When you have an aging Hall of Fame quarterback, it’s always a good idea to invest in his protection. Green Bay has always done that. The Packers’ offensive line has perennially been one of the strongest units in the league. Per ESPN, the Packers finished 2021 5th in the NFL in pass block win rate. But with injuries to Elgton Jenkins and the release of starting tackle Billy Turner, 2022 looks to be very different. Add in David Bakhtiari who essentially missed all of 2021 recovering from his own torn ACL, and suddenly one the team’s biggest strengths looks like one of it’s biggest question marks.
The return of a healthy Bakhtiari is the first domino that needs to fall. With him, the Packers can feel comfortable with their left side of the line. Jon Runyan Jr. turned into a steadying presence a season ago, playing 1053 offensive snaps in 2021, and finishing without a penalty and only 2 sacks allowed. And Josh Myers played well at center before his own injury caused him to miss all but 7 games.
However, the right side of the line is where the questions really begin. Elgton Jenkins appears to be the right tackle of the future, especially after the Packers once again bypassed the tackle position and instead loaded up on the interior in the draft. However, he will likely begin the season on the physically unable to perform list.
The good news for Green Bay is that they have given themselves no shortage of options to fill those final two positions. And the candidates that they have almost all have the versatility to play either spot. RG incumbent Royce Newman started every game, but also took reps at right tackle in camp. He will face stiff competition from 2022 draft picks Sean Rhyan and Zach Tom. Both played left tackle in college but project more along the interior in the NFL. The Packers will likely rotate those 3 between right guard and tackle throughout camp.
Perhaps the favorite to start the season at right tackle is Yosh Nijman. Nijman is an athletic freak, and filled in admirably at left tackle a season ago. But he does have experience on the right side, starting every game at right tackle his senior year at Virginia Tech. The Packers could very well put Nijman at tackle and take the best of Newman/Rhyan/Tom at guard. That would also create less reshuffling when Jenkins is able to return, allowing for a one for one substitution. It would also give the rookies and Newman the opportunity to focus on a single position.
The options are many for the Packers, and although there is more uncertainty than previous years, they have the chance to once again produce a top unit. And if there’s anyone Green Bay can trust to figure it out, it’s new offensive coordinator Adam Stenovich.——————
Jared is a rogue Packers fan from a Steelers family and an overall football junkie, including playing 4 years at Ithaca College. You can follow him on twitter at @JPrugar.