Packers Offensive Line Has Youth On the Inside, Question Marks On The Outside

The game is won and lost in the trenches. The Packers offense has a lot of questions in their trenches heading into the 2022 season.

For years, the Packers have had a strong offensive line.

That didn't happen by accident. They have great coaching and have invested heavily in it.

They've drafted at least one offensive lineman in each of the last 6 years and took 5 over the last two years (plus 5 more undrafted free agents in those two years). In free agency, they've picked up guys like Dennis Kelly, Jared Veldheer, and Billy Turner to build depth and competition.

However, there's still a lot of questions on the line, especially at tackle, thanks to an aggressive front office and some brutal injuries. 

On the inside, Jon Runyan, Josh Myers, and Royce Newman could set the Packers up for success for years to come.

Runyan showed immediate promise as a rookie and took his game to another level last year. Josh Myers stepped right into the starting position as a rookie and looked great when he wasn't out with some unfortunate injuries. Royce Newman was a training camp surprise who showed some definite growing pains during the season (including more than one brutal outing), but had solidified his game by the end of the year. All of these guys have 2-3 years left on their rookie deals.

Any one of these young players could regress. Newman, given his inconsistency, may be the most likely to stumble. Even with that, it is a promising trio that finished the year on a high note.

Throw in Lucas Patrick, who can play all four positions, and the interior line is looking really good.

On the outside, the Packers have even more talent... but also a lot more question marks.

David Bakhtiari was the best offensive lineman in football before his injury in late 2020. He missed pretty much the entire season recovering from his ACL injury and experienced multiple setbacks. His contract, which has been restructured twice, could also become a problem for team (he's currently slated to have the 5th largest cap hit in the NFL in 2024), especially when they don't know if he will ever return to his previous form.

Elgton Jenkins, who was quickly approaching superstar status, is now recovering from his own ACL injury. Bakhtiari's experience last year should be at least a little concerning as Jenkins rehabs the same injury. Clouding matters even further is the fact that Jenkins is also in a contract year, when the Packers have a tight cap, and may not get to see him play very much before they have to make a decision on him.

Billy Turner, despite his playoff shortcomings at left tackle, has been, at worst, a solid right tackle in his time in Green Bay. However, he's in the final year of his deal and his salary could make him a cut candidate. If Elgton Jenkins hadn't got hurt, it's possible he would have already moved to right tackle and the Packers would have cut Turner.

Yosh Nijman has spent his entire career developing to play left tackle and looked serviceable in extended action last year. He needed help from tight ends and scheme tweaks when facing premier edge rushers, but showed that he's up to the challenge of being a starting tackle. If he spent training camp transitioning to the right side, it's possible he could be a solid starter there as well.

It's crazy to think that a team with Bakhtiari, Jenkins, Turner, and Nijman would have question marks at both tackle spots, but injuries and an aggressive cap strategy have put the Packers in an unforeseen predicament.

The good news is that the interior is full of good, cheap players to lean on. The bad news is the tackle situation is a mess of question marks heading into this season.

Free agency and the draft will tell us a lot more about the Packers plans for the offensive line, but for now, the best we can do is hope for the group to get healthy.

 

Bruce Irons has played, coached, and studied football for decades. Best-selling author of books such as A Fan's Guide To Understanding The NFL Draft, A Fan's Guide To Understanding The NFL Salary Cap, and A Fan's Guide To NFL Free Agency Hits And Misses, Bruce contributes to CheeseHeadTV and PackersForTheWin.com.

Follow Bruce Irons on Twitter at @BruceIronsNFL.

 

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1 points

Comments (57)

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

March 06, 2022 at 06:40 am

The offensive line looks pretty good though not great going into 2022. Not sure I'd credit the Packers with investing heavily in the OL over the years. I'd say they had great coaching combined with players who worked and wanted to be coached.

Bakh was a 4th. Runyan was a 6th and before him Sitton was a 4th. In between those two, LG Lane Taylor (16, 15, 14 starts from 2016, '17, '18) was a UDFA who signed in 2013, and Jenkins a 2nd in 2019. Myers was a 2nd and Linsley before him was a 5th. Newman was a 4th and Lang was a 4th (Bryron Bell was a FA mistake) while Justin McCray (13 starts for GB over 2 seasons) was a 2014 UDFA. Turner was a FA/3rd rounder, and Nijman and Patrick were UDFAs. GB did use a 1st on Bulaga way back in 2010 and on Sherrod way back in 2011. GB used a 2nd on Spriggs.

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dobber's picture

March 06, 2022 at 08:13 am

It was the failure of the Jason Spriggs experiment that forced the Packers hand with the big Bakhtiari extension in 2020.

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PhantomII's picture

March 06, 2022 at 11:33 am

It was not addressing Spriggs failure while they had time to rectify it.

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PeteK's picture

March 06, 2022 at 11:03 am

Le'ts also give some credit to scouting and GMs for picking these players especially the UDFA.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

March 07, 2022 at 03:20 am

Very fair. I gave credit to the coaches (Campen and Stenovich) and to the players themselves, but yes, the scouts and GM complete the circle and should get credit.

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stockholder's picture

March 06, 2022 at 07:07 am

I think this OL stinks. They have moved to many people around. How can you say this is a wall? Especially after that play-off showing! Replacing an All pro with a Rookie. Gone! ( Seems Patrick was a cut, yet saved the day. Moving a All-pro guard. Gone! - Just another stupid idea that lead to an injury. (Especially after Bulaga and Sitton blew their ACL there too.) And oh, how Turner, was a God save the Queen at LT. And then we point to Bahk. Who never will be an All-pro again. He may have Company with Jenkins too. This OL is about being good on paper. Nothing more. Their Over- paid. And until you put your veterans back on the field. Rodgers could be the next All-pro to go down. Could have been. Should have been. Is what you got. Yet; A rookie starting makes the guy on the throne look good. But until Rodgers has Time. It's just a wish list.

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dobber's picture

March 06, 2022 at 08:17 am

I think this has been your point for awhile: if you keep your picks around long enough, they're going to end up playing...it doesn't mean they're decent. Just because a rookie starts, it doesn't make him a win. And just because your draft picks end up playing a lot doesn't mean you had a good draft.

GMs always have pet projects and they're often not willing to be honest on them and willing to cut bait. We panned TT for this. It's time for BG to be honest with himself and let a few of these guys go/move on.

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Coldworld's picture

March 06, 2022 at 11:37 am

I don’t think any of the OL stink. I think LaFleur’s decision on the configuration and personnel used in the last game stunk. I think a couple likely won’t be with us due to cost, but that is, in reality, both a function of our cap and a belief others think them worth paying.

That’s not to exonerate Gute, but the targets should be elsewhere: Burks, King (now moot) and perhaps Lowry and EQ, for example.

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Oppy's picture

March 06, 2022 at 08:52 am

The Packers OL was the most injured OL in the league in 2021, and while they had their challenges at times (namely Newman) and a game or two that were bad, they fielded a respectable NFL-quality unit for the most part, and even had a few games where they were flat out good... playing with rookies, 3rd stringers, and out-of-position talent across the line all year long.

Rodgers wasn't under siege all year long, despite what the commentators in the booth were claiming. This beat up, down to the benchwarmers thin OL actually did a decent job and gave their QB adequate protection and allowed their RBs to gain respectable yards in 2021.

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DougXX57's picture

March 06, 2022 at 10:09 am

Bulaga has been an injury ouchie for the Chargers since he left GB and will likely be cut in the offseason. Linsey was great but you can't keep everyone. They will be ok but the question is who will be the QB next year and we will find that out by Tuesday's deadline for tagging Adams PER a report from Rodgers I guess

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KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

March 06, 2022 at 07:41 am

I'd say the Packers had an above average OL last year. Good but not great! I like the youth on the line including Jenkins. These young players are only going to get better.

Yes, there are some question marks at OT, but the OL is not the weak link. Right now it is DL, TE, WR, EDGE, ST's Returner. My main thoughts are keeping Nijman, and is Patrick resigned? Plus, is Hansen finally ready to replace Patrick?

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Guam's picture

March 06, 2022 at 08:02 am

The Packers may not be able to afford Patrick at this point. There is so much to be determined with the salary cap yet and Patrick may get an offer the Packers can't match. I hope Hansen is ready to replace him. I also like Van Lanen as a back up guard next year.

I also wouldn't be surprised to see Turner get cut or traded in favor of Nijman. Nijman played decently last year and he is younger, cheaper and still developing. He needs to continue to play and releasing Turner would give the Pack some much needed salary cap room.

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dobber's picture

March 06, 2022 at 08:11 am

Patrick has been a valuable game-day piece due to his C-G versatility (it seems like they're grooming Hanson in that same vein). My thought through the season was that Patrick would get low-end starter money elsewhere on a 4-year deal. More power to him if he can.

But as I read scouting reports, he's been mostly panned as a try-hard, but low ability guy, and that his limitations showed this year at C. With that in mind, he may linger on the market and be available to come back to GB on a low-money deal if the Packers want him...but if Newman gets a little stronger and develops in his on-field awareness, what role does Patrick have?

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Leatherhead's picture

March 06, 2022 at 08:30 am

What role? He’ll be starting as soon as we take the first injury.

This is a very good group of offensive linemen. Resist the urge to tinker and keep them together, including Patrick and Turner. Nothing works on offense unless guys get blocked.

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HawkPacker's picture

March 06, 2022 at 08:45 am

I agree but not totally Leatherhead. With the Cap where it is, Turner needs to get addressed whether traded, let go or extended to help the Cap.

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Coldworld's picture

March 06, 2022 at 10:34 am

We will see on Patrick. He was better at C than the rookie Myers. While that’s not a reflection on the future most likely, Patrick I’d better than players we faced. I think he will get an offer that we may not wish to, or be able to match, depending on how the next couple of weeks go.

I am fine with Nijman. I would have rather seen him at LT in our last game. I think he starts at RT. I just don’t see us being able to pay Turner. I’d rather look to see if Kelly can be kept cheaply. Once Jenkins is back, that’s still a good group in depth terms as long as Bakh holds up. It certainly looks like Hansen is the next guy up in the middle.

I think we pick up another youngster later in the draft, possibly at G/C unless they really like their guy on the futures contract. I could also see another low priced vet being added in summer. Van Lannen is probably a year away from being more than emergency depth at T from what little I have seen, but maybe he surprises.

Overall, we need a little more, but not a high priority early in the draft. Our DL, OLB, ILB WR and TE needs seem more pressing.

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PeteK's picture

March 06, 2022 at 11:12 am

Braden also improved enough during camp that coaches took notice.

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Coldworld's picture

March 06, 2022 at 12:03 pm

He’s a FA currently. He’s not in a futures contract with us. That maybe his choice.

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PeteK's picture

March 06, 2022 at 03:06 pm

Thanks, did I mess that one up. I thought he was a UDFA of ours.

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Guam's picture

March 06, 2022 at 09:26 am

Turner is about putting the best team on the field. I would prefer to keep him, but I don't see much difference in talent between Turner and Nijman. If Nijman can replace Turner, then the money saved can be used to keep Campbell or Douglas - places where the Packers are a lot thinner in talent.

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dobber's picture

March 06, 2022 at 09:42 am

Very likely if he's there, yes, but I think they protected Hanson on the 53 all season last year for him to fill that role in 2022. The few snaps he played in 2021 were predominantly at guard. I think if they bring Patrick back, Hanson is out.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

March 07, 2022 at 03:38 am

Writing my comment made me appreciate keeping an offensive lineman for multiple years and then having said player come in and contribute. UDFAs Don Barclay, Patrick and Lane Taylor, now Nijman, so perhaps Hanson is the next OL kept for multiple years despite not getting on the field. [Well, now a checked and Barclay started 4 games as a rookie, but still.]

As for Patrick, he is 31. He might get a long-term offer but he might be that guy who signs a series of one year, $2.25M to $3M for whichever team needs a serviceable center or guard.

IDK. There always seems to be guys the NFL won't pay for reasons that elude fans. Kelly last year seems like a decent example.

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Leatherhead's picture

March 07, 2022 at 07:23 am

To amplify your point.....

Protecting the ball is a path to victory. We're just about bulletproof when we don't turn it over. And who turns it over the most? The QB, obviously, because he handles it on every play and does all the throwing. So when we're talking about protecting the ball, we're talking about protecting the QB.

Why do QBs turn the ball over? Often, it's because they're hit or hurried.

Veteran offensive linemen pick up stunts and thwart other tricks the defense uses to pressure the QB. So guys like Patrick and Turner are worth a helluva lot more than some Day 3 rookie. Now, you can draft a guy on Day 3, you can put him in the weight room and coach him and practice with him for a couple of years and you've got a much better player than the one you drafted.

I agree that Patrick isn't going to sign some long term mega contract, and he's been a real bargain for the Packers. We should bring him back. You only dress 8 OL on gameday and having a veteran who can play multiple positions is essential.

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dobber's picture

March 07, 2022 at 07:38 am

"Now, you can draft a guy on Day 3, you can put him in the weight room and coach him and practice with him for a couple of years and you've got a much better player than the one you drafted."

Take the 2020 draft as an example. Three OL later (Hanson, Runyan, Stepaniak). One has washed out, one is starting, and it looks like one is in line to win the backup job at C-G in 2022. That's a pretty good haul for that part of the draft. Development takes patience, but if you hit, it takes a lot of pressure off your cap for FA signings and it allows you to use premium picks on draft day opportunities.

"You only dress 8 OL on gameday and having a veteran who can play multiple positions is essential."

People seem to pan cross-training and flexibility in positioning, and I agree that a player has to have a 'home base' where he's especially proficient. But this point that you make is a key one: you start 5 OL and there aren't enough game-day actives to have 5 backups. What's more, your 9th OL is bound to be a huge step down from your 5th or 6th.

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Guam's picture

March 06, 2022 at 09:22 am

I like Parick's versatility and wouldn't mind keeping him as the first reserve on the IOL, but it would have to be a cheap contract simply because of the cap problems. I suspect he may get a better deal elsewhere. There are lots of teams with worse offensive lines than the Packers.

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KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

March 06, 2022 at 09:55 am

My thoughts exactly Guam!

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dobber's picture

March 06, 2022 at 08:19 am

They have a lot of developmental pieces. Runyan was competent. Myers was game when he was healthy. Newman was able to earn a starting spot as a rookie. All those guys need to grow, but they can play. I think we all focus on Jenkins and Bakhtiari: they're the headliners. I think we underestimate the waves removing an all-pro makes with the rest of the line.. Losing Linsley was a big blow..Bakh and Jenkins? How do you get over that?...but they played good ball the majority of the season.

They'll have to extend Jenkins mid-season--he's the future of the OL. Nijman is the mystery here. Is he LT only or can he play on the right side? Is he still developing or has he hit his ceiling? I think that has a tremendous impact on how this OL develops going forward.

Props to Milt Hendrickson. He's made an impact by helping the scouting crew find mid-late round OL who can be coached up into players.

6 points
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Guam's picture

March 06, 2022 at 09:31 am

I don't know if Nijman is that much of a mystery anymore Dobber. He was competent at LT for a long string of games last year. If he can play LT, he very likely can play RT (the converse is not always true as the RT generally has more help from the TE). I think Nijman has made Turner expendable and the Packers can certainly use his cap dollars.

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Coldworld's picture

March 06, 2022 at 10:40 am

Nijman was fine at RT in limited play late in preseason despite not having trained there. He’s only been treated as a LT exclusively because he needed to learn technique from scratch, essentially, and they made a decision to work on that with him at one settled position to achieve that, until during the preseason this year.

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BirdDogUni's picture

March 06, 2022 at 10:43 am

Yosh not starting at LT in the Divisional Round still pisses me off to no end! IDK why they moved Turner to LT, but it was an obvious mistake if Yosh was healthy and able to go. Bad time to make a huge mistake!

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Coldworld's picture

March 06, 2022 at 12:06 pm

Not just that, but putting Myers in a C and Patrick at G. I’m not anti Myers, but he was neither experienced nor good on his return, unsurprisingly.

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dobber's picture

March 07, 2022 at 07:44 am

We seem to presume that this was mostly Stenavich and LaFleur, but remember that 12 tinkered with the OL and asked guys to play for the Detroit game. Who's to say he didn't have a hand in his protection for SF? Do I really think this? I would be surprised if ARod wasn't having a say or a role in helping to determine the OL alignment for game day--after all: you can't tell me they didn't practice for several days with that crew. In the end, the buck stops with LaF on game day, so even if 12 did play a role, LaF needed to be the CEO of his team and make the call.

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PhantomII's picture

March 06, 2022 at 12:08 pm

Nijman was RT in College.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

March 07, 2022 at 04:03 am

Nijman got a lot of help from chipping TEs, F-backs and RBs. I think it changed our offense. I do agree that he was competent, but nothing more than a low-end starting LT. And that's good. So, I think the question of whether he is going to continue to improve is very important.

1 points
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HarryHodag's picture

March 06, 2022 at 08:14 am

I laugh at all the hand wringing about the offensive line. Many teams would die to have the Packers castoffs.

The line enabled a QB with 4,100 yards throwing, two running backs combined for more than 1,500 yards on the ground. The QB was sacked 30 times, less than twice per game on 531 attempts.

One receiver had 123 receptions.

They will likely lose Lucas Patrick to free agency(a depth loss) and Turner to a cut(cap space). Kelly will likely be resigned cheap.

The loss of Jenkins will hurt, but Runyan has done well at left guard. I suspect the Packers will draft a tackle this year. In the meantime, stop the hand wringing and realize they're not in bad shape for 2022.

6 points
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PhantomII's picture

March 06, 2022 at 12:14 pm

I laugh at it also until they are a sieve in the playoffs. Then it's not so funny. Bigger, stronger, faster is the direction this teams OL needs to keep chugging at. Until we don't have to have a TE chipping an overmatched OT in a playoff game against top level Defenses, we are not finished. That exact scenario has cost us 2 NFCC and early exit this year.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

March 07, 2022 at 04:12 am

It could be that the QB in question is ridiculously good. That QB got the ball out of his hand in a career best time of 2.27 seconds on average. Which was not AR's MO at all - he held onto the ball forever, because he could. In 2021, he couldn't. And the points scored per game dropped by 4 or 5 points per game between 2020 and 2021.

I did not say they were in bad shape for 2022, particularly when it gets healthy and if it stays healthy. I would be fine with picking an OL on day two.

0 points
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dobber's picture

March 06, 2022 at 08:29 am

"Billy Turner, despite his playoff shortcomings at left tackle, has been, at worst, a solid right tackle in his time in Green Bay."

Others will certainly disagree, but I think Turner has outplayed his contract at this point. Is he great? No. But he's a quality RT who can swing to the left side...even if he's only average (at best) over there, that makes him a valuable piece. We shouldn't hang him for what he's done when asked to play on the left side, when his work on the right side has been pretty good.

In the end, his future in GB likely hinges on how the ARod saga plays out. I think that if the Packers are serious about putting the band back together for another run, they'll have to bring back Turner to man the right side and allow Nijman to be the swing OT. They'll have to make that investment to protect ARod. If ARod goes, then I think Turner is dangled in trade, and the Packers either groom Cole van Lanen to be their backup RT until Jenkins is healthy or find a developmental swing OT in the mid-rounds (3-5)....or likely both.

6 points
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Coldworld's picture

March 06, 2022 at 10:44 am

Turner is best at RT, but I don’t think we play him there after this and it’s arguable that he would not play there this. He might be the third or 4th best RT once Jenkins is fully back. Just too much money for a team in our position I think. What Rodgers thinks, I’ve no idea, but cap has to come from somewhere.

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Johnblood27's picture

March 06, 2022 at 12:12 pm

Billy "Turnstile" Turner will not be missed even a little bit when he is released for cap reasons.

He was terrible at RG in his 1st season in GB, serviceable at RT on and off - very inconsistent - and an absolute disaster at LT.

His level of play is "a dime a dozen" in the NFL.

If GB cannot replace his snaps and performance they do not deserve to be called an NFL franchise. Do not fear the future, it is an opportunity for the next man up.

He is gone and his replacement will be an improvement.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

March 07, 2022 at 04:16 am

In that scenario I was going to dangle Aaron Jones, but his recent extension shot that all to hell. Turner would work. The other option would be a june designation on a cut ($6M in cap relief).

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PatrickGB's picture

March 06, 2022 at 10:36 am

I think that the Rodgers saga will determine who the team prefers and can afford. If he is gone, the line might morph into a more run blocking unit as it’s emphasis’ in linemen. Also with the advent of mobile QB’s in the league and the loss of our 38 year old QB I could see Love (or his replacement) doing more run options. Does that change the makeup of the line? Maybe. We shall see. In the meantime my hope is for a quick and complete recovery from Jenkins.

1 points
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Crankbait's picture

March 06, 2022 at 10:57 am

Are you kidding?
Our offensive line has been a Chinese fire drill for the past couple years and is exposed as being weak in the playoffs. Run blocking is terrible until game is well in hand (not very often last season) and the defenses are worn out.
It's saving grace during the regular season has been Aaron Rodgers uncanny ability to read defenses.

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stockholder's picture

March 06, 2022 at 11:17 am

Correct. Dillion made them look good.

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PeteK's picture

March 06, 2022 at 11:20 am

Hi

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PeteK's picture

March 06, 2022 at 11:20 am

Reading defenses is not instantaneous, it takes a few seconds. All of this with one starter from opening game , and he was a rookie.

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PhantomII's picture

March 06, 2022 at 11:38 am

It takes 30 seconds..enough time to rest the defense and throw the ball to 1 WR.

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albert999's picture

March 06, 2022 at 11:44 am

Davante Adams buys 12 million dollar home in vegas

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BirdDogUni's picture

March 06, 2022 at 12:08 pm

Lets hope they already have a tag-n-trade deal in place...

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jhtobias's picture

March 06, 2022 at 12:18 pm

Agreed, I never would expect Davante to sign an Franchise Tag . On the other hand it would be negligence by the packers to let him walk for a comp pick .

I was 20 when Sharpe had to retire he was replaced and in my view Sharpe was better than Davante , Antonio Freeman was replaced and so forth .

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dobber's picture

March 06, 2022 at 12:46 pm

He'll sign the tag if it gets him his money...

But if he has bought a pricey home in Vegas, either...
1. the Packers have told him they're letting him walk
2. the Packers have told him they plan to tag him and have a deal in place (he'd have to sign the tag to be dealt) to send him there
3. he really likes cheesy Elvis impersonators and playing the slots

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PeteK's picture

March 06, 2022 at 03:13 pm

Makes sense, Raiders could use a top receiver and they're 20 mill under cap.

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Oppy's picture

March 06, 2022 at 08:26 pm

If a player doesn't sign the tag, they get to sit an entire year without playing in the NFL.

The player signs the tag unless they are planning to retire or deluded enough to believe sitting out a year won't hurt their market.

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stockholder's picture

March 06, 2022 at 01:27 pm

I put this out a 48 hrs ago. He wants to play with Carr.

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albert999's picture

March 06, 2022 at 11:44 am

Oh oh

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jhtobias's picture

March 06, 2022 at 12:16 pm

I think this Article has some good points, but the packers offensive line is the lest of it's worries .

Agree with the interior o line aspect of this article , and I do believe Lucas will get a nice contract in Free Agency from a team and he deserves it . He is more of luxury for the Packers than a need.

Tackles : Let's assume Jenkins comes back healthy (which he will) and Bak is ready to go plus Yosh as a swing tackle . Most teams would die for this set up.

Guys like Billy Turner will be determined with Rodgers status . I think Gutey has done a great job with the Oline

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