Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) reacts after throwing
an interception during the second half of an NFL football game
against the Buffalo Bills Sunday, Dec. 14, 2014, in Orchard
The Green Bay Packers
keep absorbing the hits on the offensive line.
But as far as the
linemen are concerned, better that they take the blows than
quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Front fives don't
usually draw much attention. The Packers' highlight reel is typically
filled with pinpoint passes from Rodgers to receivers Jordy Nelson and
Randall Cobb, and pinball runs by Eddie Lacy.
But it's difficult to
overlook how the Packers' front has performed this season, especially
with injuries nagging the line.
"The five that
play together practice together each and every week give you the
chance to be the most cohesive group," coach Mike McCarthy said.
He pointed to a combination of talent, ability and continuity on the
practice field as keys to success.
They haven't all been
full participants at practice, though, for about six weeks.
T.J. Lang is playing
with an ankle injury, while fellow guard Josh Sitton has a left toe
injury. They've either missed practice, or been limited at times since
each player got hurt in the 44-23 loss on Oct. 26 at New Orleans.
Right tackle Bryan
Bulaga left last week's 21-13 loss at Buffalo with a concussion. He
did not take part in practice Thursday, though he was at least at the
practice facility — usually a positive sign that things are going
this Sept. 4, 2014, file photo, Green Bay Packers guard T.J.
Lang (70), center Corey Linsley, left, and guard Josh Sitton
take the field before an NFL football game against the Seattle
Seahawks in Seattle. The Packers can't be prolific with
quarterback Aaron Rodgers on the ground. The offensive line has
been keeping Rodgers clean and upright lately.
(trainers) let him out of the building and go down to the Hutson
Center, that's a good thing," McCarthy said.
The injuries started
in the preseason, when swing tackle Don Barclay, who would have likely
been the first lineman off the bench, had a season-ending knee injury.
J.C. Tretter was
slated to start at center after last year's starter, Evan
Dietrich-Smith, signed with Tampa Bay as a free agent. But Tretter
injured an ankle two weeks before the season started, forcing rookie
Corey Linsley into the starting lineup.
It turned out not to
be a concern.
The Packers have
allowed 28 sacks in 14 games, which ranks 13th. But there have been
just seven sacks in the six games since the loss to the Saints in late
Similarly, after a
sluggish start, the running game has picked up.
Green Bay ran for 179
yards on 30 carries two weeks ago against Atlanta, and 158 on 24
carries last week against Buffalo. They are the two highest rushing
totals of the season.
cohesiveness just in the run blocking improves. The course, the
footwork and course of the backs, it's better, they're playing a
little faster," McCarthy said. "All those things — I just
think when teams have a chance to continue to work each and every day
together, you improve."
The fifth member of
the starting unit is second-year left tackle David Bakhtiari, who has
improved as the season has worn on.
definitely everything," Lacy said about the running game.
"It's about the way (defenders) angle to the blocks, where the
defense flows, and there (are) a lot of different factors."
That includes the
five beefy Packers on the offensive line.
NOTES: Lacy was
limited in practice for a second straight day with eye irritation,
which McCarthy said wasn't related to football. Lacy said the eye
started bothering him this week after taking out a contact lens. Lacy
said he plans to wear contacts again on Sunday, but would rather not
have to wear goggles. ... Cobb, in the last year of his contract, said
he doesn't know of any talks about an extension, that he was focused
on helping the Packers secure a playoff spot. Cobb is having a career
year with 76 catches for 1,076 yards and 10 touchdowns.