GREEN BAY—Physical is a word everybody is using to describe Don Barclay.
It’s what Offensive Line Coach James Campen saw in him during OTAs, before the pads even went on. It continued through training camp and as Barclay toiled on the scout team for the first 12 weeks of the season. Campen referred to Barclay on Thursday as a “physical presence guy.”
“Every single day in practice against our defense,” Campen said. “Against our defense, in pads, the kid plays his tail off every single day.”
So it was no surprise that when Barclay, an undrafted rookie from West Virginia, got his first NFL action last Sunday against Minnesota, his “physical presence” showed up, particularly as a run blocker.
Filling in for the injured T.J. Lang at right tackle from the second quarter on, Barclay played his part as the Packers compiled 152 rushing yards against the Vikings, their second-highest total of the season.
He had his moments in pass protection, which was to be expected considering the circumstances. He got help from backs and tight ends in certain situations, and he was called for two holding penalties – one was offset by a defensive penalty, the other was declined when quarterback Aaron Rodgers took a sack anyway.
But as the Packers head into the cold-weather part of the season, with potentially the playoffs around the corner, Barclay’s physical nature could be a key ingredient to a late-season ground attack that would like to do every week what it did last week.
“That’s my game,” Barclay said. “I try to be physical out there. I look to get after it in the run game as much as I can.”
Nothing has been announced, but all signs point to Barclay getting his first pro start this Sunday against Detroit. Lang (ankle) did not practice Wednesday or Thursday this week.
Even when Lang comes back, there’s the possibility he would be moved back to his regular starting spot at left guard, leaving Barclay at right tackle. Head Coach Mike McCarthy didn’t dismiss the thought earlier this week, saying only that the coaching staff continues to “evaluate.”
Detroit’s defensive line, particularly left end Cliff Avril, should provide a meaningful evaluation on Sunday night. Avril leads a dynamic defensive front with 8½ sacks this season, and if the coaching staff liked what it saw from Barclay in the run game last week, they’ll need to see how he handles a matchup with Avril for four quarters before deciding on any permanent lineup changes.
“They’re good players,” Barclay said of Detroit’s defensive line, which also includes end Kyle Vanden Bosch and tackles Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley and former Packer Corey Williams. “They’re high-intensity guys that get to the quarterback, so we have to do a great job keeping Aaron upright.”
For all the physicality Barclay brings, Campen also has no doubt he’s up to the challenge mentally. He proved that by making the roster as an undrafted rookie and by holding his own last week, after getting thrown into the fire.
“He doesn’t get fooled too much by scheme or overwhelmed by a situation, overwhelmed by a playbook,” Campen said. “He’s the type of guy who will embrace his opportunity and go get it.
“He’s a tremendously hard worker. If he makes a mistake, he goes right back in. He wants to take the rep and get it corrected.”
That’s what Barclay has been doing this week, poring over the Minnesota game film multiple times and then taking those lessons to the practice field.
If Barclay starts Sunday night, he’ll find himself in a different circumstance against a different opponent, but he’ll need to bring that same physical presence.
“He’s earned the right to play well,” Campen said. “He’s earned that for himself, because he practices hard. He goes against good players every day. I see it all the time.” Additional coverage - Dec. 6