In a week riddled with negativity and question with the Green Bay Packers, I’ve had enough. This weekend could be ugly, and then again, maybe it could be a surprise. Who knows? Either way, I wanted to bring a little positivity to the table today. Zach Tom was thrusted into his first career start on the Offensive Line Sunday, and he answered the call.
The rookie offensive lineman didn’t learn of his first start at Left Tackle until he got to the stadium on Sunday. Did this rattle the former Wake Forest lineman? Not at all. “You’ve always got to be ready,” Tom later told reporters. And ready he was. The casual fan probably had no idea that Zach Tom was lined up at Left Tackle the entire game, and for an Offensive Lineman, that’s a good thing.
Despite lining up against a pretty good Washington Defensive Line, Zach Tom allowed zero QB pressures. That’s right, with David Bakhtiari out of the lineup, there’s a chance Aaron Rodgers saw no difference in his blindside protection. To put it into prospective, Aaron Rodgers dropped back to pass 41 times. All 41 of those snaps, Zach Tom held his defender at bay, and Rodgers never felt any heat from that side.
Not only did Tom do well in pass protection, but he also made himself valuable in the run game. There was a great play I saw highlighted where he opened a hole for Aaron Jones on an eight-yard run. Tom began the play pulling from his left tackle position to the left. He showed great patience allowing the tight end and wide receiver to engage in their blocks to seal the edge. Tom then used his speed to set his sights on the cornerback, pushing him to the sidelines and opening up a big hole for Aaron Jones to pick up some good yardage.
Not his first extended play
In the first game of the season, Zach Tom was thrust into action at Left Guard when Jon Runyan had to exit with a concussion. Tom did very well in the running game but had a few hiccups in pass protection. A notable moment was when Tom sealed off a Vikings Linebacker to open a hole for Aaron Jones to take off on a 29-yard run. He also helped push AJ Dillon into the endzone for a touchdown run.
Zach Tom earned some praise after the game from Head Coach Matt LaFleur stating you could tell it wasn’t “too big” for him. The rookie did struggle a tiny bit in pass pro but did a really nice job for his first NFL game. Due to his recent showing where his pass protection was essentially flawless, it seems perhaps he’s cleaned up his game a bit since that first showing. Or maybe he handles Tackle better than Guard, we’ll have to see.
Versatility is key
Immediately at the start of camp, Zach Tom’s versatility was noted. He was beginning to draw comparisons to Elgton Jenkins due to his ability to play all positions. In college, Tom logged over 1400 snaps at left tackle, and 1100 snaps at center. Also, a little work at Guard. This versatility puts Zach Tom in a position of high value as he could be relied on to step in no matter what position is needed. So far, he’s done just that.
In my humble opinion, you can never have enough good Offensive Linemen. To have an embarrassment of riches on your line can be nothing but a win for your team. But the question lays, where to put them all.
Finding his place
It’s no secret that the Packers have had to shuffle around their Offensive Line a lot this season. Besides being a good option ready to go in a pinch, where can Zach Tom find a home?
It appears at this time that if this Offensive Line is 100% healthy, they’ll line up LT Bakhtiari, LG Runyan, C Myers, RG Jenkins, RT Nijman. So where does Zach Tom go? I think Zach Tom’s best position at this time is Tackle. If David Bakhtiari is healthy, he will be the Left Tackle. Yosh Nijman earned the right to play on this line last year and early this year, so he’s kind of solidified that Right Tackle position unless they move back Elgton Jenkins.
This season Zach Tom’s best position might be a swingman as he has been already, but I firmly believe he deserves his shot at the Tackle position when it’s available. He has been near flawless at the position in games, which includes the preseason. So, he deserves a chance to show he can do it full time.
It might not be this season, but I believe we will see Zach Tom become a fixture on this Offensive line for years to come.
Greg Meinholz is a 24/7/365 Packers fan. When he’s not spending time with his family, he can be found meditating in his Packers shrine with a good beer. You can follow him on twitter at @gmeinholz.