currently listed as the backup left tackle and left guard for the Packers, Bulaga is likely to see plenty of playing time as a rookie.
If tonight's performance was any indication, Bulaga appears capable of helping immediately and like a potential future standout at whatever position the Packers most need help along the left side.