Offensive line woes at heart of Pack's problems
Green Bay having trouble replacing two crucial free-agent losses Thursday, October 6, 2005

Green Bay having trouble replacing two crucial free-agent losses

By Troy Aikman

Updated: 9:06 p.m. ET Oct. 5, 2005
Among the transactions on most fans' radar last offseason, the departures of free-agent guards Mike Wahle and Marco Rivera probably didn't make much of a blip anywhere but Green Bay. While the trade of Randy Moss to Oakland stirred up all kinds of noise, the moves of Wahle to Carolina and Rivera to Dallas were made in relative quiet.

And yet the effect of their absence on the Packers has been profound.

For the better part of four years, Wahle and Rivera were stalwarts on a Packers line that was among the best in the league. Chad Clifton, Wahle, Mike Flanagan, Rivera, Mark Tauscher from left to right across the line protected Brett Favre and opened holes for Ahman Green.

When linemen play together that long, they develop a chemistry that's hard to replicate. They think as one and communicate in a language of their own, barking out assignments and passing off defenders in an attempt to deal with all the twists, stunts and blitzes they face. That communication becomes non-verbal after the snap, and players develop a feel for when one guy can secure a double-team while the other moves to the next level to block a linebacker.

There's just something about the nature of an offensive line that makes it unique on a football team. These guys are constantly together, on the field and off. The offensive line on any team I've ever been around has been incredibly tight. And more than any other unit, the O-line sets the tempo for a team. If it is confident and energetic and effective, it creates an energy and everybody else feeds off of it.

The Packers had that for several years, and the benefits were evident on the field. But now, with two-fifths of the line gone, they're struggling. Favre is feeling more pressure, and Green is finding fewer holes.

Neither of the new guards, Adrian Klemm nor rookie Will Whitticker, is as gifted as the man he replaced, but the problems aren't just their fault. Clifton, Flanagan and Tauscher haven't played up to their normal standards, either. And you can't talk about Green Bay's offensive woes without mentioning the loss of wide receiver Javon Walker.

The Packers were fortunate to enjoy years of continuity up front. Now a new group is trying to mesh, and the Packers are feeling the sting of inconsistent line play something few folks were thinking about when Wahle and Rivera left town.

2005 The Sporting News

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