Is Offensive Line the Biggest Concern for Packers?

The Green Bay Packers have been in the news feeds quite a bit over the past few weeks.  Most of that has centered around rumors that they could make a play for Oakland Raiders linebacker Khalil Mack.

With the Packers having just visited Oakland last week and coming away with no Mack, the likelihood of that happening is even lower than it already was beforehand.  So on we move to other topics of conversation.

After the Raiders game, there has been a lot of discussion and interest in what the Packers are doing on the offensive line.  None of the preferred starters played and we got a good look at the depth on the line.

By "a good look", I mean a long look.  It certainly wasn't "good" in terms of product.  Packers quarterbacks were hit eight times and sacked five.  

The Packers seem to have a pretty good roster heading into this season.  Most areas have solid pieces or a piece that can hold it together.  Is the offensive line an area of concern?

With teams about to start cutting down their rosters, the Packers are surely going to be scouring the waiver wire to see if they can add some more dependable depth.  I say that because frankly, ever team should be doing that.

But in order to add a guy to the roster, another guy has to go.  So, we have to trust that if the Packers make a move, they believe the new player is better than a guy already on the team.

We know who the starting five are: David Bakhtiari at left tackle, Lane Taylor at left guard, Corey Linsley at center, Justin McCray at right guard and Bryan Bulaga at right tackle.

If that group can stay together through most of the season, the Packers offense should be looking good.  The problem is, history says they won't.

Bulaga is less than a year removed from a torn ACL, the second in his career.  Taylor hasn't played much this preseason and Bakhtiari tweaked his ankle during Family Night.  None of those three need many reps but there's always a chance that those previous ailments cause some trouble.

McCray bruised his thigh in preseason game number two but should be ready to go by the start of the season.  He's the least experienced and the weakest link of the five.  That's not to say that McCray is weak, but someone has to be that lowest man on the totem pole in a group.

What's more concerning than that is what is behind those guys.  The back up tackles are Jason Spriggs and Kyle Murphy.  Neither have looked good through three preseason games.  Murphy was seen in a walking boot recently so his status is uncertain.  Spriggs got lit up in practice last week by position coach James Campen and is still struggling to perform to the level at which he was drafted.

At guard, the Packers have Byron Bell, Adam Pankey, Lucas Patrick, Alex Light and Kofi Amichia.  At center, they have Dillon Day and Austin Davis. 

Head Coach Mike McCarthy likes to try and find guys who can play multiple positions along the line.  Naturally, they'll want to maximize their roster spots.  Bell and Light are listed as both a tackle and a guard.  But Bell has been very subpar and nary a word has been written about Light.

So none of those backups listed above have been stellar so far.  Naturally, they're not starting for a reason.  But an injury to a starter and those are currently your options.  They're the "break glass in case of emergency" solutions and some of them won't even be that after cut downs take place.  How are you feeling about that?

At this point in the season, there are no really good left tackles sitting around waiting for a team to call.  They're all on rosters, and for good reason.  The Packers either need to hope they can find a gem in someone another team let go or that the light bulb goes on for all of their current group of linemen.

The Packers have lofty goals for themselves and many see them as legitimate Super Bowl contenders but that can change quickly if the offensive line issues ripple through the offense.  They have two more weeks to figure it out.

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Jason is a freelance writer on staff since 2012 and also co-hosts Cheesehead TV Live, Pulse of the Pack and Pack A Day podcasts.  You can follow him on Twitter here

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Comments (44)

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Bure9620's picture

August 27, 2018 at 06:25 am

Yes it is a concern, but it is across the league, most teams are thin up front. There are teams who don't have 2 good starting Tackles let alone back ups. Tackle play is bad in the NFL right now. Name a team that has starting caliber back up tackles? Bahk and Bulaga are one of the best tandems in the league. If Bahk goes down, I think they kick Taylor out to tackle and fill in with Bell/Patrick/Pankey. I think we are fine at guard.

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The TKstinator's picture

August 27, 2018 at 06:37 am

Big disappointment here is Spriggs. If he is/was/could be what was expected after trading up in rd 2 to get him, this whole thing is different.
No two ways about it, the backups looked bad vs Oakland. But once the regular season starts, if (when) ONE of the starters goes down, one of the reserves will step in and GB will game plan to help that guy with the tight end or a chip or quicker rhythm throws or whatever.
If more than one starter goes down, yikes.

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4thand1's picture

August 27, 2018 at 07:14 am

Right on TK, but it's a long season and injuries are going to happen. cross your fingers and hope this line holds up. The final cuts are going to be interesting, a lot of teams let guys go that are on the bubble. Here's to hoping we find a serviceable backup or two. Remember the AZ game a few years ago? We had a d lineman playing on the 0 line.

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The TKstinator's picture

August 27, 2018 at 10:24 am

Same page, amigo!

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Bure9620's picture

August 27, 2018 at 07:17 am

You would think Sprigg would atleast be able to master the Hug technique by now

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The TKstinator's picture

August 27, 2018 at 10:24 am

I am also a big fan of the Hug technique on a personal level as well.

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LambeauPlain's picture

August 27, 2018 at 08:32 am

In the Spriggs "glass half full" scenario...he did play better last Thursday.

But you still worry about him if David goes down.

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Doug_In_Sandpoint's picture

August 27, 2018 at 09:24 am

Yeah, he actually looked all world on Thursday but unfortunately the game was Friday.

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The TKstinator's picture

August 27, 2018 at 04:03 pm

David aka the “Persian Diversion”.

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GBPDAN1's picture

August 27, 2018 at 06:34 am

" Is Offensive Line the Biggest Concern for Packers? "

YES! Considering they need to keep the franchise, Aaron Rodgers, healthy . As mentioned in this article, the starters are good, but backup tackle is a mess.

Safety would be the next position regarding quality depth concerns (and maybe starter concerns?)

ILB was a bigger concern on Friday night, but hearing Burks injury wasn't long term (hope so) and signing Morrison helped

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NickPerry's picture

August 27, 2018 at 06:45 am

Eric Reid would help shore up the Safety and ILB position. Now I understand he's rubbed many people wrong with his antics during the National Anthem including many of my friends here at CHTV.

When I suggest Reid I do so looking at it from a perspective of only what makes the Packers a better football team. Eric Reid does EXACTLY that. I want Rodgers to bring the Packers at least 2 more SB Titles why he's here. If that's going to happen then the Packers taking a shot on a players like Reid need to be made.

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stockholder's picture

August 27, 2018 at 07:34 am

The Mack rumors are all over the web again. Oakland says they'll listen. I believe if the raiders take Perry and a rd.1. The packers could make this happen.

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LambeauPlain's picture

August 27, 2018 at 08:35 am

The locker room stuff aside, Reid really doesn't play that much S now. Last year he played a lot of hybrid ILB. Pack has Burks, Thomas and Josh Jones for that role.

Many folks point to his "kneeling" and stuff in the locker room at SF last year...but I think scouts are saying he's more of a "tweener" now.

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NickPerry's picture

August 27, 2018 at 06:38 am

I'm hoping for a replay of the 2014 season for the Packers when all their O-Linemen played 16 started 16 games except Bulaga who started 15. I don't want to see any of the current reserves in a game when Rodgers is behind center. They just scare the hell out of me. IF one of the Packers starting tackles goes down then I'd hope McCarthy breaks his mold of leaving his tackles on an island and sticks Lewis next to Spriggs or whom ever replaces them.Make em look like Siamese Twins thy'd be stuck so close together.

The fact that Spriggs struggled a little less against the Raiders is far from comforting. I don't trust Spriggs one bit. Oh Cole Madison where did you go!

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Savage57's picture

August 27, 2018 at 06:45 am

I hope whatever Gute might be looking for in cut candidates, he finds, and they have some strong and mean in them.

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4thand1's picture

August 27, 2018 at 07:02 am

The concern is depth on the 0 line. In this league having a back up tackle that can step in is near impossible, having 2 good starters is hard enough. Besides QB what do you have? You have guys to protect him and guys that want to knock him into next week. Teams pay dearly for both, finding and keeping them is hard. We have a good starting unit on both sides, lets hope they can stay on the field. On defense lets hope we can defend the middle of the field this year.

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RCPackerFan's picture

August 27, 2018 at 07:12 am

The starters are good and I have no concerns there. The backups are more concerning yes.

Unless we have a lot of injuries though I'm not overly concerned. One of the biggest reasons why is we now have Lewis who is almost like a 6th OL. Another reason is right now during games McCarthy isn't scheming to help any players if they needed help. Its evaluation time which means he wants to see everyone individually. If it was the regular season and he brings a backup in, he will scheme to give that guy extra help.

I thought Spriggs had one of his better games against the Raiders. Though some of that maybe the fact that Murphy was so bad everyone else looked good. But also down the stretch last year I thought Spriggs played ok. If he can continue to improve that would help.

On the inside I thought Patrick, Day and Pankey all played ok. Also I thought Pankey was fine at RT, so that maybe another option. Pankey is a guy to watch. Maybe this years McCray?

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Packer Dave's picture

August 27, 2018 at 07:19 am

Lewis might become one of the most pivotal signings of the year. I think we can scrape by a game or two if we lose one tackle. There is no help truly coming on this front until next offseason.

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Johnblood27's picture

August 27, 2018 at 10:56 am

Bure, that was great, thanks for the link!

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Bure9620's picture

August 27, 2018 at 12:17 pm

Thanks, informative for me as well, I noticed the Patriots last year implemented the hug as well.

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stockholder's picture

August 27, 2018 at 07:27 am

No Concerns. The packers will work this out. The starting five. No problem. Leave Spriggs alone now. He can't play anywhere but LT. Day, and Patrick, will come along. Pankey is our next Barclay. These 9 will make the 53.

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Bure9620's picture

August 27, 2018 at 07:55 am

I think Pankey can play Tackle, he is athletic enough, James Campen likes him alot, he could be the swing guy.

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4thand1's picture

August 27, 2018 at 04:52 pm

Hopefully we can start calling him Pancakey.

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porupack's picture

August 27, 2018 at 07:31 am

Yeah, a lot of people were ok letting JCTretter, Lang and Sitton go; the latter two were 'locker room concerns' and/or the fans ok'd the cuts for salary cap issues. GBP had their gems in mid-late rounds, and developed them. The oft-stated quip was..."better to cut a year too soon than a year late'.
How is that working out now? When things go injury-bad (as they sometimes do), then its better to cut a year too late, than a year too early. Just trying to reconcile the 2 opposite reactions now that there is a renewed concern about protecting the QB.
This isn't too unlike the 'cut-over-the-hill-Matthews' noise. All fine until you need the depth, and all fine because you can get a pro-bowl replacement on ebay any time you like.

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stockholder's picture

August 27, 2018 at 07:43 am

Sitton was a shock. Poor move but they did find his replacement. Lang too much $$, and expected. JCTretter was the biggest mistake. The brass paid Adams. They should have paid Trettter first. But we don't know what goes on behind closed doors. He could of refused to move around. Center was his wish, and Linsey has played well.

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Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

August 27, 2018 at 08:29 am

O-Line depth is our biggest problem, but far from the only one.

We are seriously weak at running back, especially till Jones returns. No pop, no burst, no threat--maybe the worst in the league. I don't care how technically sound you are when the defense can ignore the run altogether and focus on destroying Rodgers.

Our wide receivers after Adams are seriously unathletic except for rookies--who aren't ready. I mean, Cobb is an injury waiting to happen, while Allison is slow...for a tight end. Kumerow is better, which means McCarthy won't play him. If I'm a defense, I press these guys relentlessly and force Rodgers to run for his life, waiting for someone to get open.

Thus far, outside of Clark, I haven't seen our D-Line anchor well against the run. We're crazy-deep at corner, but McCarthy won't even think of moving Williams to safety. And Ha Ha? Jury's out.

As I wrote after Friday's game, I watched Minnesota and was struck by the higher athleticism displayed. Some people foolishly cite our 4-1 start last year before Rodgers went down, ignoring the roster issues which led to him going down.

Yep, O-Line depth is the biggie, but this roster is a year away from finishing Gute's makeover.

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Jonathan Spader's picture

August 27, 2018 at 01:45 pm

Minnesota has more athleticism on their defense than the Packers do but I do not feel that way about their OL. The injuries they didn't have last year have piled on them this year. They have a new center they traded for and have injuries at almost every spot on the OL.

It looks like the starting offensive line week one may be Reiff - Compton - Edison - Remmers - Hill, but with Collins and O’Neill contending for starting spots. Have you heard of any of these names? For those that care about PFF they graded out at 80 pass blocking and 50 run blocking. Murray has flashed in preseason with a few 10 yard+ runs but has also been dropped at or behind the LOS quite a few times when no lanes open up. Cousins can't scramble and the Vikings have a new OC.

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porupack's picture

August 27, 2018 at 07:44 am

Gute needs to do another LPipkens- type of trade with a club that needs a WR, TE or QB. Get a prospect before cut down, a prospect that is sitting likely on a 53 as a future high ceiling, raw player; a luxury to that team which might have a loaded unit now. If that team suddenly has a thin unit (e.g. Patriots WR corps with Decker retirement), then hone in with a trade offer for OL prospect.

But me thinks dangle Kiser for an OL right now. Keep Hundley and develop Boyle. Clear the bench of about 3 current OL guys. There are only about 7 current OLmen worth keeping (besides keeping and hoping Madison returns).

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Jonathan Spader's picture

August 27, 2018 at 01:47 pm

Why keep Hundley over Kizer? Hundley knows the offense better but we saw what he did as a starter in GB in 2017. Kizer has played almost as well as Hundley and has longer on his rookie contract with more upside.

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LambeauPlain's picture

August 27, 2018 at 08:51 am

I would be on the phones as cut down day looms and calling teams with issues at QB and offer Hundley in exchange for the best 2nd string LT they can find.

And scour the roster cuts for waiver claims on Saturday afternoon.

After the starting five, rated as the 9th best starting group to start the season by PFF, it is concerning.

Pankey played fairly well after Murphy was finally benched early in the 3rd quarter on Thursday. And he's a swing G/T. I think he's a lock. He has good, quick feet and showed strength to lock on rushers and steer them out of the passing lane. He's on the 53.

Patrick played ok too. He can be swing G/C. I think he makes it.

Day...meh...has had good moments and bad moments. He's a mauler like Sitton...just not consistent yet. Maybe he makes it.

Spriggs...keep him strictly at LT for now and look for better options this week for the most important position on the OL using Hundley. Or an intriguing G/C 2nd stringer also using Hundley.

Hundley is gone next year anyway and he hasn't outplayed Kizer to the extent you just have to have him as a one year rental.

So right now the view from my armchair has the starting 5 plus Pankey, Patrick, Day and Spriggs. And look for 2nd string replacements for Day and Spriggs using Hundley as trade bait.

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Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

August 27, 2018 at 09:00 am

Thank you for mentioning the fact that is ignored by so many fans, and even some writers:

Hundley is a 1-year rental.

For that reason alone, Kizer is far more valuable to this team. Personally, I'd keep both and wait for another team to get desperate due to injury--but there is NO WAY I'd give up on Kizer.

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Oppy's picture

August 27, 2018 at 05:22 pm

I have to disagree that Hundley hasn't significantly outplayed Kizer.

Hundley is far and away the best QB not named Rodgers in camp this year. It's not close.

That's not to say Hundley is amazing. He's just far better than Kizer at this point IMO, and it's not just because of familiarity with the system (although that does factor in a great deal).

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Since'61's picture

August 27, 2018 at 09:45 am

OL depth is our biggest concern. The starting OL can get the job done. The chances are that we are not going to find a backup OL who is any better than what we have at this point. All the other teams are probably looking for OL help as well.

If someone is released who can make a block hopefully Gute jumps on him before another team does, but I doubt it.

Our next concern is backup LBs both at OLB and ILB.
Our best OLB is probably Gilbert with Perry and CM3 question marks in terms of health and consistency. Beigel and Fackrell look like JAGs at best.
ILB we have Martinez and newly acquired Morrison for now. Hopefully Burks is ready by week 2 but MM has been vague about injuries before so we just have to wait and see. Matini and Thomas behind them are probably JAGs but could surprise.

Beyond that I think the roster is reasonably solid, especially if HHCD returns to form.
Starting OL is good, starting WRs and TEs our good to excellent, our RBs are solid and our QB is a HOFer at least and possibly another MVP season.
DL is good and deep, CBs evolving solidly, and we have good depth at safety, again depending on HHCD. LBs discussed above.

in 6 days we'll know what our final 53 looks like. I'm expecting the final preseason game to be the battle of the scrubs for the final few roster spots. Until then maybe Gute has another move or 2 up his sleeve. Stay healthy guys. Thanks, Since '61

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S.L.C.Cheesehead's picture

August 27, 2018 at 09:51 am

I'm happy the Packers are trading again. That said, I hope the shore up the OL, and trade for a quality backup--if they can.
You shouldn't take unneccesary risks with the most talented QB in the league.

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Qoojo's picture

August 27, 2018 at 10:05 am

Well, we saw last year what happens without Rodgers, so the question kind of answers itself. Rodgers' protection should be priority number 1. Then the next perennial concern is if the defense can play respectable and not like a speed bump (and speed bump is a bit gracious for a few of those years).

Packers absolutely need Rodgers to make the playoffs, and Rodgers needs a decent defense to do anything in the playoffs.

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PatrickGB's picture

August 27, 2018 at 10:45 am

Thanks for a great article. I thought that a quicker game plan would have helped the Oline. Our backup QB’s can’t anticipate well. So there was no connection with the WR’s. Quick passes kill a pass rush. Also the backups on the line would never be without a starter next to them in a real game. So what we saw in Oakland with all the backups playing together would never (I hope) happen. The team can scheme around a sub par backup. Heck, Newhouse is still playing. So I don’t worry so much about ALL the backups, just some of them. That can be dealt with down the road.

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Community Guy's picture

August 27, 2018 at 11:00 am

well written and timely piece.

to pile on concerns, i am wondering if the depth at o-line is so suspect that one might speculate that this is "a high injury risk year" for the Packers' QB. if one believes that to be true, it may be rational to delay contract negotiations with QB1 until there is organizational confidence that the investment can be reasonably protected.

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Oppy's picture

August 27, 2018 at 05:24 pm

McCray bruised his thigh?

I thought I heard he took a cleat to his calf and that's why he's been missing.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

August 28, 2018 at 04:20 am

Agreed. I read that Daniels bruised his thigh and McCray took a cleat to his calf. Pretty specific tweets, so I believed them.

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dfarmer's picture

August 27, 2018 at 05:25 pm

To answer the question.....DUH!!!
We have again failed to invest in protection for our most valuable asset....

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Cartwright's picture

August 27, 2018 at 06:50 pm

When looking back at the draft, I was saying then why didn't we draft more O lineman. I thought it was a mistake to go all in at WR, or reach for a long snapper at the expense of the O line. After what happened to Rodgers, protecting the franchise should have been given top priority. Got the feeling though that Gute has his eye on a few guys and will be pulling a rabbit out of the hat before long.

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Tundraboy's picture

August 29, 2018 at 12:43 pm

I agree my fellow Jesuit.

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DD's picture

August 28, 2018 at 07:39 am

Good article on offensive backups being very weak. Agree. Big concern missed are our slow linebackers in coverage. No depth at all, still slow. Maybe stop the run, but short passes and slants killed us last year. I do think both backup quarterbacks are average at best. Like offensive starters if they go down we are screwed. If Rodgers goes down, we are screwed. Trade both for need now and keep Boyle.

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