Green Bay Packers Bryan Bulaga Is Playing Like A Boss

Forbes Finance 2 months ago
Packers Cowboys Football
Green Bay Packers right tackle Bryan Bulaga has held five straight, Pro Bowl-caliber defensive ends without a sack, including Dallas' Demarcus Lawrence (90) on Oct. 6.

Chicago’s Khalil Mack has 57.5 sacks in just more than five seasons, was the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2016 and been to the Pro Bowl every year he’s been in the league. In just more than four seasons, Minnesota’s Danielle Hunter has 45 sacks and reached the Pro Bowl in 2018.

Denver’s Von Miller, now in his ninth year, has 100.0 sacks and has been to seven Pro Bowls. Philadelphia’s Brandon Graham has been a high-level performer for a decade and was one of the Eagles’ 10 best players on their 2017 Super Bowl team.

And DeMarcus Lawrence of Dallas is a two-time Pro Bowler who signed a five-year, $105 million deal in April.

This quintet of pass rushers has combined for 284.5 career sacks. And if each player finishes their current contract, the group will collect a whopping total of $472 million.

In addition to being game-changing, Pro Bowl players, this Fab Five has one other thing in common: none of them could get a sack off of Green Bay Packers’ right tackle Bryan Bulaga.

Bulaga, in his 10th NFL season, faced this murderer’s row to open the season. And Bulaga sent each and every standout home with a goose egg in the sack column.

Good luck finding an offensive tackle playing any better.

“Yeah, it’s definitely up there,” Packers left tackle David Bakhtiari told reporters when asked if this is as well as Bulaga has played. “I think what makes it a little bit more noticeable is the fact the premier rushers week-in and week-out, normally over five weeks you may see one or two.

“But to get five straight, he kind of does what he does. It doesn’t really matter the name, he’s going to put them in his wheelhouse and not really let them get much for 60 minutes.”

That’s been the book on Bulaga for a decade now.

Bulaga (6-5, 314), one of many terrific lineman to come out of Iowa, has always had ideal size and speed for right tackle. He’s been equally productive in both the pass and run game throughout his career, and he’s as competitive as it gets.

The only thing that has ever held Bulaga back was injuries.

Bulaga missed seven games with a hip fracture in 2012. He tore his ACL in 2013 and missed the entire year, then he suffered another ACL tear in 2017 and played just five games.

In all, Bulaga averaged 11.0 games per season during his first nine years and has played a full 16-game season just twice.

When Bulaga has been healthy, though, few right tackles in the game have matched his consistency and overall productivity.

“He's been on my right side for so many years now,” Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said recently. “People forget that he was in there in 2010, one of the few who's got a ring left in this locker room. Just a guy they love playing with.

“He's tough, he's smart. He understands his strengths really well. he understands the offense exceptionally. He's just a heady player who's so smart and tough and reliable when he's out there playing tackle for us.”

Bulaga, who turned 30 in March, is off to arguably his best start since his brilliant 2014 season.

In Week 1, Bulaga faced off against Mack — as well as Chicago’s Leonard Floyd and Akiem Hicks. And according to Bob McGinn of The Athletic, Bulaga allowed just one hurry.

In Green Bay’s Week 2 win over Minnesota, Bulaga spent much of his day working one-on-one against Hunter and managed just one-half of a hurry. Hunter did have a sack against tight end Jimmy Graham.

Many NFL scouts would label Denver’s Miller as the finest pure pass rusher in the game. Against Bulaga, though, Miller managed just three tackles and was shutout in all pressure categories.

Graham, who went 10 picks before Bulaga in the 2010 draft, had three pressures when the Packers and Eagles met on Sept. 26. All of those came against backup tackle Alex Light, though, after Bulaga left the game with a shoulder injury.

Bulaga was questionable with that same shoulder last week, but played through it and allowed no sacks and just 1 ½ pressures to Dallas’ Lawrence and top reserve Kerry Hyder.

“For him to battle (through injuries), what he’s done for a decade and still remain at the level of play that he has,” Bakhtiari said. “I’m just honored I was able to one, learn from him as a younger player, and then two, grow with him as a teammate, and three, enjoy the time with him and the times to come as a friend.”

Bulaga is in the final year of his contract, and when the season began, he seemed like a longshot to return in 2020. The Packers typically don’t sign players in their 30s, and when you factor in Bulaga’s injuries, he’s certainly a high-risk investment.

But this much is certain: when Bulaga is healthy, he’s one of the NFL’s top right tackles. And for the past decade, Green Bay has been a much better football team with Bulaga on the field.

Whether Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst attempts to resign Bulaga remains to be seen.

“I haven’t thought about it yet,” Bulaga recently said when asked about his future. “Feel good, going to keep going. That’s something that my wife and I, I think, we’re going to talk about, but it’s not something where we’ve had to even talk about it yet.

“Maybe it’s something we talk about this offseason, but it’s not something that gets brought up too much because I feel good. I feel like I want to keep playing. I still think I can play at a high level.”

Bulaga has proven just that at the start of 2019.

The sensational pass rushers that he’s quieted would undoubtedly agree.

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