Packers’ training camp is finally upon us, after months of uncertainty around the NFL.
One of the most fascinating and tangible storylines to follow in training camp are position battles. New blood and veteran losses create opportunities around the team, and fans want the best players to rise to the occasion. The Green Bay Packers will, for the most part, keep most of their starters from 2019, but wide receiver, inside linebacker, and defensive line all have spots up for grabs.
However, the most impactful position battle will take place in the trenches. The right side of the offensive line is wide open, with both the guard and tackle position on the line. Who would protect Aaron Rodgers flank in 2020?
Billy Turner, Rick Wagner, and Lane Taylor have all seen action with the first team thus far. Two primary pairings have emerged: Turner at RT with Taylor at RG and Wagner at RT with Turner as RG. LaFleur is content to let the best group take over in open competition.
Turner mentioned he hasn’t played the same position two years in a row since entering the league. One reason the Packers felt comfortable with his contract was his versatility. His first year in Green Bay was mixed, with different metrics having wildly different assessments for Turner. Yet he was a clear upgrade at RG and played all 16 games. While he has experience at tackle, guard is a more natural position for Turner.
Wagner had a disappointing 2019 season that was marred by injuries. A new opportunity in his home state of Wisconsin and a clean slate of health should lead to a better season in 2020. If healthy, he is by far the most experienced and talented at the tackle position. Logically, the right tackle job should be his to lose.
A pairing that hasn’t been discussed much is Taylor at RG and Wagner at RT. It’s not unrealistic that Taylor, who became a staple of the offensive line after Josh Sitton’s release and only lost his starting position at LG thanks to injury, could beat out Turner. Taylor has chemistry with his teammates and preformed admirably in 2018. But Taylor took a pay cut to remain in Green Bay, and Turner is one of the four free agents Gutekunst paid big money for in 2019. It stands to reason the Packers will want to give Turner the opportunity to earn that money. But if the best group is truly what the team seeks, Taylor/Wagner can’t be forgotten.
The team also drafted three interior linemen, and Jon Runyan Jr. has even gotten some work with the second team. Maybe a youngling will shock us all and earn the job.
There is also the possibility of what could happen with Corey Linsley. While there’s no tangible evidence to suggest Linsley, who has an expiring contract in 2021, will be released, the Packers have made similar moves before. If so, Elgton Jenkins could be considered at center, opening Taylor’s old position at LG and making the decision easier.
However, there’s no reason to dive into the tea leaves. Right now, right guard and right tackle are the open competition. Short of a rookie wowing the coaching staff out of nowhere or a surprise release, those positions will be filled by a combination of Billy Turner, Rick Wagner, and Lane Taylor.
With recent news reporters won’t be allowed to discuss who gets first-team reps, the waters get even murkier. But even so, this is the battle Packers fans will want to follow.Matt Hendershott is a Packers fan and Miller High Life enthusiast from Northwest Ohio. He has a Master of Arts in Media and Communication from Bowling Green State University. You can follow him on Twitter @MattHendershott.