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PFF: Packers have eighth-best OL in the league

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PFF: Packers have eighth-best OL in the league

-- Perhaps no position group is tasked with a more important job in 2019 than the Green Bay Packers' offensive line.

When it comes to protecting the cornerstone of the franchise in quarterback Aaron Rodgers, not having a formidable unit up front could be detrimental to team success, and last season made that fairly evident.

Lane Taylor struggled to maintain consistent play as the starter at left guard, and the tandem of Justin McCray and Byron Bell were a revolving door at right guard. These deficiencies, coinciding with various other factors, resulted in Rodgers suffering a tibial plateau fracture and MCL sprain in his knee during the team's season opener.

This injury lingered throughout the duration of the regular season, with Rodgers still playing in all 16 games before being removed from the season finale with a concussion.

Thankfully, Pro Football Focus believes the Packers' offensive line is not only drastically improved, but has the potential to rank among the NFL's best this coming season.

"No offensive linemen with 300 or more offensive snaps played earned a higher overall grade than Packers' David Bakhtiari (88.3)," they wrote, ranking the offensive line as the eighth-best in the league. "The stalwart left tackle turned in a league-high 93.6 pass-blocking grade along with his above-average 68.1 run-blocking grade. He alone takes this Packers offensive line up the ranks quite a lot."

Bakhtiari, widely-considered as one of the league's best pass-blocking tackles, forms a first-rate duo with Bryan Bulaga anchoring the opposite end of the line.

"Overshadowed by Bakhtiari, Green Bay right tackle Bryan Bulaga earned an impressive 75.- overall grade across 781 offensive snaps, scoring an even better 84.1 pass-blocking grade in the process."

Bulaga played in 14 games last season after missing a majority of the 2017 campaign with a torn ACL. If his health impacts his performance, the Packers could kick the newly-signed Billy Turner out to play right tackle in his place: an underrated aspect of his services.

The Packers inked Turner to a four-year, $28 million dollar deal during the free agency period in March. Not only offering them multi-positional services as a tackle, but he's operated as the first-team's starting right guard throughout organized team activities and minicamp.

Behind Turner, the Packers have a bevy of talent to fill in along the interior. Both McCray and Lucas Patrick have live-action experience, and second-round pick Elgton Jenkins has the ceiling of a future starter at one of the two spots. Cole Madison, a fifth-round pick a year ago, also provides a lift to the team's depth. He returned to football activities this offseason after stepping away from football to tend to his personal life last summer.

It's hard not to see why the Packers' offensive line has a chance to be one of the deepest units on the roster. Even Corey Linsley, who hasn't missed a game since 2016, has provided quality, consistent play at center. Linsley is fresh off of the three-year, $25.5 million dollar contract extension he signed at the end of the 2017 season.

In a fresh system spearheaded by new head coach Matt LaFleur, Linsley is going to be trusted with a lot more responsibility at the line of scrimmage before the snap. Confiding in Linsley not only speaks to his level of importance in meshing the entirety of the offensive line, but his worth as a player.

The Packers -- and their promising offensive line -- reconvene for training camp later this month, with rookies reporting on July 22 and veterans on July 24.

__________________________

Zachary Jacobson is a staff writer/reporter for Cheesehead TV. He's the voice of The Leap on iTunes and can be heard on The Scoop KLGR 1490 AM every Saturday morning. He's also a contributor on the Pack-A-Day Podcast. He can be found on Twitter via @ZachAJacobson or contacted through email at [email protected].

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (13) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Nick Perry's picture

I'm curious to watch Cole Madison once the pads come on. He played RT at Washington St. and did so pretty damn well. He's projected to be a Guard BUT his experience at RT in college at least gives the Packers another possible option at RT if Bulaga is injured. Another thing is Bulaga isn't coming back 8 months after knee surgery this year. He should be back to being a top 3 RT in the NFL.

I'm actually excited about the possibilities this O-Line has this year. For ONCE, the Packers seem to have some REAL quality depth along the O-Line. What's better is they no longer HAVE to keep Spriggs if he continues to be a revolving door. I know some say he improved but I just haven't seen it. At least not enough to justify a roster spot unless he really does improve... A lot!

Bearmeat's picture

Agreed completely, NP. I do think GB will have one of the best 5 OL's in the league this year. Assuming relative health and no injuries to Bakh of course.

sidenote: are you going to change your screen name? It's past time. LOL!

Rossonero's picture

Me too about Madison. My only concern with him is adjusting to the NFL. In the type of offense he was in, the ball came out quickly, meaning he did not have to block nearly as long as he'll have to in the NFL -- and especially considering how long Rodgers likes to hold onto the ball.

In spite of that, I am still eager to see how he does. He hasn't played since his 2017 season, so I'm willing to cut him some slack and chalk this year up as a learning year for him. His goal should be to just make the roster and learn.

porupack's picture

GB had some real setbacks after investing reasonably good effort with 2nd round draft capital for Spriiggs...but he just didn't turn out so far. Hoping that he can still make that investment pay some return. Then Madison's year away also was a setback.

I think most fans would agree that this is a top 8 OL if Bulaga stays healthy. If he doesn't then there is a fair amount of uncertainty. Fans probably split on if GB should have invested in another pure OT in this offseason. But GB made a respectable offseason of adding options and depth.
As good as Bak, Lindsley and Bulaga are, an OL just can't have a sub-average hole in the OL. It has to have at least average pieces in between those 2 or 3 stellar pillars. And fans split on Taylor if he will regain his 2017 level after playing most of 2018 with injury.

Guam's picture

Health will be the decisive issue for the O-line in 2019. The starting five is very good when healthy, but I don't see nearly as much depth as the author of the article. McCray and Patrick were part of the problem last year at RG and they are veterans, not second year players who could be expected make a big jump. Spriggs is still a large question mark.

The best depth likely will be provided by two rookies - Jenkins and Madison. The operative word is rookies - they might be very good but we just don't know yet. Here's hoping we don't need to find out about the rookies too early in the season.

Lare's picture

I am much more optimistic about contributions from players like Jenkins, Light, De Beer, Madison, and Nijman than I am from some of the veterans like Taylor, Spriggs, Pankey, Patrick and McCray. I think we've already seen all they have to offer, I say give the younger players a chance to show what they can do.

flackcatcher's picture

We need to see the OL line in pads, especially the veterans. Most of this group played thru serious injuries going back to 2017. Along with filling the RG position, we still don't know who will be the core backups this year. Too many X factors to make judgement yet.

Handsback's picture

The three new oline players Turner, Madison, and Jenkins provide greater depth than what I've seen in some time. As Guam said above, two are rookies, however one is a 90% sure of being a starter. The reason for the optimism is that the two new players, while rookies, are both players that have been drafted. They are not UDFAs. The point being they have some real potential verses hoping a UDFA that has some ability can fill in for a few games while a starter gets back on their feet.
The return to health for Taylor and Bulaga will be huge for continuity in the quality of their play. I believe what we will see is that Spriggs and McCray will be fighting it out for roster positions, not as potential starters.

One last point is that all three players have the potential to cover most of the position on the oline. LT may be an issue if Turner or the others have to play it.

Guam's picture

Being a draftee improves their chances of success, but does not guarantee they are starters. Among others, the Packers have Tony Mandarich and Jason Spriggs to prove that point. I have high hopes for both Jenkins and Madison, but want to see them play before we have conversations about where they will start.

Since '61's picture

I’d like to see a starting 5 of Bak, Jenkins, Linsley, Turner and Bulaga. Jenkins will benefit from playing between Bak and Linsley. Plus if he is considered to be the backup at Center he should get as much experience with Linsley’s OL calls as soon as possible.

Taylor can be a reliable backup at either guard spot if necessary while Madison can also backup at guard. I would feel better about our overall depth if the Packers could identify a reliable backup for Bak. I doubt if Spriggs is that guy. If he doesn’t have a good camp he should be chucked.

I expect that the Packers will keep 9 OLs unless they keep 7 WRs or 4 TEs. But if protecting Rodgers is job #1 I would rather go with more OL depth than either WR or TE depth.
Thanks, Since ‘61

dobber's picture

I just don't think Taylor makes it to week 1 if he's not going to start. I think they'd try to move him. Cutting him wouldn't be ideal, but there's cap money to be saved there and the hit is not prohibitive.'

That said, with some of the youth they've got on the OL, I wouldn't be surprised if they work proactively (thinking about losses for 2020 and 2021) and go with 10 OL.

Rossonero's picture

9 OL seems reasonable to me.

I'm thinking we'll keep 4 TEs: Graham, Lewis, Sternberger and Tonyan.

WRs, I'll say 7: Adams, Allison, MVS, ESB, Moore, Davis and Kumerow.

greengold's picture

I think Taylor is going to be fine. The guy was great in 2017, then played all of last season with foot and ankle injuries that ruined his chances to be effective, and we all saw what happened.

He's healthy now, and I suspect the battle for LG is going to be fierce between he and Elgton Jenkins.

It would be really cool if Cole Madison shows well. I'm just wondering if the year off may have affected his chances?

Yosh Nijman is going to be a perfect backup at both LT and RT. I like Alex Light and Gerhard deBeer too as backup OTs.

Packers will probably keep 10 OL, and Jason Spriggs will not be one of them. I don' see how they can keep the guy. He's been a monster bust. Shocking how ineffective he has been through 3 years. Has no functional strength, seems lost in his assignments, and makes a lot of mental mistakes.

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