Aaron Rodgers won his 3rd NFL MVP in 2020 while the Packers rushing attack was strong. The Packers Offensive Line will be a major key to success in 2021.
Often an un-sexy thing to talk about, the truth is that if a team has a strong offensive line, it allows a quarterback time to make downfield reads, pass-catchers to get open and creates lanes in the rushing game. The offensive line is the number one fundamental in a football offense because every other component is able to have success because of it.
In 2020, the Packers ranked tied for 2nd in the NFL for fewest sacks allowed. In Rodgers’ 2014 MVP campaign, the Packers ranked 7th in the league in sacks allowed. In arguably Rodgers’ worst season as a pro, in 2018, the Packers ranked 30th in the league in sacks allowed.
The correlation between offensive line protection and a quarterbacks success cannot be understated. Just ask Russell Wilson or Andrew Luck, or look at some of the “down” years Rodgers has had through out his career. The simple fact is, a quarterback needs to have time in the pocket to be effective.
In the NFC Championship game against the Buccaneers, without All-Pro LT David Bakhtiari, the Packers line struggled, allowing 5 sacks against a dangerous pass-rush. That was probably one of the top 3 reasons, if not the main reason, why the Packers lost the game and missed an opportunity playing in the Super Bowl.
So far in the 2021 off-season, the Packers lost Center Corey Linsley to the Chargers in free agency and Tackle Rick Wagner to retirement. Linsley, a 2020 All-Pro, was with the Packers since 2014 and definitely leaves a huge void to fill moving forward. Wagner, primarily a backup, struggled in the NFC Championship game as the starting RT but the depth he brought will be missed.
Where do the Packers go from here and how do they look heading into 2021? Protecting Rodgers and creating holes in the rushing attack will be huge to their future success.
Left Tackle: David Bakhtiari
Bakhtiari, a Packer since 2013 and an All-Pro player, just signed an extension to remain with the Packers through 2024. One of the best left tackle’s in the league will remain in Green Bay in 2021, protecting Aaron Rodgers’ blind spot and forging holes in the run game. Bakhtiari is currently rehabbing from a torn ACL which occurred in December. The Packers are in great hands at the LT position.
Left Guard: Elgton Jenkins
The Packers starting LG going into 2021 is Elgton Jenkins, a 3rd year player from Mississippi State. Jenkins, a 2019 All-Rookie Selection and a 2020 Pro Bowler, is good enough to have an All-Pro/Hall of Fame career. The Packers hit the jackpot with Jenkins in the 2nd round of the 2019 draft and he appears to have a very long and successful career ahead. Jenkins is an excellent player and the Packers will do well with him at LG in 2021.
Center: Jon Runyan
Jon Runyan, the son of former NFL offensive lineman Jon Runyan, showed a lot of promise in his limited playing time in 2020. Runyan, a 2nd year player from University of Michigan, has an opportunity to seize a starting position among the offensive line heading into 2021. Although he played well when called upon, the sample size is limited and filling the void of Corey Linsley will not happen overnight. It’s to be seen if Runyan performs well enough in training camp to earn a starting spot on the line.
Right Guard: Lucas Patrick
Patrick is a steady veteran who has been with the Packers since 2016. It’s fair to say that he enjoyed his best season as a pro in 2020, holding up fairly well through out the season and starting 15 out of 16 games. Although Patrick isn’t a superstar, he proved last year that he can be an asset in the run game and be OK in Pass Protection. A familiar face who’s proven to be dependable is never a bad thing and the Packers have that in Lucas Patrick.
Right Tackle: Billy Turner
Veteran lineman Billy Turner had his best season as a professional in 2020 and looks to continue that momentum in 2021. The versatile offensive lineman can effectively play Tackle or Guard on either side of the line. Turner currently sits as the starting RT for the Packers going into the new season. After a difficult 2019 campaign, Turner rebounded in a monster way and the Packers will need him to stay healthy and consistent.
As is always the case, a strong and healthy offensive line needs to be more than its starters. Through out the course of an NFL season, there are usually injuries and having players step in and do an adequate job is important. The Packers will look to add to their depth via the NFL draft and perhaps free agency, along with the existing backups they have.
Going into 2021, the Packers are strong on the front line. Although not as good as the 2020 team with the loss of Linsley, they certainly still have a more-than respectable bunch and should be able to create the foundation for the offense to have another successful and dynamic season in 2021.——————
Alex grew up in a family of Chicago Bears fans in the suburbs of Chicago but was always a diehard Packers fan. Alex\\\'s AIM name when he was in elementary/middle school was PackerAlex. He now lives in Nashville, Tennessee and you can follow him on twitter at @Alex_Mayer93.