GREEN BAY, Wis. – In a two-series appearance in last Saturday's preseason game at St. Louis, several things stood out from the Green Bay Packers’ starting offense.
Most marveled over quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who had only two incompletions in 13 attempts with 128 yards and one touchdown pass (plus another that was recalled by a penalty); or Eddie Lacy, who averaged 5.0 yards per carry; or receivers Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson, who each caught touchdown passes (although Nelson's was the one wiped out); or the precision of the no-huddle offense.
Perhaps what jumped off the film the most was the play of the right tackle.
In 24 snaps against the Rams, Bryan Bulaga did not allow a sack, hit or hurry, according to ProFootballFocus.com. It was exactly the same in an eight-snap appearance in the previous week’s preseason opener at Tennessee.
That's an impressive stat line for any NFL tackle, let alone one who went 634 days between game appearances. Before Bulaga played in the preseason opener at Tennessee, his last game came on Nov. 4, 2012, when his season ended because of a hip injury. He never made it to the 2013 preseason opener because of a knee injury that required ACL reconstruction last year.
"You've got a darn good football player back and a guy that works extremely hard, is very professional -- just his presence out there, he's a strong man that moves very well," said Packers offensive line coach James Campen, when asked about Bulaga's impact on the offense. "It obviously is a plus having him out there."
And Bulaga, 25, does not even feel like he's quite back in form yet. He has had to adjust to playing right tackle again after moving to the left side last offseason and get in sync with right guard T.J. Lang after lining up next to Josh Sitton for most of his career.
Three times in an answer to one question, Bulaga talked about the need to get his confidence back, something that he said remains a work in progress.
"I'm getting more and more comfortable, especially every game rep I get," Bulaga said.
The best part, in Bulaga’s mind, is that he has been able to work on that every day in practice. It was his goal while he rehabbed his knee and trained throughout last season to come to training camp without limitations. To do so, he rebuilt his physique, first by losing weight, and then building back up to his playing weight of between 315 and 320 pounds.
Before his ACL tear, Bulaga was on track to becoming one of the NFC's top tackles.
How close is the fifth-year pro to being that again?
"That's a long time ago; it's hard to say that," Campen said. "What I do know is since Day 1 that we put the pads on, as we've progressed, he's gotten better and better."