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How Should the Packers Handle Their Offensive Line in 2019?

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How Should the Packers Handle Their Offensive Line in 2019?

The 2019 season will be an interesting one for the Packers for a number of reasons.  The main reason being, whether the Packers are ready to become a playoff contender again or whether this will be another year for young players to develop in preparation for another reload in 2020.  

Whatever ends up happening in 2019, I believe the future is bright and the team is on the cusp of being a perennial playoff contender.  They simply just have to be patient, stay the course, not trade away any draft picks or add any expensive contracts.

One position group of the team I am especially interested in this year is the offensive line and how it will come together.  I believe training camp and the preseason will give us a glimpse into what is in store in 2019.  However, the only way to truly measure the talent of this unit is to give the future starting five, meaningful in-game reps throughout the season.

What are the Biggest Questions that Need to be Answered?

The Packers biggest need is to establish each position of their offensive line for years to come.  As this unit is currently constructed, there could be the potential for a tremendous amount of upheaval next year when Brian Bulaga's contract runs out.  This is why it is paramount the for the Packers to figure out whether Bulaga can still be a top tier right tackle in the league and whether Lane Taylor will return to his 2016-2017 form.  

Secondly, the Packers need to determine whether or not Billy Turner can develop into an above-average right tackle.

This is where the complexity of this carousel becomes apparent.  If the Packers choose to stick with the projected starting unit of (Bakhtiari, Taylor, Linsley, Turner, Bulaga) for the majority of the snaps in 2019, there is the chance that the line can undergo a massive reconstruction in 2020 and may not be completely solidified until 2021.

How Can the Packers Answer These Questions Before the End of the Season?

1. Give Billy Turner plenty of reps at right tackle during training camp and preseason games.

2. Continue Billy Turner's development at right tackle during the regular season by giving him significant practice reps.

3. Give Brian Bulaga an occasional few series of rest to keep him healthy and see if Billy Turner can run block and pass protect at the position during meaningful snaps.  

4. Continue to keep a close eye on Lane Taylor and determine whether he is the future at left guard. 

5. See how Elgton Jenkins develops and look to give him a few series at multiple different positions during the season. 

Possible Outcomes for the Future of the Offensive Line

Scenario 1: Brian Bulaga shows he still has plenty left in the tank and the Packers extend him.  Lane Taylor returns to form and the Packers keep him at left guard which cements their offensive line for the foreseeable future.

Scenario 2: Bulaga and Taylor show the remnants of excess mileage and the Packers move on from both of them at seasons end.  In this case, they may look to keep Billy Turner at right guard, move Elgton Jenkins to left guard, and draft the best available left tackle in the 2020 draft and move them to right tackle.

Scenario 3: The Packers only move on from either Bulaga or Taylor and draft an offensive lineman or move Elgton Jenkins to left guard.  

What happens with the offensive line in 2019 will determine the areas of the 53 man roster the Packers will address in the offseason.  They need to hope Bulaga and Taylor prove themselves in 2019 so the unit can continue to develop continuity, chemistry, and depth moving forward.      

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David Michalski is a staff writer for Cheesehead TV. He can be found on Twitter @kilbas27dave 

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (39) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Old School's picture

If the Packers didn’t think that Turner could play tackle, they wouldn’t have paid him like they did.

We’ll start the high dollar vets. Jenkins and Spriggs will be the main backups......until injuries force us to adapt.

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Doug Niemczynski's picture

Spriggs will be CUT !!

stockholder's picture

1. Don't move Turner. Why does he have to learn a new position? Taylor was a big question mark, at LG. Sure it "might" have been injuries. But why move Turner, when his feet are excellent to play LG. You only will weaken him. And we can not make judgements on pushing him into different position. Taylor played RG. He should move. Bahk and Turner would be better next to other. And Lindsey would be stronger. The true question mark is who will replace Bulaga. But until we find a RG or suitable replacement. Taylor should move!! And give Spriggs one last shot at OT.

Guam's picture

If Turner is the designated replacement RT either in the event of injury or non-renewal of Bulaga's contact, that means the Packers have already written off Spriggs. If that is the case, I don't see how the Packers can avoid spending a high draft choice on a RT in next year's draft as they would have no one to compete with or be an injury replacement for Turner in 2020.

I am not a Spriggs fan, but lets see what TC brings before we completely write him off.

jannes bjornson's picture

If it's a high pick at OT, the guy has to be able to play both sides of the line.

Guam's picture

While I agree with your sentiment, we were discussing the RT spot since Bakh has the LT spot nailed down.

Old School's picture

I don’t really follow the logic. Spriggs is the backup at LT until we have a better option.. Turner is the starting RG and backup RT. Jenkins is the primary interior backup.

Guam's picture

No where have I seen that Turner is the officially designated backup at RT other than from commenters here at CHTV. Everyone believes he was signed because of his versatility, but I think the Packers still have Spriggs as the designated backup for both tackle spots. If Turner supplants Spriggs as the designated replacement at RT, that leaves only a limited role for Spriggs as the backup LT.

Given Spriggs play at both LT and RT, he has been a bit of a turnstile in pass protection. If he is just the designated backup LT, his days in Green Bay are numbered.

Tarynfor12's picture

Gently....very gently.

fthisJack's picture

NO....fast and hard!

fthisJack's picture

NO....fast and hard!

Coldworld's picture

They are going to test the heck out of Spriggs. This is his last chance to prove it. They are also going to want to test the likes of Light, McCray, de Beer and Nijman. If they see promise, some will need time with firsts. His will be the first opportunity the new coaches will have had with these guys in pads.

I’m sure Turner will get some time at tackle, but his main focus is getting comfortable at guard and with his colleagues to his left and right, both starting and potential back up options other than him.

Guam's picture

MLF's ZB scheme should be tailor made for Spriggs. If he doesn't succeed this season he is likely not an NFL grade O-lineman. If he isn't we will need one of the young guys you mentioned to really step up.

Rak47's picture

I hear what you're saying but MLF's zone blocking scheme is tailor made for Spriggs ability and athleticism in the run game, it's not going to help him at all in pass blocking where he as been a turnstile since the Packers drafted him. So unless he learns how to anchor and pass block he will be looking for new employment.

Guam's picture

Fair point Rak47.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Agreed. If Spriggs blossoms as a RT, GB will have to pay him. How much depends on how good he looks. If GB cuts Graham after 2019 (and this assumes Sternberger and probably also Tonyan look promising, otherwise GB is just plugging one hole while opening another), GB can afford to pay Bulaga or Spriggs. Nijman, De Beer, or Light blossoming opens up nice possibilities long term.

Taylor is under contract for 2020 at $5.9M with $4.675M in cap savings. GB might still need the 30-year old Taylor, or might be able to trade him and save a nice chunk of change.

So many variables at this time. We really have to wait to see who can play and who can't, and then project who might be able to with more time.

Packer Fan's picture

Turner gives the team five known starters. But the most important thing is to develop the young players to be solid backups. For there are always injuries. Solid backups then become future starters. This process hasn't happened for the last few years.

Bear's picture

I’m not a fan of Turner as a starting right tackle. Inside he’s a good player outside at tackle is a different story.

Lare's picture

At 31 years old and $8.4 million salary Bulaga has to know he won't be back in Green Bay next season. Taylor, Spriggs, Patrick, McCray and Pankey have struggled, so with a new blocking system its time for the young players to step up and earn a starting position.

Coldworld's picture

Disagree on Taylor prior to last season playing through injuries.

Guam's picture

I am not as sure about Bulaga's exit as you are. If Spriggs or one of the young guys doesn't develop this year, the Packers are going to be in a bind. Even more so if Bulaga manages to stay healthy most of the year and is marketable. I would hate to have to trust the RT spot to a rookie draft choice (even if a #1 or #2) next year, particularly if we don't have much depth behind him.

There are a number of scenarios where I could see Bulaga exiting the Packers, but there are also scenarios where Bulaga may have leverage next year unless there are good free agent alternatives (and that won't help us financially).

KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

Guam,
There also is the scenario where Bulaga plays well for x number of games but once again misses x amount of games due to nagging injuries, and/or doesnt play well due to injuries.

Depending on how the Packers young players develop there may not be a big demand in FA for top dollars for a frequently injured Bulaga. This might allow him to return to the Packers at a reasonable price.

Personally, if there is some 'young promising talent' at RT I would totally embrace Bulaga receiving a game play count to save him so he might make it thru the season while also allowing the backup talent receive playing experience in 2019. Of course, in critical game moments Bulaga would be playing. I stated this same point last winter. I really dont see it being any different than giving Aaron Jones a play count.

Guam's picture

Given Bulaga's injury history and the fact that he is a pretty good RT when healthy, the number of scenarios with him is almost limitless. I wouldn't mind seeing him on a "pitch count", but more than anything I would like to see a young RT step up and assert himself. That would give the Packers some flexibility and leverage next year. We will see what the season brings...….

Hawg Hanner's picture

Turner is your RG and could move over to LT if Bulaga goes down. Taylor is the presumed starter at LG. He has to show he is back. Spriggs must have a good camp. I'd think the last two 5th round picks Madison and Elgton Jenkins have more talent than former free agent McCray and the other depth from last season. They should be the priority depth.

Madfan's picture

I would hope Jenkins, a 2nd round pick (44th selection of the draft), has more talent than McCray. Who did you mean as the other 5th rounder besides Madison?

Mayhem's picture

You are all forgetting about Cole Madison! He just might be the answer to either G or RT!

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Maybe so. Is Madison akin to Jamon Meredith or Linsley?

Coldworld's picture

Why is it we seem to think everyone could be a tackle now?

vkpolidora's picture

Exactly! Tackle depth is the weak link of this team. The inside has been thoroughly addressed the last two off-seasons, but if either Tackle misses time, which seems very likely, the scheme unravels, Aarod starts holding the ball and running around - leading to the second weakest link, backup QB

4thand1's picture

Madison is still a rookie.

KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

Agreed, but no where have I read much about what Madison did during his sabbatical from football last year other than mentally getting himself better. Did he workout extensively? Did he spend time with some football guru working on footwork and hand placement techniques, or did he eat bomboms every day?

Knowing what he did would make huge difference.

Since '61's picture

As I have posted in previous articles on this topic I would start Bak, Jenkins, Linsley, Turner and Bulaga, left to right on the OL. Jenkins at LG to learn the OL calls from Linsley in live game action to prepare Jenkins to backup at Center. Turner at RG because of his salary and become familiar with the right side of the OL in case he needs to move to RT.

We have Taylor, McCray and maybe even Madison, if he makes the team, to backup at Guard. Turner will backup Bulaga.

Most importantly the Packers need to determine who will backup Bak. They need to prepare for the worst case scenario. This is the most important decision for the Packers OL. This could impact Rodgers health and the Packers entire season. At this point as far as I know the Packers have not named Bak’s backup. I expect that this will be determined during TC and the preseason. I doubt if it will be Spriggs unless he has a very strong camp. I hope someone emerges who can provide some confidence as our back up LT. Until then it’s anyone’s guess. Thanks, Since ‘61

flackcatcher's picture

This may be the most unsettled position group on this team. Outside of the four, and Turner (maybe) there are a bunch question marks from last year and unknowns from this years draft and FA signings. Two points: Madison is at this moment, the favor of the month for us fans. Man has been away from football for a year now, and is trying to play at the pro level where the jump is much greater mentality than physically. The other is Spriggs and Patrick. Spriggs has shown that he can play at this level, and if he is cut, he will be picked up and playing in some teams system. Too put it bluntly, Spriggs suffers from information overload, and shuts down at times during the game. At this point is just processing the mental aspect of the game for him to become a core player in the Packers OL. Patrick, on the other hand has major physical issues that he must prove to the Packers that he is over with. Having back to back career threatening injuries must give the coaching staff and front office pause. Much like Denver with Turner last season. If Turner can start and play at a starters level at RG, then most of the problems for the OL will go away (for this season). If not, well the Packers better have upped their insurance on Rodgers. Right now, just too many unknowns.

Jonathan Spader's picture

Lane Taylor in 2017 filled in for Bahktiari admirably at LT. As usual fans are giving the people on paper the benefit of the doubt. McCray was PFF's most improved player on the Packers in 2019. Spriggs could have a breakout year it's happened with OL before. We can pencil in Bahktiari, Linsley, and Brulaga that's it. LG and RG are open, backup spots are open. Let the competition be fierce!

porupack's picture

Very reasonable, S61.

Madfan's picture

I agree with others that training camp needs to be used to figure out the backups. Perhaps Jenkins could start by mid-season.

Assume GB will carry four backups. At this time Jenkins must be presumed to be one of the four and potentially play all of the interior positions.

While Turner could possibly slide over to play RT, consider the situation where Turner is injured. GB is then left with ____ as the backup for both LT and RT.
At least for discussion purposes, consider two backups.
Spriggs has been discussed in terms of his development and salary, but the only other tackle with experience is Light. Light's experience being virtually none favors Spriggs staying. For Spriggs to go, Light must come on quickly beat him out. That will be hard if Light is playing against second and third stringers. So there is a good chance both stay.

Who then is the other interior backup? McCray? Patrick? Madison? My guess is that Madison will start the season on the practice squad and the backup battle will be between McCray and Patrick.

I don't dismiss that a UDFA rookie could earn a spot on the practice squad.

greengold's picture

Talk about beating a dead horse.....

AgrippaLII's picture

Sugar coat it all you want by projecting this guard or that guard as a fill in at OT...there is no depth at OT...and it's going to come back to bite us !

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