The Green Bay Packers have featured an elite offensive line unit for what seems like decades now. Yes there were a few low points over the years (Marshall Newhouse, Don Barclay come to mind), but overall the front office and o-line coaches have done an unbelievable job.
As we embark upon the 2021 season, there will be new faces on the offensive line. Will the Packers continue to field one of the top o-lines in football, or will a lack of continuity be cause for concern?
LT David Bakhtiari
When David Bakhtiari is on the field, he’s simply the best in the business. Bakhtiari is a rare non-skill-position offensive weapon that neutralizes opponents’ best edge rushers and allows precious extra time for wide receivers to beat coverage.
He was rewarded accordingly in November of last season with a four year, 105.5 million contract extension making him the richest offensive lineman in the league. Of course, he tore his ACL during a December 31st practice session leaving his availability to begin the 2021 season in doubt.
the accounts of Bakhtiari’s rehab have been sparse but positive, the left tackle himself was quoted as saying “I’ve got no problem saying that I will 100 percent be ready for training camp…in 2022”. That would seemingly leave the Packers with a gaping hole at left tackle to begin the 2021 season. Who will step-up to protect QB1’s blindspot?
LG Elgton Jenkins
Another bonafide stud, Elgton Jenkins has made his presence felt in Green Bay since the moment he arrived. A true swiss army knife, Jenkins played at least 25 snaps at four of the five offensive line positions in the 2020 season. He received above average grades from Pro Football Focus while also earning his first Pro Bowl nod.
Although Billy Turner is currently listed as the starter at left tackle in relief of Bakhtiari, Jenkins will get his share of training camp reps at the position. It will shock no one if he ends up with the starting gig at left tackle come week one. At minimum we know that Jenkins is an elite left guard that already ranks in the top two or three at the position entering his third NFL season.
C Josh Meyers
One Ohio State center leaves, another one enters. Rookie second rounder Josh Meyers may have the same pedigree of his predecessor Corey Linsley, but replacing the latters all-pro abilities will not easily be done.
Josh Meyers could be an excellent player, he stands at an imposing 6’5” and 310 lbs (a full two inches taller than Linsley) and has experience playing against top-end talent. But the center position is the nucleus of the offensive line and requires rapport with the quarterback that can only be honed over time.
Unfortunately with the Aaron Rodgers saga still unfolding, it’s likely that Meyers will be building rapport with Jordan Love and will miss crucial time with Rodgers. It’s quite possible that Lucas Patrick could end up as the week one starter at center based on his experience making offensive line calls and his familiarity with Rodgers.
RG Lucas Patrick
The right guard position is likely up for grabs. Lucas Patrick is the incumbent and has performed well, but there are a bevy of young and cheap options behind him that could make a push for his job. Jon Runyran Jr. is a name to watch in training camp. Runyan performed admirably in weeks 11 & 12 of the 2020 season and has NFL bloodlines.
Patrick was rewarded with a two year contract extension in 2019 to the tune of 2.975 million, not a huge money deal but it shows the Packers wanted to keep him in the fold. Rookies Cole Van Lanen and Royce Newman could also be in the mix but it would take a stellar training camp for either to claim a starting spot out of the gate.
RT Billy Turner
Billy Turner will likely open the season as the Packers starting left tackle if David Bakhtiari is unable to go. It’s unclear how many games Turner may have to start on the blindside, but as soon as Bakhtiari is healthy, Turner will slot back in as the right tackle. It’s unclear at this time who will man the right tackle position to begin the season, but there are a couple of players on the roster that may fit.
Royce Newman could be in play at right tackle in addition to the competition at right guard. Newman has the length and athleticism to potentially stick on the outside, but the odds are against a 23 year old rookie being able to bookend the Packers offensive line right out of the gate.
Yosh Nijman is another name to watch in training camp, a “project” player with prototypical NFL tackle size (6’7”, 314) and freakish athleticism (9.8 RAS score). Nijman has had an opportunity to gain some experience through the practice squad and a strong camp could move him to the front of the line.
The Packers front office may also decide to mine the veteran scrapheap to find a swing tackle if they aren’t confident in the options currently on the roster.
An injury to David Bakhtiari and the departure of all-pro center Corey Linsley have left the Packers with a little more uncertainty than usual along the line. It will be a tall order to match Pro Football Focus’ number two overall ranking again in 2021, but they likely won’t regress much either. It will be fascinating to watch the training camp battles at the couple positions that are up for grabs. History is on the side of the Packers, strong drafting and a top o-line coach in Adam Stenavich will get the most out of this unit one way or another.
You can follow Adam on twitter at @adamjcarlson28.