“We are an extremely competitive family. I grew up probably fighting multiple times a day with my twin brother. When we were little, we were closer in size, only about five or 10 pounds apart. Now we are about 70, 80 pounds, so he doesn’t really mess with me much anymore. Actually, I’ve got a pretty good story about (blocking for him in high school). My junior year I was pancaking this guy. I’m pancaking him, and Matt bounces out of the pocket, and I pancake the guy right into Matt’s legs. I get up and instead of him yelling at me, I started yelling at him, saying, ‘You gave me a sack. You’ve got to be a better athlete than that.’ He never chewed me out for giving up sacks. I chewed him out once for making me give up a sack. That’s kind of like how our relationship is.” – Joeckel, on his twin brother Matt, whom he blocked for in high school and who is now a backup to Manziel at Texas A&M.
Position analysis: It’s incredible that a team that devoted its first-round draft pick to offensive tackle in back-to-back years (2010, 2011) could go that direction at No. 26 overall, but it’s a distinct possibility. Not only did the unit allow quarterback Aaron Rodgers to be sacked a league-high 51 times last season – although the line wasn’t to blame on all of those – and the running game ranked No. 20 in yards per game and No. 22 in yards per rush. The group lost right tackle Bryan Bulaga, the team’s 2010 first-round pick, to a hip injury on Nov. 4, and 2011 first-round pick Derek Sherrod never got on the field after the horrific broken leg he suffered on Dec. 18, 2011, spending the entire year on the physically unable to perform list. While Marshall Newhouse has been OK at left tackle and undrafted rookie free agent Don Barclay was a pleasant surprise after Bulaga’s injury, Sherrod’s uncertain future is a concern.
Inside, center Evan Dietrich-Smith signed his restricted free-agent tender this week, and after assuming the starting job from now-retired veteran Jeff Saturday with two games left in the regular season, there’s no guarantee he’s the long-term answer, even though the coaches like him. While guards Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang each have long-term deals and are entrenched as starters, the depth behind them is also an issue. The only player of note is Greg Van Roten, another undrafted rookie free agent who began on the practice squad before being promoted to the 53-man roster.
Draft strategy: Packers general manager Ted Thompson has a spotty history on offensive linemen, but he’s always drafted in bulk. Of his eight drafts, only twice has he failed to take at least two offensive linemen. In 2007, he took only Allen Barbre in the fourth round; last year, he took only Andrew Datko in the seventh. Otherwise, it’s been at least two linemen each year: Sherrod (first round, No. 32) and guard Caleb Schlauderaff (sixth round) in 2011; Bulaga (first round. No. 23) and Newhouse (fifth round) in 2010; Lang (fourth round) and Jamon Meredith (fifth round) in 2009; Sitton (fourth round) and Breno Giacomini (fifth round) in 2008; Daryn Colledge (second round), Jason Spitz (third round) and Tony Moll (fifth round) in 2006; and Junius Coston (fifth round) and Will Whitticker (seventh round) in 2005. With only eight picks – unless he trades back to accumulate more – and other needs to fill, Thompson may only take one lineman. But the safe bet is that he adds a pair.
Next: Defensive line.
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