Offensive Line Still Full of Uncertainty for the Packers

The NFL season is two weeks old but the Green Bay Packers still have some big questions concerning their offensive line. There are two main areas of uncertainty entering the team’s Week 3 game against the 49ers. Who will start at left guard and whether starting left tackle Elgton Jenkins will be healthy enough to play on Sunday.

The Green Bay Packers had a competition at guard during training camp with multiple players battling for the two starting spots that were available after Elgton Jenkins shifted out to left tackle to take over while David Bakhtiari continues to rehab from his knee injury.

By the end of camp, rookie Royce Newman won the right guard spot while last year’s starter on the right side, Lucas Patrick, emerged as the starter on the left side.

But in the season opener against the Saints, Patrick struggled against a tough New Orleans defensive line, especially in pass protection. He was beaten badly on several plays and it resulted in pressure against quarterback Aaron Rodgers and at least one sack. He graded out very low in pass protection according to Pro Football Focus and suffered an injury late in the game that landed him in concussion protocol.

The injury kept Patrick out of practice last week and although he had cleared concussion protocol and was on the active roster against the Lions, head coach Matt LaFleur decided to play Jon Runyan, Jr. at left guard ahead of Patrick. Runyan had a strong game and graded out significantly higher than Patrick did in pass protection despite being beaten badly on one play that resulted in a sack of Rodgers.

LaFleur has indicated that the battle for playing time at guard will likely continue in the coming weeks. After the Lions game, he told reporters, “It’s going to be a competitive situation throughout. Runyan practiced all week and we felt comfortable with him. We felt it was probably best for Lucas long-term, as well, to only use him if absolutely necessary just to kind of let him rest another week. We decided to go with Runyan early in the week. We’ll look at it on a week-to-week basis. We’re always trying to get the best five out there.”

Runyan was expected to be battle for a starting spot in training camp, but the Packers were apparently unhappy with his lack of strength in the weight room according to several reports. He still made the team but did not earn either starting guard position.

LaFleur has a tough decision to make. The Packers have at least four more games scheduled until Bakhtiari can return to the lineup. Either Patrick or Runyan will likely start at left guard until Bakhtiari is activated off the PUP list and Jenkins moves back to left guard.

Both players have their limitations and their advantages. Patrick is more experienced and started 15 games at right guard for the Packers last season. He is a tenacious run blocker and had a solid 2020 campaign although he struggles against better interior linemen who have exceptional speed and/or strength.

The Packers coaching staff knows what they have in Patrick. He is reliable, consistent and a solid teammate who has defended his fellow Packers once or twice when things got rough. The former Duke star also provides the team with versatility as he can play either guard position or at center.

Runyan has less experience than Patrick but appears to have a greater upside. He played in three games on offense for the Packers last season despite being a rookie and not having the benefit of OTAs or preseason games to prepare for the season. He played respectably in all three instances he was called upon and never looked overwhelmed by the assignment given to him.

He again played well against the Lions on Monday night, setting up a situation where the team has a choice to make as to who will get the start on any given week.

For Jenkins, the issue is his health and his availability will be critical to the team’s preparations for the 49ers game. Jenkins was forced to miss Wednesday’s team practice because of an ankle injury. The coaching staff has said they will give Jenkins the entire week to see if he can be ready to go on Sunday night which may mean more missed practices for the third-year man out of Mississippi.

If Jenkins can’t go, the Packers have two options at left tackle. They can move starting right tackle Billy Turner to the left side and then play Dennis Kelly at right tackle. The problem there is that Turner struggled when they moved him to the left side last season, particularly in the NFC Championship Game against Tampa Bay.

Kelly would likely be the other option at left tackle if Jenkins is unable to go which would allow Turner to stay on the right side. Yosh Nijman is also available although Nijman has yet to start an NFL game or even take a snap on offense yet this season.

The 49ers have a strong defensive front seven and whoever the Packers starting left tackle will be, he will be matched up against San Francisco’s top edge rusher, Nick Bosa.

Obviously, the offensive line will be a key to the team’s chances to win Sunday night. The coaching staff has some tough decisions to make ahead of this week’s game.

You can follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers

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Comments (30)

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scullyitsme's picture

September 23, 2021 at 12:16 pm

If Jenkins can’t play this could be hard to watch. Think I’d start love and run the option😀

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GilMartin's picture

September 23, 2021 at 01:03 pm

It would be a huge loss and at the worst time. Thanks for the comment, scullyitsme.

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jannes bjornson's picture

September 23, 2021 at 09:20 pm

Heavy TE sets and use the crack-back blocks the hell with politesse. I like the Big Ten group and Newman will only get better. Reminds me of the Tauscher-Clifton-Flanagan gang. It looks like Runyan wants his spot. They will only get better.

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davekenya's picture

September 23, 2021 at 12:32 pm

Once upon a time, didn't Packers line coach James Campen instruct Evan Diedrich Smith to untie Ndamukong Suh’s shoes at every opportunity? Just sayin...

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GilMartin's picture

September 23, 2021 at 01:04 pm

LOL. Anything to get under Suh's skin. Thanks for the comment, davekenya.

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mnbadger's picture

September 23, 2021 at 12:38 pm

At least we'll get a chance to see if this group will "man up" lock arms and play tough together or if they'll droop under the intense pressure of a very talented defense on the big stage. I'm hoping for the former but fearing the latter. GPG!

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GilMartin's picture

September 23, 2021 at 01:05 pm

I think your attitude nailed it, mnbadger. This is bad timing but a real opportunity for the o-line. Thanks as always for the comment.

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jannes bjornson's picture

September 23, 2021 at 09:26 pm

No Buckner, Day and Thomas, gone to free agency; Bosa and Armsted the only left overs from the 2019 smack down.
Time to get some skins and forget the fans...

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Dragon5's picture

September 23, 2021 at 12:45 pm

Ramsey, Scott, now Jenkins...timestamped below...hope for the best, prepare for the worst...the good news is Bahk's personal 7 year expires at the turn of the month, but caution is still advised given he is in his enemy year thru Jan 31st, 2022.

Dragon5

August 12, 2021 at 02:04 pm

MVS leads the pack of injury prone players on the squad this year. 7 life path in a personal 7 year...don't hold your breath.

GREATEST CONCERN THIS SEASON--our SECONDARY. Alexander, Amos, Scott all in personal 7 years where injury risk increases. 7 LP King always a perennial risk, as is Sullivan, born on a 7 day. Barry's pressure heavy defense will have to be dialed down if secondary subs can't be trusted.

Jenkins is also in a 7 personal year. OLine could fall apart quickly should he go down while Bahk continues to recover. Myers and Kelly are born on a 7 days and will have above average injury risk as will Turner being in his enemy year (ditto Bahk)

Remaining injury concerns: 7LPs Crosby, Begelton, Dillon, and 7 day born Ramsey (who already bit the bullet last week)

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GilMartin's picture

September 23, 2021 at 01:06 pm

Hope we get through the season with significant injuries. Thanks for the comment, Dragon5.

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Johnblood27's picture

September 23, 2021 at 03:07 pm

Hope you meant withOUT

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LeotisHarris's picture

September 23, 2021 at 04:28 pm

Easy, JB, Gil's in a 7 year, too. Cut him some slack.

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jannes bjornson's picture

September 23, 2021 at 09:27 pm

What about the Persian Zodiac?

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splitpea1's picture

September 23, 2021 at 12:44 pm

An absent Jenkins or a gimpy Jenkins in bad news. Suggestions: try to ground and pound with Dillon, emphasize the quick passing game, and call the Ravens to see if you can rent Lamar Jackson for a game.

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GilMartin's picture

September 23, 2021 at 01:06 pm

Quick passes and plenty of runs both make a lot of sense. we'll see what LaFleur comes up with in his game plan and what Rodgers does at the line of scrimmage. Thanks for the comment, splitpea1.

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LeotisHarris's picture

September 23, 2021 at 06:56 pm

It truly is bad news, but I think you can get the little blue pill to help with a gimpy Jenkins.

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jannes bjornson's picture

September 23, 2021 at 09:28 pm

Let Rodgers destroy their secondary and go for the throat.

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HarryHodag's picture

September 23, 2021 at 12:55 pm

Odd that the article didn't mention Newman much, or Meyers. What made the line strong last year was continuity. While being able to play other positions is a highlight, you can't just move a player to another position without some blow back. Patrick did well on the right side last year. Why is Newman locked in iron? Why not move Patrick back to the right, Runyon at left until David B. returns?
That would provide something closer to continuity.

While the d-line is a much bigger concern, I'm a bit dubious that this offensive line will do much against a really, really good 49'er front seven.

We'll see.

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GilMartin's picture

September 23, 2021 at 01:08 pm

I'm also skeptical about the o-line getting the job done against the 49ers front 7. Newman and Myers are staying where they are barring some very poor performances. Newman isn't locked in iron but there's no talk of switching him over or benching him. Thanks for the comment, HarryHodag.

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jannes bjornson's picture

September 24, 2021 at 12:44 am

Runyan vs Patrick is the current contest for the spot. Not worried about these greenhorns, they have the grit.

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Packer_Fan's picture

September 23, 2021 at 01:11 pm

Hey, this is why you have competition for starter spots. You need guys to be able to step up and fill in when someone gets hurt. That is why you don't trade Patrick like some have suggested. And why you pick up the guy from Tennesee. To get to the Super Bowl, it is 20 games at the least. You need depth, good depth to be effective throughout the whole season.

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stockholder's picture

September 23, 2021 at 01:25 pm

If Jenkins has a bad ankle. Get him out of there. It's time to move Turner again. Put Kelly in.

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nostradanus's picture

September 23, 2021 at 03:25 pm

They’ll be ok, it may be rough sledding for a bit but by the second half of the season with Bakhtiari back, Jenkins at Guard, Myers and Newman experienced and Turner at RT, this group will be seasoned and battle tested for the playoffs. The other bonus is when Rodgers is gone next year or the year after this will be an outstanding veteran unit to usher in the Jordan Love era!
GPG
ND

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jont's picture

September 23, 2021 at 04:04 pm

LaFleur said Jenkins hurt his ankle during the and didn't tell anyone: "just toughed it out."
I think he'll play on Sunday.

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Leatherhead's picture

September 23, 2021 at 04:05 pm

Left tackle, center, right tackle, left guard, right guard. That’s the order.

We kept Bakhtiari, but then he took a bad injury so we put our best guy at LT. we spent a 2nd round pick on a blue chip center. Then our best remaining, most experienced guy at RT.

Then the best remaining interior guy, Patrick, goes to LG.. And Rolls Royce wins the final spot.

If everybody is healthy at Thanksgiving, I think it’ll be Bakhtiari, Jenkins , Myers, Patrick and Turner, left to right.

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KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

September 23, 2021 at 04:33 pm

LH,
I think once Bakhtari is back and players rotate back Newman is still starting at RG. Patrick goes to bench. There is a reason Newman is starting at RG.

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Leatherhead's picture

September 23, 2021 at 06:50 pm

Yeah, the reason is that Patrick was needed at LG. If Newman was better he’d be starting at LG.

I’m curious. Patrick is a battle tested vet who has started on one of the better lines in the league for a couple of years. Royce is a Day 3 rookie. What on Earth makes you think he’s already better than Patrick?

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jhtobias's picture

September 23, 2021 at 04:55 pm

I would worry about the Packers defensive line more than Jenkins not being able to play.

Except for Clark what a sorry excuse for defensive line this is .

THANKS FOR NOTHING GUTE ON THE DEFNSIVE LINE ..

you would think a guy who was thier when Reggie white Sean Jones etc would understand the value of a dline

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jannes bjornson's picture

September 23, 2021 at 09:36 pm

Pathetic draft and develop.

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Crankbait's picture

September 24, 2021 at 07:04 am

This front office has never been held accountable by the fans for the failure of the defense and special teams for the last 10 years. As long as the bean counters are happy, management is happy and accountability for playoff implosion is not realized.
(Last year's success was influenced by the China virus more than many realize, this season could be very different. )
I will enjoy watching us play our division rival games for sure, but it is one and done in the playoffs. GPG !

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