Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

05 Aug 2013

Bryan Bulaga Tears ACL, Likely Out for Season

Packers' left tackle Bryan Bulaga tore his ACL during Saturday's Green Bay "Family Night" scrimmage and is probably done for the season. Bulaga's transition from right tackle to left was by no means guaranteed to go smoothly, but he was still the Packers' best tackle. Aaron Rodgers can help cover for that line's problems against mediocre and bad defenses, but it's the kind of issue that I would bet gets magnified when we get to the postseason. At least the Packers now have the whole season to figure out their line and get some cohesion between those players. Somebody please wake up Derek Sherrod and find out if he's ever going to be healthy.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 05 Aug 2013

37 comments, Last at 06 Aug 2013, 3:44pm by Jimmy


by Danish Denver-Fan :: Mon, 08/05/2013 - 11:48am


Seriously is there a worse part of the human body?

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 08/05/2013 - 2:34pm

Are you saying the ACL is the body's Achilles' heel?

by Bowl Game Anomaly :: Tue, 08/06/2013 - 12:55pm


by akn :: Mon, 08/05/2013 - 4:03pm

It's the price we pay for evolving to walk upright. Our four-legged brethren don't typically have to handle large twisting or oblique forces on their knees.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 08/05/2013 - 12:27pm

The Pats lose Hernandez, the Broncos lose all of their centers, the Ravens lose Pitta, the 49ers lose Crabtree and Culliver, the Seahawks lose Harvin and now the Pack lose Bulaga. Key players dropping like flies.

If you are amongst the title favourites then it looks like the football gods have it in for you this year. If I were the Falcons I'd be cocooning their receivers in bubble wrap.

This is a huge loss for the Packers, first game is Aldon Smith and then they have to play Peppers and Allen in the division with the most valuable player in the game to protect, it just has to hurt.

by collapsing pocket (not verified) :: Mon, 08/05/2013 - 12:54pm

What the hell did my team do to deserve this kind of treatment from the football gods? We are nowhere near a title contender, and we've already lost 2 player to ACL tears this year!

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 08/05/2013 - 1:04pm

I dunno. Who is your team? Maybe they were better than you thought?

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 08/05/2013 - 3:05pm

Out of these, which do we think is the most important/impactful?

Personally, I think it is Pitta. Without Boldin, they really needed him to take over some of those short/underneath routes that Boldin was used for. I don't think the Broncos losing centers will hurt, as O-Line injuries are par for the course and the Broncos O-Line is still better than any Colts line since about 2007. Harvin is sad, but they were darn good without him.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 08/05/2013 - 4:00pm

I think Pitta and Bulaga are big hits. I would counter you assessment of Denver losing their centers with the image of Manning's fury if his shotgun snaps keep bouncing around his ankles. The shotgun is a huge part of their offense.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 08/05/2013 - 4:14pm

I guess if they get someone unable to snap in shotgun that could be huge, but I feel like Manning will make the center (as of now, Manny Ramirez, possibly Ryan Lilja by the time opening day comes around) take ~2,000 snaps in a row after practice one day.

by theslothook :: Mon, 08/05/2013 - 4:39pm

I think the biggest loss is crabtree personally. Maybe I'm just jaded, but I think their receiving core as constructed is terrible. Boldin has good hands, but wasn't exactly getting huge separation and he was awful for most of the regular season. Kyle Williams and Manningham are both coming off injuries and who knows what about AJ Jenkins. They basically have one proven target(Davis) and a ton of question marks. Sure, the 49ers are a rushing team so that will help, but its still leaves them with a very poor receiving core at present.

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 08/05/2013 - 5:01pm

Crabtree will likely return for the last half-dozen or so games and the playoffs. I wouldn't count on Jenkins considering I don't think he was even on the game day roster most of last year and there wasn't that much competition to beat, much like Packers bust Robert Ferguson about 10 years ago. I think Seattle's loss of Harvin is bigger since they finished behind SF last year and the staff had started to plan the offense around him.

Frankly, most teams and their fans would be happy to exchange their problems for those problems that SF, Seattle, Green Bay, Baltimore, NE, and Denver are having. Maybe you'd rather have your team have the problems of the Browns, Cardinals, or Jaguars.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 08/05/2013 - 5:41pm

How do you determine that Boldin was awful? He had a DVOA of 4.1% on over 900 yards, his DVOA ranked 32nd. Considering that there are at least 64 starting receivers that would make him statistically average. This is before you consider that Baltimore were misusing their players to the extent that they sacked their offensive coordinator mid-season. After that they were much more productive and Bold in was one of the driving forces behind that resurgence.

Yes, the niners will miss Crabtree and the other receiver spot is a major question mark but 'Boldin was dreadful' just isn't supported by the evidence. If they didn't have AQ then I would be really, really worried.

by theslothook :: Mon, 08/05/2013 - 5:58pm

I guess he wasn't awful. I did rewatch the entire baltimore sb run just to see what I missed about them. Now I didn't specifically chart numbers, but the impression I came away with was two fold when it came to boldin. First, he was superb in the red zone. On the other hand, his catches were good but he was mostly blanketed with very little separation, but flacco was threading it. MAybe he plays well again, but I don't expect a ton from him.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 08/05/2013 - 6:43pm

He's never been a guy who's got great separation, he just has 700 hundred catches and 10,000 yards.

by Gorilla Graham (not verified) :: Mon, 08/05/2013 - 7:49pm

He's also another year older. Honestly, if you're holding out hope that Boldin will be a key part of the Niners receiving corps, than I don't know what to tell you. He's a possession receiver, at best.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 08/05/2013 - 8:13pm

Much will depend on the tatooed qb's development, of course. If he turns out to have some Roethlisbergeresque (love stretching that name out) talents, in terms of extending the play and finding guys, Boldin the sort of veteran who can find soe sapce, and as we saw in the playoffs, he can still catch the ball.

If Justin Smith can stay healthy and be Justin Smith, with perhaps a little more rest, I suspect the Niners' defense will be formidable enough to make the loss of Crabtree very tolerable.

by theslothook :: Mon, 08/05/2013 - 8:27pm

We're going to see just how much losing receivers will impact Tom Brady this year. But either way, I don't think any qb can really thrive without at least some talent at receiver. Sure, Kaep can buy time and compensate, but losing crabtree will be painful nonetheless.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 08/05/2013 - 8:53pm

Sure, but if the defense is playing like it did prior to Justin Smith getting injured last year (which to me was the biggest injury of the year in the entire league, especially for a guy who stayed active), and the offensive line is still curb stomping opponents, they'll still be very formidable.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Mon, 08/05/2013 - 8:52pm

So the question is, do you believe he is a member of the Roethlisbourgeoisie?

by Will Allen :: Mon, 08/05/2013 - 8:59pm

It's Pittsburgh. He's clearly Roethlislumpenproletariat. Clearly, only a Roethlisbergantidisestablishmentarian like yourself would maintain otherwise.

by David :: Tue, 08/06/2013 - 7:13am

Just my opinion, without much to back it up, but I think the issue is about Kaepernick's development, and whether he trusts himself/Boldin enough to throw the ball when the separation isn't there. This is (to me) more of an issue with a younger/less experienced QB. If he does, then (assuming Boldin doesn't fall off a cliff, age-wise), then he should be okay (not great, just okay). If he's looking for separation that isn't there, there could be a lot of scrambling going on

by LionInAZ :: Mon, 08/05/2013 - 5:44pm

I'd say losing Bulaga is a much bigger problem for the Packers. Not only do they face a big downgrade at LT, they now have an unknown situation at RT, on top of the complication of switching their OL around from right to left. If the Packer OL can't hold up either end of the line, Rodgers will have a lot less room to maneuver, and he was already the most sacked QB last year.

The 49ers have been picking up WRs right and left and can probably weather losing Crabtree for part of the season, and Harbaugh will find a way to adjust. Losing Gore would hurt the 49ers more than Crabtree in my opinion.

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 08/05/2013 - 12:58pm

Aaaargh! I guess it could be worse. The Packers will likely go back to the OL lineup they used at the end of last season only with the guards swapped. Newhouse is a mediocre-at-best LT, but he's smart and should be about the same as last year. Barclay will now probably be the starting RT, where he became acceptable after the first couple of games.

I don't know anybody who thinks Sherrod will ever play again professionally, which is sad but those things happen. There is also David Bakhtiari, who has looked good in camp after being a fourth round pick, but I would rather trust AR's blind side to Newhouse than a fourth round rookie and I'd bet McCarthy feels much the same. It's not the Packers normal MO, but I wouldn't be surprised if they try to sign a veteran like Jared Gaither or Sean Locklear.

by DisplacedPackerFan :: Tue, 08/06/2013 - 2:38pm

I'm not so sure Newhouse is going back to the left. Bakhtiari was the #2 left tackle in camp so far, and he passed Barclay to move to #2 on the right. I fully understand not wanting to leave that job to a 4th round rookie, but I'm not sure it would be any worse than Newhouse. Newhouse on the right is better than Barclay or Bakhtiari has been. If Bakhtiari is the same as Newhouse on the left, then putting him on the left is your best line.

This is likely to stop the experiments of Barclay at guard and center. I think he could be a significant step up over Lang at guard if he were dedicated to the position. He is already a better tackle than Lang and we'll need him as a back-up. I agree that Sherrod is likely never coming back. It was a gruesome injury an it sucks, but it's understandable for a body that big to have issues afterwards. I was having some hope for a solidly above average line by the middle of the season with potential for more improvement in 14. Barclay taking over for Lang, Bakhtiara displacing Newhouse at RT after a year of seasoning and seeing what Tretter could do at guard or center, yes I think he was going to get time at center. I should know better by now that the only thing to look forward to is seeing how the team is going to deal with a significant injury somewhere.

I'm not convinced the line will be worse than it was at the end of last year. The bad thing is that is a very low bar. I'm really glad that Bakhtiara has been showing very well in camp.

by theslothook :: Mon, 08/05/2013 - 2:56pm

Seriously...maybe this feels like an overreaction, but I can't remember an offseason where there were so many season ending injuries so soon.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 08/05/2013 - 5:14pm

Well, that tightens up a division that was already kinda' weird. For the Bears, Vikings, and Lions, I would not be more than mildly surprised to see any of them win as many as 11 games, or as few as 6. The Packers were a little better off than that, in my view, just due to their top level qb, but now I'd say I'd be at best mildly surprised to see them win 12, or as few as, I dunno, 7. Anybody could take the division, or come in last, without anything too crazy happening, although I would be more than mildly surprised to see the Pack pull in last, absent an injury to Ryan Braun's BFF. Should be fun in the NFC North this year.

by Jon Goldman (not verified) :: Mon, 08/05/2013 - 5:57pm

I'd be very surprised if the Vikings could replicate anything close to last season, given that they no longer have the one receiver who made Ponder look passable (in a sense.) Unless AD somehow replicates last year (which is very much unlikely to happen) I don't think they even win 9.

The Lions are complicated because, well, they're not that good. Stafford is okay, Megatron is fantastic, and Suh can be very good. But, well, who else do they rely on? Anything from 6-10 wins for these guys.

The Bears have the potential to win 12, but they could just as easily win around 5. It's tough to say without actually seeing Trestman's scheme in action.

The Packers still have Rodgers, they should be fine. Maybe 1 or 2 less wins, but less than 10 would really surprise me.

by theslothook :: Mon, 08/05/2013 - 6:03pm

I think your underselling detroit a bit. Their o line feels above average. Stafford could take a big step forward as he is still young. In addition, Fairley was pretty good too last year and if Ansah plays well, that could produce a very good pass rush front.

The bears to me are the hardest to predict. How will their defense fair now that its a year older, likely to experience some natural regression, and most of all, is no longer coached by Lovie Smith. Ditto in reverse for the offense.

by Gorilla Graham (not verified) :: Mon, 08/05/2013 - 7:53pm

I also think that Reggie Bush will prove to be quite useful this year for the Loins. I could definitely see them finishing second, if they've figured out how to lessen their idiotic mistakes. Losing the LT is a problem, but the Packers are still clearly, to me, the best of the division. I don't think the Vikings or Bears will be particularly good, and the Vikes quite possibly very poor.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 08/05/2013 - 8:02pm

Very poor teams are rarely good on the line of scrimmage, and the Vikings, barring injury, will be good on the line of scrimmage. Now, it is possible for a team to only win 6 games, without being very poor, but that is another matter.

by Jimmy :: Tue, 08/06/2013 - 9:33am

Can you please explain how the Lions offensive line is above average? The untested (and short armed) LT? The rookie RG? The aging center? The group of no names competing for the RT spot?

It could be one of the worst in football if a few tiny things went wrong.

by theslothook :: Tue, 08/06/2013 - 3:09pm

Pff ranked them 7th last year(the year before they were 10th) in the league. Now, I factored in the turnover, so that probably drops them out of the top 10, but maybe closer to 12-15, rather than all the way to the bottom.

by Jimmy :: Tue, 08/06/2013 - 3:44pm

3/5 of that line is gone. The best thing it had the last few years is continuity and that is now gone. What is left is a decent guard and an old center. Maybe Reiff, whoever is the RT and the rookie will be fine but that is quite a bit of uncertainty.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 08/05/2013 - 8:04pm

Harvin only played about half the season last year, and the Vikings went 4-0 in December without him. Harvin can be really valuable when healthy and practicing, but he really isn't a downfield receiver in a classic sense. Greg Jennings, if healthy, fits that role better than anyone the Vikings have had since Sidney Rice's standout 2009 season. Jarius Wright really started to show something in the last month, and wide receivers often show a big leap between their rookie and 2nd years. I don't know if the Vikings will be any better or not throwing downfield, because I don't have much confidence in Ponder, but if they struggle again, it won't be due to Harvin not being on the roster.

The Vikings o-line, which was already above average, will likely be better, barring injury, if, for no other reason, having an exrta year of continuity. Jared Allen says he should have done his shoulder procedure a couple years ago, and he that he feels better than he has in years. Brian Robison is playing for big money next year, as is Everson Griffen. If Sharif Floyd is the late-end first round value so many say he was, and can give a still good Kevin Williams a good rotation partner, the pass rush has a good chance to improve, and it was already good. There are more questions in the defensive backfield, but again how well they drafted in the first round will have something to say about that. While regression to the mean is distinct possibility for the Vikings, there are enough trends going the opposite way to make double digit wins an unsurprising outcome. If Ponder improves to being non-terrible, and they drafted in 2013 anywhere close to how the drafted in 2012, it'll be more surprising if they don't get to 10 wins, because there is substantial strength on the line of scrimmage.

I agree that the Bears are tough to evaluate due to an entirely new coaching staff, and the Lions are tough because of the unevenness of the talent on their roster. I think Schwartz and staff are likely the worst coaching unit in the division, and that doesn't help.

by theslothook :: Mon, 08/05/2013 - 8:23pm

I agree with everything you said about their strengths will. Their pass rush is and will likely remain formidable. The o line is above average/pretty good. And i do think jennings could be a better fit than harvin. That said, the chiefs last year had a good receiver in bowe, a good o line and two good pass rushers and still managed to crater to 2-14. THese days, pass offense and pass defense largely determine what you are. And on that front, I fear the vikes are in trouble. Outside of one person(Smith), their secondary is full of unknowns. Onto the other side, I have absolutely no faith in ponder whatsoever. Bottom line, I'll be mildly surprised if this team wins 10 games again and would not at all be shocked if they finished with 4 wins. I suspect they'll likely finish somewhere with 6-7 wins.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 08/05/2013 - 10:02pm

I'm not an expert on the Chiefs, but my impression is that while they were ok at run blocking, their pass protection was poor. Also, their defensive front was soft against the run in a way the Vikings are not. I think it would be pretty inaccurate to say that the Chiefs resemble the Vikings on the line of scrimmage. Could Ponder be cover your eyes awful for the entire season, resulting in 4 wins? Sure, especially if the Vikings have the Chiefs injury luck from last year, which is why I always use the caveat "barring injuries".

Could the Vikings go from good injury luck to awful injury luck? Sure. Even the injury stats can't capture the randomness of the injury demon. If the Vikings lose their right guard, Brandon Fusco, it's "Next Man Up!" If they lose Matt Kalil, it's "&^%$#*@%$&!", even more so than the Packers losing Bulaga. Hell, it's not impossible that the Vikings chances of getting 10 wins improves if they lose their starting qb. It's hard to map this stuff out, to say the least. My point mostly was that it is not crazy to suppose that the Vikings will be better on both lines of scrimmage, and they already were pretty good there. If that does happen, 10 wins would not be very surprising.