Unheralded Barclay gets his shot

GREEN BAY, Wis. – If Don Barclay ends up as the Green Bay Packers’ right tackle – and there’s a good chance he will – he will be the only starting tackle in the NFC North who didn’t enter the league as a draft pick.

It wasn’t supposed to be that way for the Packers.

They drafted tackles with consecutive first-round picks in 2010 (Bryan Bulaga) and 2011 (Derek Sherrod) and penciled them in as their long-term starters. Bulaga started 33 games at right tackle in his first three seasons and was moved to left tackle this offseason. But his season ended a week into training camp, when he sustained a season-ending knee injury. Sherrod, who has yet to start a game, hasn’t even practiced since he broke his leg on Dec. 18, 2011. He remains on the physically unable to perform list.

The tackle positions have long been viewed as too important to ignore high in the draft, but the Packers will have to make due with a pair of less-heralded players at those spots. Rookie David Bakhtiari, a fourth-round pick, replaced Bulaga and likely will be the Week 1 starter, while Barclay came into the NFL as an undrafted free agent from West Virginia and received just a $2,500 signing bonus. Barclay started the last six games of his rookie season at right tackle after Bulaga sustained a hip injury but opened camp this summer as a backup.

Across the division, the Vikings plan to start a first-round pick (Matt Kalil in 2012) at left tackle and a second-round pick (Phil Loadholt in 2009) at right tackle. The Lions will start Riley Reiff (first round, 2012) at left tackle and either Jason Fox (fourth round, 2010) or Corey Hilliard (sixth round, 2009) on the right side. The Bears are expected to start Jermon Bushrod (fourth round, 2007) at left tackle and J’Marcus Webb (seventh round, 2010) at right tackle.

So why are the Packers considering the undrafted Barclay over Marshall Newhouse (fifth round, 2010)?

Here’s what Packers coach Mike McCarthy said about Barclay after his 30-play stint at right tackle in the preseason opener against Arizona on Friday: “He’s assignment sound (and) did an excellent job finishing. He won the majority of his blocks.”

Contrast that with what the Packers have been saying about Newhouse: “He needs to finish better, and he knows it,” said offensive line coach James Campen earlier in camp.

Newhouse, who started the last two seasons at left tackle, didn’t help himself when he allowed Arizona’s 35-year-old John Abraham to smoke him for a strip-sack of quarterback Graham Harrell on Friday night.

When the Packers return to practice on Monday, expect them to go back to Barclay.

“He’s going to put his head in there and give you hell going forward,” Campen said earlier in camp.