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Questions Remain on the Packers Offensive Line

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Questions Remain on the Packers Offensive Line

As the 2018 Green Bay Packers head into mandatory minicamp this week and look forward to training camp in a little over six weeks, questions remain on what the offensive line will look like once the season opens up in September.

While the left side of the offensive line remains intact and rock solid with David Bakhtiari holding down left tackle, Lane Taylor at right guard and Corey Linsley at center, the big question remains on the right side of the line at the guard and tackle positions.  These questions must be answered as the team progresses throughout the summer if they want to win the war in the trenches during the season and keep their franchise quarterback upright for the entire season.

Beginning at right tackle, incumbent Bryan Bulaga still holds the starting position for now.  Bulaga started his career with the Packers in 2010 and took the field by storm, eventually becoming the youngest player to start in a Super Bowl.  But, as his career has progressed, injury after injury has seemed to pile up for the ninth year pro.  The most recent injury was a devastating ACL tear last November that he is still rehabbing and the rehab process is expected to take him all the way until the start of training camp.  While being signed through the 2019 season and taking a large chunk pay for his services, rumors were swirling this past offseason that he could be a victim of a cut by the Packers.  But, the team did no such thing and Bulaga appears to be in the plans for the Packers for the 2018 season.

Should Bulaga’s rehab take longer than expected or see a setback, the next in line to start for the Packers line may come down to the battles in training camp and throughout the preseason.  Kyle Murphy started the first three games of the 2017 season and looked promising at both left and right tackle positions before going on season-ending injured reserve due to a broken foot.  Jason Spriggs, once pinned with high potential, is in a make or break year heading into the fourth and final year of his rookie contract.  The recent signing of Byron Bell is an indication that the team is looking to bolster depth and make stiff competition for the right tackle position should Bulaga not be able to perform at the start of the season.

Moving on to right guard, where seasoned veteran Jahri Evans held down the fort last season, Justin McCray appears to be the number one contender for a starting position.  McCray served admirably as a backup in 2017 when he was forced into the lineup in multiple positions while being a guard by trade.  He showed a lot of grit and attitude while starting at tackle and his experience could translate well into the right guard position as a permanent home.  Behind McCray sits Lucas Patrick, Kofi Amichia and Cole Madison.  Patrick enters his third season in the NFL after spending 2016 on the Packers practice squad and playing in 12 games for the team during the 2017 season.  Amichia was drafted by the team in 2017 and spent last year on the practice squad.  Madison was the Packers lone offensive line draft selection from this year’s class and will be driven to compete for a role on the 2018 team.

Should the Packers staff not see a definitive answer at right guard, all signs point towards Jahri Evans still being an option if the team opted to bring him back.  In April, Evans stated that he enjoyed his time in Green Bay and wanted a shot at winning another Super Bowl.  But the Packers M.O. hasn’t traditionally been to hang on to guys for one-year contracts as they near the end of their career.  He would more likely be an option should the staff not see starting potential out of what they have.

Beyond the starting five along the offensive line, the importance for depth is extremely high and we don’t need to look any further back than the 2017 season to realize that.  While the line suffered many injuries throughout the season last year, most of the players that stepped up into starting roles performed well and those players are returning to hopefully have a greater impact on the team moving forward.

Knowing just how important that having a cohesive, well-oiled offensive line is in today’s NFL, watching how the 2018 Packers unit develops and progresses should be fun to watch this summer.  I am reserving predictions for the starting five, for now, knowing that a couple of positions could come down to heated battles during training camp and the preseason.  When the pads come on in July, the battle on the offensive line will only be compounded by the likes of Kenny Clark, Mike Daniels and Mo Wilkerson lining up across from those fighting for a spot on the team.  I can’t wait to watch it unfold.

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Ryan Brunner is an avid Packers fan hailing from Chippewa Falls, WI.  He is a firm believer that punters are NFL players too!  Follow him on Twitter @brunwardo

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (15) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

RCPackerFan's picture

I'm not overly concerned about the OL at this time.

The left side is set. Center is set. The questions are all about the right side.

McCray appears to be the favorite for RG. Personally I wouldn't mind seeing them going and bringing Evans back and making McCray the ultimate backup again, because the way he was able to fill in almost every position last year was invaluable. I'm not sure if signing Bell means they are done with Evans or not. With Gutekunst we don't know.
But McCray deserves the chance to start at RG. He played well.

For RT, right now they have Spriggs who was playing better later in the year until he got hurt. From reports that I have seen it appears he may have filled out some. Meaning gaining more needed weight. Hopefully that will help him perform better.

Murphy is coming back as well. He not only might be going for the RT job but could be in the running for the RG job also.

And they brought in Bell. Who most say is a better OG then OT. But they at least have someone with experience that can fill in at RT if needed.

Overall I'm not concerned.

Bearmeat's picture

Exactly. They have preferred options at both RG and RT, and backup plans if the preferred options don't pan out. Barring a long-term injury to Bakh, OL will be a strength. And it is especially impressive considering the fact that every single starter is outplaying his contract except Bulaga. Salary cap heaven on the OL right now. :)

Lare's picture

I agree, they have several options for RG & RT on the roster and some with starting experience at those positions.

I have no concerns whatsoever that the OL will have good players at the starting positions and quality depth across the line.

cap'n kirk's picture

You can pencil McCray in at RG. Barring injury, he will be the starter; Bell is his backup. I'm not worried there. I believe Murphy will be your starting RT come week 1. Spriggs still has a lot of work to do, in getting stronger & learning the footwork to play RT. Cole Madison looks ready as a pass blocker, but will be a big liability if forced to run block - Wash St is a heavy spread offense. My biggest concern, as a whole, is the depth. Who's backing up Bahk at LT if he goes down? Who's your backup C?

dobber's picture

It's my understanding that McCray and Patrick can both play C if needed in an emergency (this would require Patrick to make the 53, which I'm not betting on). They've also got two UDFAs (Austin Davis and Dillon Day) on the 90, and I'll bet that one of them or a cut from some other team lands on the PS.

Ryan Graham's picture

My biggest concerns are gonna be depth related...at all positions including and especially Center. All that has been discussed this entire off-season is "what will happen if Bulaga isnt ready, or he gets hurt again....who's starting at RG" which are all fair questions. But what I'm asking is what happens if/when Corey Linsley goes down? it's happened a number of times, not last year thankfully but in years prior. It's how Tretter got in the game to begin with back in I wanna say 2014 or 2015 and he never looked back. With all the injuries this line has faced and the physicality that comes with the play in the trenches, injuries are bound to happen at line it's just become part of the expectation in the NFL. Linsley is the communicator up front, so who replaces him? A guard with zero experience at Center...? Does anyone have any experience?

PackEyedOptimist's picture

I'm curious who the backup center will be. It's a vital position, and despite Linsley playing every snap last year, prior to that, he lost a lot of time to injuries. There is also a wide-open opportunity for someone to grab the backup left tackle spot. Spriggs has to be the front-runner, but I think the Packers will select the best man--not the highest draft pick--this time around.

dobber's picture

I think they'll go into the season with a committee approach to Bakhtiari's backup. Murphy, Spriggs, and Bell have all played LT.

stockholder's picture

I'm very concerned. The Questions should have been solved last year. A-Rod could be a China Doll now. He must be pertected! Make or break years? It will take Murphy and Spriggs time just to catch up. My biggest Question is the depth. MM always says we should be OK. But it's always a problem 4 weeks into the season. At first glance we may believe will be OK. But until I see more stationary players on that OL. I'm concerned. Concerned for A-Rod. Concerned the holes will change this team's attitude and outlook.

Savage57's picture

40% of the offensive line is in flux. In the past the Packers have found the Bahks, Taylors and Linsleys of the world to fill voids. I'm going with the house on this one.

We have to have some trust they know what they have with McCray, Bell, Bulaga, Spriggs, Patrick, Lucas and Madison and all the no-names bucking for a roster or PS spot.

As for depth, what team doesn't take a pretty big hit when they have to plug in the #2 guy?

dobber's picture

Once they've settled the RG and RT questions, the question is: do they have bodies or do they have backups?

Nordom's picture

Jason Spriggs is in his third year now, not fourth - he was drafted in 2016.

Spock's picture

Nordom, Thanks for verifying that. I thought the same thing when I read the article, but didn't go check to see if it was Spriggs third year. Thanks for doing that.

Snake Plissken's picture

McCray, Patrick and Murphy all answered the question, "Can they play?"
The answer was a big yes.
This is huge and gives us more than adequate depth.
We just need the guys to stay healthy and this will be a good Oline

DD's picture

The o line will be fine. The bigger concern is how MM changes the offense with schemes and creativity. Run game? Not with MM. We'll see.

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