Packers Offensive Line Has More Questions Than Answers

Not long ago, the Packers had an offensive line that could safely be called the best in the league. Now it's mostly a guessing game.

I remember when it seemed like David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins were the best pair of offensive linemen in the league. It was a time when they boasted three All Pro talents and had no weakness on their line.

We've come a long way.

In back to back offseasons, the Packers let starters Corey Linsely and Billy Turner leave.

In back to back offseason, they lost All Pro caliber linemen to ACL injuries.

Depth has even suffered with veteran reserves Lucas Patrick and Dennis Kelly both leaving this offseason.

Now, we're picking up pieces and hoping for the best.

Left to right, there seems to be only one spot where we can pencil in a Day 1 starter with any level of confidence. Josh Myers seems like a pretty sure thing to start at center.

After that?

Roll the dice.

Jon Runyan is probably the highest-rated healthy guard on the team, but which side will he start on?

Royce Newman played the most snaps last year, but that was out of necessity - will he be able to fend off competition this year?

Elgton Jenkins will probably not start the season, which leaves a spot open.

David Bakhtiari, who no one assumed could possibly still be injured this long, is still doing rehab work at minicamp. Will he be ready week 1? Will he ever play again?

Even if he does come back to man his left tackle spot, who will play right tackle?

Yosh Nijman needed chip help when he was a starter and was benched in back to back playoffs when Bakhtiari was hurt. Have Packers coaches soured on him? Do they have enough confidence in him to make the switch to right tackle after playing left tackle his entire professional career? Or would they rather keep him as a backup left tackle in case Bakhtiari's injury flares up later in the season?

And what about the rookies?

Sean Rhyan was a tackle in college, but projects as a guard in the pros. Where do the Packers want to try him? Could he be talented enough to start as a rookie?

The same questions could be asked about Zach Tom and Rasheed Walker. Are these guys even being considered for starting roles this year or are they just developmental players?

Most rookies need one spot to focus on learning, but these guys are all prospects that draft pundits saw as tackles that may be better at guard. Where will they learn first?

There's a lot to sort out.

Sure, I'd love to see a line of Bakhtiari-Runyan-Myers-Rhyan-Jenkins, but I'm not even the least bit optimistic that happens any time soon. We could come out of camp with a lineup of Nijman-Newman-Hanson-Tom-Walker.

Injuries and free agent defections have caught up with the Packers and put the whole line in disarray.

There are very few things that would surprise me coming out of camp. 

The one thing that I do have faith in is the Packers coaching staff.

I have no doubt they will cobble together five guys with enough ability to let the offense function even under the worst case scenario. I'm also confident that Matt LaFleur will gameplan appropriately based on what the guys on the field can handle and who they're up against.

But I think we're in for a bumpy ride before we can figure that stuff out. 

There are a lot more questions than answers right now. 

 

Bruce Irons has played, coached, and studied football for decades. Best-selling author of books such as A Fan's Guide To Understanding The NFL Draft, A Fan's Guide To Understanding The NFL Salary Cap, and A Fan's Guide To NFL Free Agency Hits And Misses, Bruce contributes to CheeseHeadTV and PackersForTheWin.com.

Follow Bruce Irons on Twitter at @BruceIronsNFL.

 

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Comments (27)

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Postman's picture

June 12, 2022 at 07:17 am

DBak should not be an issue right now. By having him in the Rehab Group management can be doing mind games with the Packers opponents for the year. It has been 18 months since his injury and he had this off season to get healed up. DBak does not need any work in shorts. IF he is not available for training camp then us Packer fans will need to worry. Now it is time to just RELAX.

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dblbogey's picture

June 12, 2022 at 09:29 pm

I think Bakhtiari remains a question until he's on the field playing real games. I love that they picked OL #3 and#4, and like both players. I expect Elgton to return by game 5, which will be a big boost. Simply put, if Bahk, Jenkins and Myers are healthy, we're looking very good.

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Cubbygold's picture

June 12, 2022 at 07:31 am

I'm not concerned.

69 and Jenkins will be healthy at some point and they invested quality draft capital into a few encouraging prospects. I fully expect this group to be top 10 by the end of the year.

The early season lack of certainty is an opportunity for development. Nobody knew who Yosh was going into last year and there he was, playing great even against top tier competition. No doubt the team gets better because of this. Just have to hope, unlike last year, that they find consistency and health by the end of the year.

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NickPerry's picture

June 12, 2022 at 08:15 am

I'm not overly concerned...YET. LaFleur said it was the Packers plan all along to rest DB during OTA's, and why not, he certainly doesn't need to run around in shorts. Why not give him the additional time? It gives the Packers the opportunity to look at other players like Rhyan, Tom, and Walker, and the obvious it gives Bakhtiari additional time. There's no benefit for him to be participating.

Jon Runyan is the staring LG. He's been solid there and improving every year. No reason at all to mess with him and the same can be said at Center with Josh Meyers. The big battles will be at RG and RT, at least until Jenkins comes back.

Zack Tom has the size to play RT though he is a little light in the ass to start there this year. Tom is a technician and can play anywhere the Packers put him. He's also played a lot in the zone-blocking scheme while in college. I actually wouldn't be surprised if he's the starting RT until Jenkins is back and maybe beyond. Sean Rhyan IMO will be the starting RG. I think he beats out Royce Newman, unless Newman shows he's taken a BIG year two jump.

Bottom line is the Packers may have some question marks, but they've got A LOT of really good depth in the O-Line room. Once Jenkins is back I think the Packers will have one of the best O-Lines in football and will only get better with each passing week. Gute has done an excellent job, personally I'm not concerned at all about the O-Line.

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Grandfathered's picture

June 13, 2022 at 09:38 pm

I think Runyon and Newman are both in danger of losing starting guard jobs. is not a starter this year. Competition is good!

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stockholder's picture

June 12, 2022 at 08:19 am

Things will change. I don't believe there are questions. In fact; I believe Bahk will retire/ Be Released. And Jenkins won't be resigned. I know that won't sit well with a lot of you. But the Cap Hell will change this offensive Line. Not the Question marks. The IOL is Runyan /Myers / And Rhyan. And I'll bet Rhyan ends up at RT after this year. Nijman will get his shot at LT. They only need to see who develops Faster. Zack Tom or Newman. And Zack will be the center if Myers gets hurt again. Leaving Newman at Guard. The Questions aren't there. Who will get paid is.

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mrtundra's picture

June 12, 2022 at 08:30 am

No way will they not re-sign All Pro Jenkins. Bakh may go, but not this year, unless that knee fluid thing cannot be healed.

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mrtundra's picture

June 12, 2022 at 08:30 am

No way will they not re-sign All Pro Jenkins. Bakh may go, but not this year, unless that knee fluid thing cannot be healed.

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stockholder's picture

June 12, 2022 at 09:34 am

They have already said. Jenkins can play where he wants when he returns. But the Packers don't pay guards. They didn't pay Turner. He will be a player without a position. And his body won't hold up at LT. Rt has been a revolving door. So I doubt they pay him big bucks.- Especially since he had surgery and missed time. Will see.

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Coldworld's picture

June 12, 2022 at 11:25 am

They didn’t pay Turner, but he was a RT by that point, coming to an age where that is relevant. Given the tight cap, the emergence of Nijman and a strong draft class, I think it’s misleading to read too much into that. I do agree Jenkins will end up being a T once fully healthy. I expect Nijman to be the other longer term at this point and I’m happy with that whichever plays which side.

Whether Jenkins plays T this year depends on speed of recovery and the health of Bakh. It’s possible they keep him at guard if he’s back later as that’s less demanding on his knees, assuming others are settled and healthy—that being a factor that can’t be relied on of course.

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BruceIrons's picture

June 13, 2022 at 06:07 pm

I wouldn't be shocked if Bakhtiari was forced to retire (I don't think it will happen, but it wouldn't shock me).

However, I would be shocked if Jenkins was able to come back this year and didn't get re-signed by the Packers. Yes, they have some cap challenges, but I would not expect an All Pro caliber offensive lineman coming off his rookie deal to be one of the tough choices.

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Grandfathered's picture

June 13, 2022 at 09:41 pm

Cory Lindsley? It happens.

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mrtundra's picture

June 12, 2022 at 08:25 am

Runyon will play at LG until Jenkins returns. Nijman will play for Bakh, if Bakh is not ready to go. Myers at Center. Either Newman or Tom at RG and Rhyan or Van Lanen at RT, with Rasheed Walker as back up to Rhyan or Van Lanen. Tom and Rhyan can play both G and T spots. Until Jenkins and Bakh come back, look for a lot of personnel packages all over the OL. Wouldn't surprise me if Gute signed a FA for the OL, if the young guys aren't up to the task. We know Jenkins can play anywhere along the OL, but his best spots, IMO, are along the left side, from LT to Center. Moving him to RG or RT is asking a lot, especially when Newman has supposedly bulked up a bit and we have some promising players in Tom, Rhyan and Nijman and maybe even in Van Lanen and Raheed Walker, too, as back ups. One thing, possibly, is ARod may be getting rid of the ball more quickly or looking to handing the ball off to Jones and Dillon to keep defenders from getting to him, until our OL stiffens up. Time will tell. GO PACK, GO!!!

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EricinGB's picture

June 12, 2022 at 08:43 am

More questions than answers? Yes, Bruce Irons take reads as an objective, solid view regarding the state of the offensive line coming into the season as...lets the long view and assume the Packers will at least make the playoffs:
1. defense should be at least top ten if not top five...
2. special teams will at least be better than last year vs being a liability...
3. wide receivers as a group will have 17 games experience...tight ends will be stronger than las year...worst case, the offensive line will be just as unhealthy entering the playoffs as last year,
4. chances are the offensive line will be healthier and if not dominant, at least not a liability..yes, their are more questions than answers on the offensive lie going into the season
All in all, there is a lot to like about the 2022 team's potential to make a long post-season run...perhaps that's why .many books have the Packers favorites to reach the Super Bowl.

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Coldworld's picture

June 12, 2022 at 09:21 am

If you look at the first 2/3 of the season I’d agree with the perspective on Newman, but in the last part of the season he was actually as good as or better than Runyon. His recognition issues seemed to recede. I think the assumption that Rhyan is a shoe in ignores that fact.

As for Nijman, yes he needed some help initially when thrown in as a (very inexperienced) starter at a key position, but that declined pretty fast. Again, a player whom we seem to be looking at based upon the start and not the whole body of work.

What on earth the Packers were thinking messing with the O Line in the Championship game likely remains a mystery, but I believe that the coaches have accepted that it was misguided in hindsight. It certainly looked it on the day and thus I doubt that this is much of an indication of future thinking. To that one might add the departure of both tackles that day.

I’m actually interested to see if Myers can hold on as starting C. I actually think that there’s a possibility that he is the one who may be most in danger of being supplanted by a pick this year.

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stockholder's picture

June 12, 2022 at 09:40 am

They have been very happy with Runyon. Can't rule out they may move him, when Jenkins wants back in.

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BruceIrons's picture

June 13, 2022 at 06:13 pm

The Nijman thing is puzzling to me. They've kept him on the team as a developmental backup left tackle. When he was in there, I felt he was "good enough." It seems like most people have a higher opinion of him than I do... but the coaches seem to have a lower opinion of him.

When I heard he wasn't starting against the 49ers, I got really nervous about the offense. I think the Packers figured they wanted to use veterans for a big game, but having unfamiliar players at both tackle spots facing a top 5 defense front seemed like a mistake, especially in hindsight. Whatever the reason or result, it showed that the coaches were not confident in him to be the LT.

Given that's the only position he's played for them, and they benched him in back to back playoff outings, I think he's best described as a question mark.

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Grandfathered's picture

June 13, 2022 at 10:01 pm

I don't know how much you can read into that decision, but us optimists always hope that when a developmental player gets real game reps, the experience makes him better

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lou's picture

June 12, 2022 at 09:33 am

If the best LT in the NFL plays in 2020 vs the Bucs (or Veldeer doesn't get COVID) the Packers go to the Super Bowl and they beat the 49ers in 2021 to advance against the Ram's, that is how VALUABLE this guy is. What makes it worse is that if Jenkin's was healthy you could pencil him in at LT and play almost as well. The O Line issues are huge. Here is a reminder, he Cowboy's year after year used their #1 pick for O Lineman and became a winning team, in a 3 year span the best center in the NFL a consenus All Pro had to retire at 25 and two of their other All Pro lineman were injured and not the same players when they returned. Since then Zeke looks like an ordinary RB and although they had winning seasons they lose to teams with winning records.

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BruceIrons's picture

June 13, 2022 at 06:28 pm

I'm totally with you. If Bakhtiari stays healthy, the Packers win it all in 2020 and probably 2021, too.

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Renllaw's picture

June 12, 2022 at 10:12 am

Adam Walter Stenavich

Not worried.

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Paul Glotz's picture

June 12, 2022 at 02:44 pm

The most surprising thing is those player combinations are not being used at all. Rather it is Van Lanen at RT and Nijman at LT thus far. Obviously the should change at LT with Bak, but it’s very possible Nijman is held as a Swing Tackle in case of injury either side.

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Paul Glotz's picture

June 12, 2022 at 02:44 pm

The most surprising thing is those player combinations are not being used at all. Rather it is Van Lanen at RT and Nijman at LT thus far. Obviously the should change at LT with Bak, but it’s very possible Nijman is held as a Swing Tackle in case of injury either side.

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BruceIrons's picture

June 13, 2022 at 06:31 pm

I think they're just using minicamps to assess how guys play at each spot. I'm not reading too much into it at this point.

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Ferrari-Driver's picture

June 12, 2022 at 06:57 pm

Your article lacks the optimism that I have regarding the Packers. I tend to be optimistic about most challenges and feel the same about this year's Packers team. Perhaps the only single injury that would make it improbable for the Green and Gold to make it to the post season and have a chance to win yet another Lombardi Trophy would be to our starting quarterback. Personally, I expect by the time we reach the post season, the key veterans you reference will be lining up and some of the rookies we drafted will by much improved with essentially a year of experience under their belt.

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BruceIrons's picture

June 13, 2022 at 06:30 pm

I'm optimistic on the Packers. I'm even optimistic that they figure out the offensive line. I'm just not confident I could predict who will start week 1 at more than one or two of the spots.

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Tundraboy's picture

June 12, 2022 at 07:14 pm

Much ado about nothing. We always have a good line. Are there concerns, of course, but as long as Jenkins recovers fully I'm good.

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