During the past two years, the Packers’ offensive line has gained a reputation for not being the strongest around. Their two 2009 games against the Vikings – where they allowed a total of fourteen sacks – being a common example that detractors point to. The team is apparently of the same mind, spending their last two first round draft picks on offensive linemen.
It’s important to remember that, despite a unit’s bad reputation, it is possible for a member of the group to shine. There has been a man for the Packers who has dominated defenders in both the pass game and the run. Right guard, Josh Sitton.
Just how good is Sitton? Including the playoffs, he earned our top rating among all right guards in both run and pass blocking. He has played in 38 straight games (including playoffs) without missing a snap. His combination of consistency and excellence makes him one of the most valuable members of the Packers’ offense despite rarely drawing attention.
He was a fourth round selection of the Packers in 2008 from Central Florida. Injuries to the Green Bay offensive tackles led to players switching positions and allowed Sitton two starts in his rookie year where he found success as a run blocker. Prior to the 2009 season, there was competition in the middle of the line between Daryn Colledge, Scott Wells, Sitton and Jason Spitz. Wells lost out, but an injury to Chad Clifton followed by one for Spitz got Wells his job back. Colledge, Wells and Sitton have held the three interior spots ever since.
In 2009, Sitton asserted himself as one of the better right guards in the league. A guard’s primary job is to run block, which Sitton was well above average at. His +6.0 rating while blocking for the run was 11th best for all right guards. His +10.2 rating in pass blocking was even more impressive, finishing just a tenth of a rating point behind the leader among right guards, Stephen Neal. Coming into the 2010 season, Sitton had secured his position after just one year as the Packers’ starter.
What makes him so good?
The biggest improvement in Sitton’s play in 2010 was in the run game. Compared to the other elite right guards, he was marked for a similar number of negatively-graded plays, but what made him stand out was the number of positive plays he was credited with. We awarded Sitton a positive rating on over 16% of the run plays he was in for. This was significantly better than most others.
The only right guard close to Sitton in positive run blocking plays was Chilo Rachal, who also had a smaller percentage of negatives. Where Sitton has an edge over Rachal and many other right guards is with his pass blocking. There, he was again among the best in the league. Sitton allowed pressure on just 2.7% of snaps he was in on, with only one of his pressures allowed being a sack. Rachal, on the other hand, allowed pressure on 4.3% of his pass plays, including five sacks.
Best When it Matters Most
The Packers won the Super Bowl by ending the season on a six game winning streak. One of Sitton’s best games of the year came at the start of the win streak against the Giants. On four different plays Sitton got the best of Barry Cofield blocking him to the outside, and on another two he successfully handled Rocky Bernard to the inside. He didn’t allow any pressure in this game either which helped lead to a great offensive performance for Green Bay.
In the Wild Card round, he was consistently up against Mike Patterson who is typically a solid run stopper, but Sitton factored into Patterson’s worst run D rating of the year at -1.8. The following week against the Falcons he was up and down in blocking the run but again allowed no pressure. Against the Bears, Sitton consistently got the best of the Chicago defensive tackle rotation as well as their outside linebackers when he hit their level.
Finally, in the Super Bowl, Sitton again provided solid run blocking play and over half the Packers’ rushing yards came from running ether directly to his left or right. He was frequently lined up against defensive end Ziggy Hood who ended with his worst run defense rating of the year. Prior to the Super Bowl, Sitton had gone 20 games without allowing a sack, but he did give one up in the title game.
In a week and a half, Sitton will only be turning 25 and looks poised for a long successful stay in the NFL. The Packers traditionally sign their top young players to extensions, so we should expect him to remain in Green Bay for a long time. While the Packers have some proven stars in the skill positions like Aaron Rodgers, Greg Jennings and Jermichael Finley, their other young offensive linemen are less proven – Bryan Bulaga didn’t play that well in his rookie year, and recent addition Derek Sherrod, obviously, has yet to step on the field.
The sky is the limit for Sitton. The offense has the potential to remain very good for a number of years, and if he can gain some recognition and reach a Pro Bowl, it’s likely he will be the kind of player to return year after year.
Follow Nathan on Twitter: @PFF_NateJahnke