It's time for the seventh annual "Best & Worst Case Scenario" series, a feature that goes back to the days of the old RailbirdCentral.com domain.
I attempt to take a look at what is the very best possible season a player is capable of producing, and on the other hand, what would happen if a player fell flat on his face (without assuming they suffer a season-ending injury). These are intended to be extreme scenarios on both sides of the spectrum. More than likely, each player is going to fall somewhere in the middle, but every now and then, they just so happen to come to fruition.
As one final note, I also try to take a look at what these scenarios would be from an individual standpoint and not necessarily what's best (or worst) for the team.
Best-case scenario: The decision to move Bulaga to the left side of the offensive line pays off when he makes a seamless transition. Not only does he look like a natural at left tackle, he has his best season to date by staying healthy and becoming a cornerstone on the line for years to come. Thanks in large part to Bulaga, the Packers running game takes off and the sacks absorbed by Aaron Rodgers decrease by a considerable amount.
Worst-case scenario: It's not as if moving Bulaga to left tackle is a complete bust, but he was better off at right tackle. Bulaga just doesn't have the foot speed to handle the NFL's elite rushers off the edge, and the Packers' pass protection gets stuck in neutral. While Bulaga gets slightly better push than Marshall Newhouse ever did at left tackle, there's really not a whole lot differentiating their pass blocking. Bulaga was probably better than a top 10 right tackle in the NFL, but he's outside the top 10 at left tackle.
Best-case scenario: Newhouse holds off any and all competitors for the starting right tackle job in Green Bay, and the patience in his development starts to pay off. He's not Bryan Bulaga, but Newhouse ends up having the best season of his career thus far. He gives up fewer pressures, hits and sacks than any other point in his career, and while his run blocking still leaves a lot to be desired, it's an improvement over previous years. He continues to maintain a clean bill of health, which is a big reason for the uptick in his play.
Worst-case scenario: Newhouse is perhaps the biggest surprise cut of training camp. When Don Barclay proves he's the best option at right tackle, Derek Sherrod gets healthy and David Bakhtiati proves he can hold his own as a rookie, Newhouse becomes expendable. It's not as if Newhouse is any worse than he was the past two seasons, but he just doesn't show any improvement. He gets a shot with another NFL team.
Best-case scenario: Barclay is not denied a spot in the starting lineup. Forget about the experiment at center, because Barclay shows he's better off at tackle anyway. He doesn't just pick up where he left off late last season when he was the Packers starter at right tackle for the stretch run, he take it up a notch and the whole offensive line improves as a result. Barclay helps the Green Bay ground game become a factor in 2013 and while he takes a few lumps in pass protection, at least the Packers give up fewer sacks than last season.
Worst-case scenario: It's no fault of Barclay's, but the Packers coaching staff would rather see him on the interior of the offensive line, backing up all three positions at guard and center. The team feels as if they're in good hands at tackle with some combination of Newhouse, Sherrod and Bakhtiari, so Barclay simply isn't needed, unless it's an emergency. He's still on the 53-man roster and he's still a top backup, he's just not a starter.
Best-case scenario: It doesn't happen immediately, but before the end of the season, Bakhtiari is the Packers' starting right tackle. It really doesn't come as a surprise, either. All he does during training camp is improve and take people by surprise. By the time the Packers break camp, Bakhtiari the top backup at both right and left tackle. Eventually, he gets an opportunity and doesn't look back.
Worst-case scenario: Bakhtiari's rookie season is reminiscent of Newhouse's back in 2010. The Packers want to develop him and don't want to risk losing him, so they keep him on the team's 53-man roster all season long. However, he rarely––if ever––is active on gameday. It's a good learning experience for Bakhtiari, but the jury is still out whether he ever be a starting-caliber lineman in the NFL.
Best-case scenario: Slowly but surely, Sherrod puts the horrific broken leg behind him, and he gains confidence as the season goes on. Before training camp is over, he comes off the PUP list, although the Packers bring him back slowly. The team doesn't have enough confidence to insert Sherrod in the starting lineup, but they feel good enough to carry him on the 53-man roster. By midseason, he's fully healed and there's reason to believe Sherrod will eventually develop into the player they hoped when they drafted him.
Worst-case scenario: At the 11th hour, the Packers decide they can wait no longer on Sherrod and are forced to cut him. The option exists to allow him to remain on the PUP list at the season's outset, but the training staff doesn't see enough progress to justify keeping him around. It's an unfortunate end for a player who once had a promising future, but the injury was just was just too much too overcome.
Best-case scenario: For the second year in a row, Datko is asked to be on the Packers practice squad. There's reason to be encouraged about his development over the course of the last year, but there's just too many other players on the depth chart ahead of him for the time being. Among his best assets is his versatility to play both guard and tackle, and talented acquired in just the past few months.
Worst-case scenario: The writing was on the wall when the Packers started experimenting with Datko at guard. He wasn't nimble to hold the edge at the tackle position, and his lack of strength was exposed at guard. Datko is cut when the coaching staff decides they're better off developing some of the other young talent on the team.
Best-case scenario: Hughes puts his recent bout with headaches behind him to make a valiant effort at making the Packers' roster. He hangs strong until the final cutdown date at the end of training camp, but ultimately comes up short.
Worst-case scenario: The reasons Hughes went undrafted become apparent during the preseason. He doesn't perform well in a game environment and is released on the Aug. 27 cutdown date to 75 players.
Previous Best & Worst Case Scenario Entries
Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor of Cheesehead TV's "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email [email protected].
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