Aaron Rodgers’ blindside protector is back. Well, at least back to practice that is. All Pro Left Tackle David Bakhtiari is set to make his practice debut this week. He has served his six weeks on the PUP list rehabbing the torn ACL from late last season. Getting Bak back will be a big boost to an already very good Packers Offensive Line.
However, don’t expect him back for this Sunday’s game against Washington. He may not even make his debut against Arizona, which is next Thursday night, because of the short week of preparation. The Packers are notorious for easing players back after injuries. They take a conservative approach and do not rush players back into game action when they are not ready.
Rookie Center Josh Myers sustained a knee injury against the Bears that is likely to sideline him for a few weeks. Matt LaFleur did confirm it was not a season-ending injury. For the time being, before Bakhtiari is even back, the Packers could roll out a starting 5 of LT Yosh Nijman, LG, Jon Runyan Jr., C Elgton Jenkins, RG Royce Newman, and RT Billy Turner. This puts Lucas Patrick as a key backup for any of those 3 interior spots. LaFleur said in his press conference Monday that Patrick was the highest graded Offensive Lineman for the Packers Sunday based on their grading standards. Based off that, they also could keep Elgton Jenkins at Left Tackle, and plug and play Lucas Patrick at Center.
The Packers will slowly get Bakhtiari back to his elite playing level in practice to make sure there are no complications with the injury. Matt LaFleur said, “…And also I think there’s a confidence factor that you develop by playing football, whether that’s in practice, so there is a ramp-up period.”
Once Bakhtiari is set to play in his first game of 2021, Green Bay will need a plan on shuffling around the offensive line. It is important to note that for the most part, this is a good problem to have. Most teams in the NFL right now would kill to have this deep of an Offensive Line room with six or seven guys capable of filling in and playing a solid NFL game.
For this exercise, we are going to exclude Josh Myers from the lineup based off the uncertain timetable for return. The way I see it, there are four guys who will have a solidified spot in the starting lineup. Obviously, D-Bak will be the Left Tackle. Elgton Jenkins, Billy Turner, and Jon Runyan Jr. have played well enough that they will be on the field.
Here are the options that I see:
LT David Bakhtiari/ LG Jon Runyan Jr./ C Elgton Jenkins/ RG Royce Newman/ RT Billy Turner
LT David Bakhtiari/ LG Jon Runyan Jr./ C Lucas Patrick/ RG Billy Turner/ RT Elgton Jenkins
LT David Bakhtiari/ LG Elgton Jenkins/ C Lucas Patrick / RG Jon Runyan Jr./ RT Billy Turner
The most logical and likely option is the first one, I believe. However, the coaching staff might see Jenkins as too valuable and versatile to only play center moving forward.
For me, I think it comes down to who they prefer between Lucas Patrick and Royce Newman. Royce Newman has been solid but has made some recent, costly mental mistakes. He is much better in pass protection than in run fits, but I see him as the RG of the future, and pulling him out of the lineup might stunt his development. On Sunday against the Bears, Lucas Patrick came in for Myers at Center. After a slow start in which he notably looked bad in the offseason and training camp, Patrick looks to be improving. He could be a solid option at center for a few more weeks while Myers heals.
The Packers face another formidable defensive front in Washington this week. Although the Football Team has underperformed significantly this season, they still have the pieces there to disrupt any offense, led by Chase Young. It does not get any easier after the Washington game as the gauntlet of the schedule is on the horizon. Hopefully the Packers can solidify their starting offensive line sooner rather than later as we head into a very important stretch of the 2021 season.