Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has to be getting nervous despite a fantastic 5-0 start to the 2011 season. Rodgers, who is the NFL’s all-time most efficient quarterback, will now be without both of his starting offensive tackles for the near future after losing stalwart Chad Clifton Sunday night in Atlanta.
Clifton, a 12-year veteran from Tennessee, was bull-rushed by defensive end Ray Edwards in the second quarter of the 25-14 win over the Atlanta Falcons. Clifton laid on the turf clutching the back of his leg and was eventually carted off the field. He did not return to the game and Packers’ head coach Mike McCarthy said on Monday that Clifton has a “significant” hamstring injury and will be out indefinitely. McCarthy went on to say that it will take a couple of weeks to figure out just how severe the injury might be.
The Packers were already without 2010 first-round draft pick in right tackle Bryan Bulaga with a knee injury. Bulaga missed his second straight game Sunday night as he did not dress for the Falcons’ contest. There is a chance that Bulaga could return this weekend against St. Louis. His return would be a huge boost for an offensive line that could be in serious trouble - especially considering how potent the Detroit Lions defensive line has looked.
Fellow second year player, Marshall Newhouse (TCU, 6-4, 319) had already been filling in for Bulaga when Clifton went down with the hamstring injury. Newhouse shifted to left tackle and 2011 first-round pick Derek Sherrod stepped into the starting line-up for the first time at right tackle.
The impact of losing Clifton was felt immediately. Atlanta registered four sacks, eight quarterback hits and were constantly forcing Rodgers out of his championship rhythm. The offensive line could not slow the Falcons pass rush, which frequently forced Rodgers out of the pocket and into rushed throws.
That said, the Green Bay Packers are still the reining Super Bowl champions and have won 11 straight games after the 14-0 come-from-behind victory. And much of the credit needs to fall to Rodgers for making due with Falcon defenders breathing down his neck on a regular basis. It only proves that Rodgers is arguably the best player in the game today and is possibly the most valuable commodity any team owns.
Now, without potential Hall of Fame candidate Chad Clifton protecting his blindside, Rodgers’ offensive line is questionable at best and Packers' fans must be nervous about protecting their MVP.
-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)