No matter how many sacks he gave up, I never came down too hard on Don Barclay. Instead, I blamed the coaches for asking him to do what he simply wasn’t capable of doing. The former undrafted free agent had about as much business playing tackle in the NFL as Kim Kardashian has of playing Joan of Arc on Broadway.
It took three seasons, 46 games, 23 starts and dozens of hits to the quarterback before the coaches finally moved Barclay to guard last summer. And while he performed better there, it still wasn’t the best fit. That’s because the rugged 28-year-old from West Virginia is a heavy-legged foot pounder who lacks lateral agility and lower-body flexibility.
In the video below from last season against Washington, Barclay begins the play by looking to help right tackle Bryan Bulaga with defensive lineman Anthony Lanier (#72), but almost immediately realizes the need to turn his attention to Su’a Cravens (#36). Unfortunately, Barclay’s feet aren’t nearly as quick as his mind. He has no chance against the speedy linebacker and winds up committing a holding penalty. This is a play that a guard – especially one who plays in Green Bay – needs to be able to make on a consistent basis.
So where exactly is the best fit for a heavy-legged foot pounder who lacks lateral agility and lower-body flexibility? The answer is center, where the 305-pound Barclay worked almost exclusively during the past offseason. And while I don’t expect him to be an All-Pro at the position, I do expect him to surprise a lot of people.
In the video below from a preseason game last summer, Barclay – working at center against the Oakland Raiders – does what he does best. Watch him initially help out right guard Josh Walker with defensive end Darius Latham (#75), then bang into middle linebacker Cory James (#57) on the second level and finally push running back John Crockett into the end zone. It wasn’t a thing of beauty, but Barclay got the job done.
Barclay might have a limited skill set, but what he does well translates to center. He’s smart, tough and competitive. He also has a fairly solid base and understands angles and positioning. And while that might not be enough to get him to the Pro Bowl, it should be enough to finally get him some outside love in free agency.
Speaking of free agency, starting center Corey Linsley is scheduled to hit the open market next spring, and while I expect him to eventually be re-signed, you never know. General manager Ted Thompson might not want to spend big money at this position. After all, the offense has functioned at an extremely high level in past seasons with way over-the-hill Jeff Saturday and journeyman Evan Dietrich Smith hiking the ball.