Packers Now Have Options Along the Offensive Line

The Green Bay Packers finally got starting left tackle David Bakhtiari back in the lineup last Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This is a big step forward for the Packers offensive line which has now seen the return of their top two players in Elgton Jenkins and Bakhtiari in consecutive weeks.

Getting these two players back was a big boost for the Packers who struggled badly on offense when both were unavailable for the season opener in Minnesota.

The Packers coaching staff handled Bakhtiari’s return wisely. By giving him the start against the Bucs, it certainly gave Aaron Rodgers and the offense a bit more confidence and it was reflected in their first three drives which saw the team gain 206 yards and score all 14 of their points for the game. They scored touchdowns on the opening two drives and reached the red zone on the third before Aaron Jones fumbled.

The coaching staff wisely alternated series for Bakhtiari, having him play in the first, third and fifth offensive series while backup Yosh Nijman handled the second, fourth and sixth, etc. This was smart for several reasons. First, Bakhtiari had only played one half of football since suffering his initial knee injury in December of 2020, so bringing him back slowly made sense.

Second, it was a very hot, humid September day in Florida and the temperature on the field exceeded 90 degrees at kickoff. A player who was in mid-season game shape may struggle under those conditions let alone a player who had barely played in more than a year and the Packers were also going up against a tough Tampa Bay defense.

Finally, by bringing Bakhtiari along gradually, they limited the wear and tear on his knee in his first game back. While it was great to get their All Pro left tackle back in the lineup in Week 3, it is more important to the team to have Bakhtiari back and available to play in December, January and possibly February when the stakes are the highest.

Neither Jenkins nor Bakhtiari is back to where they were before their respective injuries when Bakhtiari was considered the best pass blocking tackle in the NFL and Jenkins was playing at a Pro Bowl level guard in 2020 and at left tackle last year. That will come in time as they play themselves back into shape and get their timing back.

Now the offensive line has so many more options. Head coach Matt LaFleur has said from the start of training camp that he wants to put the best five offensive linemen on the field, but the questions now become who are the best five available linemen and how should they line up?

Once Bakhtiari is able to play a full game at a high level, do they leave Jenkins at right tackle and have Nijman serve as one of the best backup tackles in the league? Or do they think about moving Nijman to right tackle and move Jenkins to right guard which would allow the Packers to sit their most vulnerable offensive lineman right now in Royce Newman? Or is it time to have Zach Tom take over at right guard and bench Newman who remains inconsistent in many facets of the game.

Regardless of what the coaching staff decides to do, the Packers now have excellent depth along the offensive line. Nijman has graded out highly as both a pass blocker and a run blocker and continues to improve the more he plays. Tom had a solid preseason for a rookie and has the versatility to play any of the five positions along the offensive line.

A starting offensive line of Bakhtiari, Jon Runyan Jr, Josh Myers, Newman or Tom and Jenkins has the potential to be one of the better pass blocking units in the league and a solid group at run blocking as well.

There is depth at every position mainly because Jenkins and Tom can play anywhere along the line, making it easier to have a starting quality player available if one player goes out. Nijman has proven he is good enough to start in this league and gives the Packers a quality swing tackle.

This is what most NFL coaches would describe as a good problem to have and it’s something LaFleur, offensive coordinator Adam Stenavich and offensive line coach Luke Butkus will have to figure out. At some point, injuries may force their hand, but as more players become available, the coaching staff presently has the luxury of putting together the best unit possible and that can only be a positive for the Green Bay offense.

You can follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers

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6 points

Comments (34)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
MooPack's picture

September 29, 2022 at 11:08 am

They got Hanson off the starting line. Now it's time to get Newman off.

btw, I'd really like to hear what's up with Sean Rhyan. He sure seemed like an athletic lineman coming out. So is it technique, mental, or what? What is the inside scoop on where he is at in his development?

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dblbogey's picture

September 29, 2022 at 11:58 am

I agree. Zach Tom is already better than Newman. I haven't heard a word about Rhyan. He may be our 12th consecutive bad 3rd round pick.

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jannes bjornson's picture

September 29, 2022 at 07:26 pm

Rhyan is moving from LT @ UCLA to an inside /outside scheme, which should have more power sets in the design. Deguara is best moving on the edge to block. He doesn't carry impact as a lead dog from the backfield. I liked Rhyan in college. He has the big mitts to control people once he learns the kata. Sitton came in for the last 2-3 games and then held the starting spot until they tried to low-ball him. He should have set the terms of the trade up in the off-season. There is a healthy competition brewing.

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LLCHESTY's picture

September 29, 2022 at 09:49 pm

I think you missed the boat completely on Sitton. It wasn't a contract dispute, he was cut because of some locker room issues. They could have waited to try and get something for him but they wanted him gone and fast.

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dblbogey's picture

September 29, 2022 at 11:46 pm

Apparently a lot of Newman fans in here. Have you seen the man play the last 2 years? The last good 3rd round pick we had was Morgan Burnett in 2010.

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Coldworld's picture

September 30, 2022 at 08:41 am

Newman played pretty well in the last quarter of last season. He played T as an emergency for 3 games which was questionable in terms of suitability and probably did not help him. Tom played 30 snaps in relief of Runyon and was, a couple of plays aside, just bad.

Tom may well have upside. Newman may never be great, but your Tom boosting has no basis at this point.

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PatrickGB's picture

September 29, 2022 at 12:00 pm

He sure looked the part and was drafted before Tom. I was disappointed when I saw him play in preseason. Perhaps, it’s like to old adage, “looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane”. Methinks that he just needs time.

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Coldworld's picture

September 29, 2022 at 12:12 pm

He’s changing positions. He’s probably got some technique and recognition issues. Tom looks good but has his own challenges before he’s a starter, despite the fact that many here anoint him as ready now dilute to quick feet and praise in shorts. Both need time to become true nfl players. Who knows yet which one will be the best. Tom is more ready, but if his frame won’t take strength the tortoise could yet beat the hare.

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PatrickGB's picture

September 29, 2022 at 02:29 pm

Cold, I agree. I would love to see yosh anchor the right as well as he did the left. Move Jenkins back inside and get the best five out there.

Rhyan looks like he has potential and may just prove it once he gets used to his new position. We have had good luck moving tackles inside.

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Untylu1968's picture

September 29, 2022 at 05:22 pm

Maybe it's just the fact, that he's a rookie, and needs to develop?? I realize every highly drafted guy, needs to be an instant success, or he's a bust. Time will tell...

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

September 30, 2022 at 10:05 am

Very possible. The thing is, GB has a window, and it isn't in 2024 or likely even in 2023, it is now.

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KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

September 29, 2022 at 11:29 am

Gil,
Nice article!

I do think though the one possibility you do not address is will Bachtiari ever return to his previous level of excellence? Will he even be as good or better player than Nijman? Only time will tell! There seems to be an expectation for many he will return to his previous Pro Bowl level. With three knee surgeries and being 30+-years old I would be absolutely shocked he is close to the same player he once was. Age & injuries has a way of sapping a players talent and abilities. I know Bachtiari is a proud & motivated player and I see him giving it his all no matter what. At minimum without further injury set backs I expect David to be at least starter material at OT. I'm hopeful Bachtiari returns to his previous level of performance, but regardless having him, Jenkins, and Nijiman at OT provides the Packers excellent depth. More so than ever it is apparent Yosh has a future in a GB uniform and needs to be resigned this offseason. The Packers have a couple of other young OT's and even if one of those three develop much like Yosh the Packers OL should be in pretty good shape moving forward with or without Bachtiari.

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PatrickGB's picture

September 29, 2022 at 02:34 pm

Knock, that’s a legit concern. Yet, even a 3/4 Bahk is better than 3/4’s of LT’s in this league.

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GilMartin's picture

September 30, 2022 at 08:05 pm

Thanks, I appreciate it. We don't know what level Bakhtiari will return to and how long it will take him to get there. Of course, 80% of pre-injury Bakhtiari is better than most of the tackles in the NFL but there is that wait and see that is necessary. Thanks for a great comment.

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Packer_Fan's picture

September 29, 2022 at 11:34 am

It is going to take some more time before Bak and Jenkins are fully back to speed. So take time with the process land get the line prepared for a playoff run starting in the middle of November or at least, the first part of December. And this process also includes special teams. It also is a work in progress.

And another point. The Packers don't need to have home field advantage. It lhasn't worked the past few years anyhow.

The offense also needs to pick up a veteran receiver. With Watkins hurt again, this won't end with the hamstring.

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PewAuKeeFan's picture

September 30, 2022 at 10:31 am

You're right, the Packers do not need home field advantage.

The Green Bay economy would love home field advantage though 😀

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Coldworld's picture

September 29, 2022 at 11:52 am

To me, the best option is to keep Nijman focused on left until we are confident that Bakh can be an every down player and then start working him at right tackle. If and when Nijman is comfortable there and Bakh is still heathy we can consider moving Jenkins inside. Until then, keep the line as settled as possible and let them gel. The line is a unit. Knowing what your neighbors are doing is the key as much as individual prowess.

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dblbogey's picture

September 29, 2022 at 12:00 pm

If Newman is in the lineup, we have a very weak link.

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LLCHESTY's picture

September 29, 2022 at 10:00 pm

I think you mean Niedermeyer. "Hold that line mister!"

https://youtu.be/0Dy2fo6E_pI

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PatrickGB's picture

September 29, 2022 at 12:05 pm

Yosh has played exclusively on the left the whole time he has been on the team. Butkus indicated that a move to right would be possible but not ideal at this time.

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Coldworld's picture

September 29, 2022 at 12:17 pm

Nijman learned technique with us on the left. He came in with none, having been just left to physically dominate in college. It may not be ideal now, but the task is to get him up to speed so we can put out our best 5 and at the very least improve RT depth. The coaches might have been better to work in that more in preseason. It was hardly an unforeseeable eventuality.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

September 30, 2022 at 10:09 am

Not sure how this merits 2 downvotes. Butkus and Steno IIRC both said that Nijman loses his fundamentals when he moves to the right side. Your comment is in essence just a fact, though Nijman has played some on the right in practice but not in NFL games.

As far as I can see, 2 people just downvoted reality, or disagree with the coaches without probably ever watching Nijman play RT.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

September 30, 2022 at 10:09 am

Not sure how this merits 2 downvotes. Butkus and/or Steno said that Nijman loses his fundamentals when he moves to the right side. Your comment is in essence just a fact, though Nijman has played some on the right in practice but not in NFL games.

As far as I can see, 2 people just downvoted reality, or disagree with the coaches without probably ever having watched Nijman play RT.

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LLCHESTY's picture

September 29, 2022 at 10:15 pm

I think they should rotate when Bakhtiari and Jenkins get days off and move Nijman to that side.

I don't like the idea of Tom at RG at all but he might be the best answer at LG if Runyan continues to struggle. In the meantime I hope he's getting a few snaps at C. It's doubtful with the limited practice time but I hope there's a plan if Myers goes down besides Hanson.

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Bure9620's picture

September 29, 2022 at 01:35 pm

I know most will disagree but I have been saying Jenkins should be at guard for a while. He is a solid tackle but potentially an All Pro at guard. Put your players in the best position for success, this includes Jenkins at guard and Newman on the bench. I firmly believe Yosh can
play RT. He is a solid athlete and can do it on the right side. When contract time comes he will be paid like a guy that can play anywhere. Bahk-JRJ-Meyers-Jenkins-Nijman are your best 5 and possibly an elite unit.

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13TimeChamps's picture

September 29, 2022 at 02:20 pm

I like your players but putting Jenkins at RG would be a waste. It's the least important position on the OL. Put him back at LG where he was playing at a pro bowl level before getting injured.

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PatrickGB's picture

September 29, 2022 at 02:41 pm

Some of our linemen at better at run blocking than pass pro and vice versa. That complicates assignments and the roster. It also effects the game plan. So it probably will determine who plays and where.

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jont's picture

September 29, 2022 at 03:36 pm

I like your line, Gil, about it being wise to spell Bahk in his first game back. He and 12 both disagreed with MLF on this, but given that we were all holding our breath waiting for a Bahk update during this week, the concern is obvious and legitimate. Let's see how much time he gets this week.

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croatpackfan's picture

September 30, 2022 at 02:17 am

I see Gil and some posters favour Zach Tom. I have to say that we saw Tom playing RT and OG in preseason, but that part of season is "vanilla" as many suggested here. We do not know how he looks like in the closed practices or how he doing in the run game where is important to have body strength beside quick feet and good technique.

It is little bit ridicolous to doubt Stenavich, who was highly noted as one of the best OL coach. Also, we do not know who is the decision maker who plays on OL.

For me, the best OL Packers can summon this season is Bakh. Jenkins, Myers, Runyan and Nijman, but questionable is does Nijman can be plugged immediately at RT. Technique is surely similar, but you have to change your learned way of how to pose, which leg is first to move, which arm is going first, etc... It is not easy to change that. If it is easy, than you train OT, not specificaly LT and RT, as we saw last season in play off, when solid RT (Turner) was pushed to play LT and produce the disaster.

I believe Nijman will need some time to change the side.

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LambeauPlain's picture

September 30, 2022 at 07:31 am

Jenks is still knocking the rust off and learning to trust his knee. He may have a faster recovery of confidence in the knee playing inside.

It may be moving Yosh to RT short term would improve the play a RT. And if Yosh plays well at RT, keep him there. Jenks at G makes sense to bolster interior weakness in the line...Jenks & JRJ as Myers wingmen and Dave and Jenks at T is the best 5 IMO.

Tom as the first in at backup T, Newman at G.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

September 30, 2022 at 10:27 am

GB will be better when Jenkins and Bakhtiari are fully healthy.

I don't know that there is a solution to the interior OL for 2022. Runyan has forgotten how to play. I have some hope for a return to steady play from him. Myers is hot and cold and overall and just gets into the average range. He isn't at the higher end of average. Newman probably has some promise based on the last quarter of 2021 at RG, but he has not bee good this year. Tom is not ready. Rhyan isn't ready. Hanson is somewhere between terrible and below average. One barely average average and others who are below average.

It would help if Nijman can play RT. Coaches don't seem to think he can do it. I don't know how well he'd play RT. Bakh hasn't played RT as far as I know in forever. Freeing up Jenkins from RT to allow him to move one of the three IOL guys the hell out of there would be the best move if it can be down without too much of a downgrade at RT. Jenkins is rusty still, as well.

I would like to see Nijman get some RT snaps in a blowout game. I suspect Walker and Jones might be for 2023, and while it would be fun to watch those two at OT, I think obviously Nijman at RT first.

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MooPack's picture

September 30, 2022 at 11:09 am

"I would like to see Nijman get some RT snaps in a blowout game. I suspect Walker and Jones might be for 2023, and while it would be fun to watch those two at OT, I think obviously Nijman at RT first."

This.

I'd like the Packers to really get some blowouts in the next few games and be able to provide these young guys with some experience and see where their development is at. Nijim at RT if possible. Walker and Jones. Rhyan. Protect against any unforeseen injury.

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croatpackfan's picture

September 30, 2022 at 02:36 pm

I believe Runyan was playing RG, not left guard. We can use analogy to playing left and right Tackle here. There is a lot of small diferences how you need to play guard at left position towards the right position. Also there is something called muscular memory and you have to fight with your body to make those small moves properly, while your muscules instinctively try to play otherwise...

Maybe there is the problem of below average play of Runyan at LG.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

September 30, 2022 at 03:07 pm

I agree that there is a difference between LG and RG, including muscle memory. Runyan has played exclusively at LG this year, which is where he played last year. Not sure what is up with him. He has regressed from last year despite playing the same position.

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