It's time for the eighth 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: Bakhtiari builds off a promising rookie season by bulking up, getting stronger at the point of attack and learns from the mistakes he made in his first year in the NFL. He continues to do well in pass protection, guarding Aaron Rodgers' backside and helping the Packers decrease the number of sacks they gave up from a year ago. But Bakhtiari is also far better in the run game, helping to open up holes for Eddie Lacy. He's not quite at the Pro Bowl level yet, but in another year, he could be.
Worst-case scenario: Bakhtiari is what he is: an overachieving, undersized offensive tackle that gets by on effort. He does an adequate job in pass protection, but the Packers run game suffers because he really is a liability when trying to push bodies around. Eddie Lacy would be much better if the Packers could run to the left side of the field with more regularity, but as long as Bakhtiari is there, they avoid doing so. While Bakhtiari seems to be average, the Packers have to start thinking long and hard whether they want him to be the long-term left tackle.
Best-case scenario: For starters, Bulaga puts his fractured hip in 2012 and his torn ACL from 2013 behind him. He also settles in comfortably back at right tackle, where he's played the vast majority of his professional career. While injuries may have taken their toll, Bulaga also seems refreshed after not playing a regular season game for basically the past year and a half. He simply holds down the fort, and there's little worrying about his game. Whenever anyone talks about the best right tackles in the NFL, Bulaga's name starts popping up in the conversation.
Worst-case scenario: Bulaga can't seem to get back to his pre-injury form. Because of the fractured hip and torn ACL, he appears to have lost a step, and gets beat off the edge by a lot of opposing pass rushers, even the mediocre ones. Bulaga also can't anchor like he used to before the injuries occurred. He remains the Packers starter at right tackle by default, but because he's hitting free agency after the 2014 season, there's decreasing confidence that Bulaga will be with the club for 2015 and beyond.
Best-case scenario: Sherrod does his best Mike Flanagan impression, admirably coming back from a fractured leg suffered back in 2011. It took the better part of three seasons for Sherrod to recover, but he finally looks like the first round draft talent the Packers hoped he would be. Sherrod becomes the swing tackle, backing up both the left and right tackle spots on the field. He doesn't begin the season as a starter, but whenever he gets a chance, he seems to out-perform either Bakhtiari or Bulaga, eventually becoming a starter by season's end.
Worst-case scenario: Sherrod is not the same player he once was and never will be again. It's a shame, because it's more due to injury than shortcomings on Sherrod's behalf. The Packers give him a fair shot during training camp and preseason, wanting to see if he's capable of recapturing his college form. During the exhibition season, however, Sherrod looks downright bad. The Packers can't afford to put their quarterbacks at risk when Sherrod gets beat with regularity and ends up being released before camp even reaches its conclusion.
Best-case scenario: The ultimate pro, Barclay starts the season as essentially the Packers' sixth offensive lineman. He's the top backup at right tackle as well as both guard positions, but even if the center or left tackle gets hurt, the Packers somehow shuffle their lineup so it's Barclay being the first player off the bench. When Bulaga seems to struggle coming back from injury, there are some within the organization that think that Barclay is the better option at right tackle.
Worst-case scenario: Jack of all trades, master of none. Barclay makes the Packers' 53-man roster, but as far as backups go, he falls out of favor when Derek Sherrod becomes Plan B at tackle and either J.C. Tretter or Corey Linsley become Plan B at guard. There are quite a few games when Barclay fails to make the 46-man active gameday roster, and as such he no longer is part of the Packers' future plans on the offensive line.
Best-case scenario: Adams shows why the Packers developed him on the practice squad for the entire 2013 season. Whether in training camp or the preseason, Adams surprises observers with solid play at every turn. When Sherrod's career comes to a close because of injury, Adams looks like he has a chance to stick around. The Packers can't afford to keep him on the 53-man roster, but they don't want to give up on him either. He's invited to the practice squad and is only an injury away from a promotion.
Worst-case scenario: Adams is your typical training camp body. He shows potential every now and then simply because he's young and agile, but he simply doesn't have the talent of the other tackles ahead of him on the depth chart. While he opens training camp on the second-string offensive line, Adams is eventually surpassed by rookie John Fullington and finds himself on the waiver wire when the Packers cut their roster down to 75 players following the third preseason game.
Best-case scenario: Because he has experience playing tackle and guard on both the left and right sides of the offensive line, Fullington becomes a valuable and versatile commodity to he Packers. He might start training camp as an unknown, but he starts to make his name known through solid play during the entire month of August. Fullington becomes a player the Packers don't want to see claimed by another team, so he's one of the biggest surprises to make the 53-man roster even though he's rarely active during the regular season.
Worst-case scenario: Getting signed to a professional contract is the zenith of Fullington's football career, because it doesn't last long. He opens training camp on the third-string offensive line and never can climb any higher up the depth chart. Fullington sees a little fourth quarter playing time in the exhibition season, but he's eventually released before camp's end.
Best-case scenario: One of the feel-good stories of training camp, Vujnovich impresses throughout the course of training camp after working a regular working man's day job in 2013. He's still very rough around the edges, but there's a lot of potential to develop in Vujnovich's game. After an impressive preseason, the first-year tackle gets an invitation to the Packers' practice squad so he can continue to hone in his game.
Worst-case scenario: It was a good experiment while it lasted, but Vujnovich can't hang with the rest of the big boys in the NFL. He's out-matched athletically, and routinely gets beat off the edge throughout the course of training camp. The Packers can't afford to keep him on the roster beyond the NFL's first mandated cutdown date.
Up next in the series is the interior offensive line.
Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor at Cheesehead TV and its "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email [email protected].
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