522 total yards, 158 rushing yards and zero sacks allowed.
If I would’ve predicted those stats for the offensive line before the game started on Sunday in Minneapolis, I’m pretty sure you would’ve laughed.
After all, the Vikings were one of the top pass-rushing defenses in the league last year with 48 total sacks, and the Packers, without Billy Turner, were forced to shuffle around some players on the offensive line.
But with the offensive beatdown Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams and the Packers’ skill position players put on the Vikings, don’t forget about the front five — who absolutely dominated.
How good was the #Packers OL on Sunday? At @PFF, only one offensive lineman was charged with allowing a pressure. Lucas Patrick allowed one. That was IT. Aaron Rodgers took the blame for three other pressures. Four total.— Zach Kruse (@zachkruse2) September 14, 2020
“We knew that it was going to be very important for us in both the run and the pass game to take care of their front and our guys did that up front,” head coach Matt LaFleur said in a press conference on Monday.
After so much talk surrounded the decision about who the starting five would be without Billy Turner, the Packers decided to go with trusty backup Lucas Patrick at left guard, bumping out Elgton Jenkins to right tackle and starting Lane Taylor at right guard.
From the jump, the starting five played solid and made it seem like it was always the plan to start those five. Jenkins had no trouble dealing with the transition from left guard to right tackle. In fact, some are saying he played so well that it might be in the cards for Jenkins to stay at the position in the future.
In all likelihood – Elgton Jenkins is #Packers RT of future – 32 snaps at RT vs MIN— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) September 14, 2020
5 starts at RT while at Miss St
Smooth mover and is already comfortable playing the cat/mouse game with his hands (watch the flash) – strong, smooth, under control when DE wants to spin back in pic.twitter.com/ammSg095R3
“I don’t think there’s a position he can’t play on the offensive line, including center,” LaFleur said. “We feel really confident that wherever we need him, we can plug him in and that’s not always easy especially for a young player like he is.”
Obviously I’m not an NFL player, but speaking from my time on the offensive line playing college football, the transition from left guard during camp to right tackle in game one is ridiculously hard.
You have to really understand all five positions up front to be trusted enough to play multiple positions. On top of that, physically switching the sides you pass set, alternating from a two-point to three-point stance, and dealing with an edge rush instead of defensive tackles is incredibly tricky.
I personally think with what we saw from Rick Wagner, Jenkins is best suited to stay at left guard, but I’m constantly wrong with the Packers coaching staff.
Wagner and Runyan step up
When Patrick went down midway through the second quarter, Jenkins made the seamless transition back to left guard, bringing in Rick Wagner at right tackle. Wagner, the free agent many thought would take over Bryan Bulaga’s spot, has dealt with an injury and didn’t have the strongest of camps.
He came in on Sunday and played well, recording zero pressures and sacks in 24 pass-block attempts. It seemed he used his hands well and gave Aaron plenty of time to deliver dimes to Davante.
When Lane Taylor went down in the second half, rookie Jon Runyan Jr. filled in at right guard. I’ll admit that I’m always overly positive about Packers’ situations, but that was the moment in the game where I was suddenly nervous about the offensive line.
I really didn’t need to be. Surprise, surprise — Runyan also played well. He looked comfortable at the position and ol’ Brian Gutekunst might have stolen another draft gem out from under other teams’ noses.
“It was super encouraging to see Rick Wagner get in there and Jon Runyan and watch Elgton move from right tackle back to left guard,” LaFleur said. “I thought everybody did a great job and that’s going to be important for us moving forward.”
I get it. It was only one game. Now, can the Packers consistently stack solid games from the front five on top of each other moving forward? That’s the question.
Luckily, Lucas Patrick’s injury is minor and he will be back soon. Unfortunately for Lane Taylor, his season is over. You’ve got to feel bad for Lane, who took a pay cut and worked his butt off to get back in the starting lineup after a bicep injury a year ago.
What do the Packers do moving forward?
When Billy Turner returns to the lineup, do they bump him out to right tackle and start Patrick or Runyan at right guard? Was Wagner’s performance solid enough to keep him in the starting lineup and Turner moves back into right guard? Does Jenkins stick at left guard? Or do the Packers like him at right tackle for the future?
Only time will tell.——————
Gunnar Davis is a lifelong Packers fan and a recent graduate of Simpson College, where he was a 3-year letterwinner on the offensive line and graduated with a degree in multimedia communications. You can follow him on Twitter at @Gunnar57Davis.
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