Right Tackle Remains An Open Question for the Packers Heading Into Training Camp

The Green Bay Packers don't have many position battles as they head into training camp for the 2022 NFL season later this month. Most of the starting jobs are more or less settled barring a big breakthrough by a young player, a complete collapse by a veteran or an injury. But the biggest competition may come at right tackle where no player has solidified a hold on the starting job as camp is set to begin.

Hovering over all of this the status of Elgton Jenkins who is not expected to be available to the team at the beginning of the regular season as he continues to recover from a knee injury he suffered last November. When he returns, the Packers will have Jenkins play at the spot they need him the most which would very well be right tackle although injuries or other starters struggling could change that during the season. But until Jenkins returns and the coaching staff addresses where he should play, the right tackle position is up for grabs.

Tied to the situation at right tackle is the return of starting left tackle David Bakhtiari from the knee injury he suffered before the 2020 season finale that kept him out of the lineup for nearly all of the 2021 campaign. Bakhtiari played the first half of the season finale last season but was unable to go during the playoff game against San Francisco. The Packers are hopeful Bakhtiari returns to the lineup when training camp begins. If he does, that means left tackle is settled and the focus can be exclusively on the right tackle position.

The favorite to earn the starting job on the right side entering training camp is likely Yosh Nijman. Nijman took over at left tackle last year after both Bakhtiari and Jenkins were unavailable. He started eight games and did a solid job protecting Aaron Rodgers' blind side. Nijman would have to make the adjustment from the left side to the right side but he should be able to accomplish that during training camp. It could give him the chance to start again and build on the promise he showed during his first extensive action in the NFL a year ago. The Packers invested two years of coaching in Nijman because of his outstanding physical tools and that seemed to pay off. But head coach Matt LaFleur didn't start Nijman in the playoffs which was a bit of a vote of no-confidence in the former Virginia Tech star. Can he earn their trust in training camp?

Another candidate for the right tackle position is Royce Newman. As a rookie, Newman played at guard with mixed results. He struggled to pick up blitzes and stunts in pass protection but that is typical of many first-year players and he did improve as the season progressed. Newman is capable of moving to tackle although many scouts say he is better suited for guard duty. However, the Packers drafted two more players who may be competing with Newman at guard and at tackle in training camp.

Third-round pick Sean Rhyan was a tackle at UCLA. His shorter arms and stature make him a candidate to move to guard, but his experience playing tackle means the coaching staff may see what he can do there first. If Rhyan can play tackle in the NFL, he'll compete for the starting job. If he is better suited to guard, he could make Newman move outside to compete at right tackle.

In the fourth round of this year's draft, the GM Brian Gutekunst selected Zach Tom of Wake Forest. Tom is versatile like Jenkins and can probably play all five positions along the offensive line in a pinch. Tom will also find himself competing for the right tackle job in training camp as well as several other spots until the coaching staff finds the best position for him to play.

Seventh round pick Rasheed Walker of Penn State is a natural tackle but because he needs to work on his technique and consistency, he is more of a long shot to compete for a starting job as a rookie.

The right tackle job is most likely available only until Jenkins is healthy enough to return sometimes in the middle of the season. But it's always valuable for players to get more experience and to make an impression on the coaching staff.

The job is wide open in training camp and will provide fans with one of the few competitions for a starting job between now and season opener in September.

 

You can follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers

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Comments (33)

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

July 07, 2022 at 12:35 pm

I’d say there are quite a few position battles to sort out on offense this year, unless you know how things will shake out at TE and WR. As to the T position, I’d say the real issue is the health of Bakh. If he’s back the choice is likely Nijman or later Jenkins. If he’s not then maybe it gets more opaque until Jenkins returns.

However, I still think there is as much of a question at RG and I’m still not certain about anointing of Myers based upon actual performance.

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Leatherhead's picture

July 07, 2022 at 01:23 pm

This is how things will shake out at TE and WR, barring significant injury. Lazard and Watkins. Watson and Doubs. Amari and Cobb. Only 5 will be active on gameday. We’ll play 3 WR about half the time. #4 and #5 won’t get very many targets, and I’d predict Lazard, Watkins, and Amari will get more targets than the rookies, especially early n the season.

At TE, it’ll be Lewis, Tonyan, Deguara, Davis.

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mrtundra's picture

July 07, 2022 at 12:37 pm

I have a hunch that Nijman will be starting at LT, as I feel Bakhtiari will not be ready, when training camp starts. As far as RT goes, I think it will be Zach Tom or Sean Rhyan at RT with the other backing up Newman at RG. Until Jenkins is fully healed, Tom and Rhyan are the best candidates, IMO, for the RT spot, until Bakh is back at LT. Rasheed Walker could step it up in camp, which would make who plays where, even more interesting. I'm not worried about our O Line, yet. Camp should sort things out. GO PACK, GO!!!

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WestCoastPackerBacker's picture

July 07, 2022 at 12:54 pm

Right now there are questions all along the line. Will D Bakh be ready at LT? Will Jenkins be ready for anything? Will Josh Myers step in and grab the center spot back or will competition knock him out? Will any of the rookies challenge Newman? Is Runyan a starter? How about Cole Van Lanen? Will he challenge anyone and at what spot?

Will be interesting to see what happens in training camp. There seems to be a mind boggling number of options.

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HDbikerguy's picture

July 08, 2022 at 09:12 am

I agree with most of your comments but....who is Myers getting the job back from??? The guy that replaced him when hurt is no longer in GB and when healthy, he was the starter again..... also, is Runyon a starter??? Him and Meyers are probably the only two locks at LG and center.... and of course Bahk if healthy....(assuming Jenkins isn't ready)

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HDbikerguy's picture

July 08, 2022 at 09:12 am

I agree with most of your comments but....who is Myers getting the job back from??? The guy that replaced him when hurt is no longer in GB and when healthy, he was the starter again..... also, is Runyon a starter??? Him and Meyers are probably the only two locks at LG and center.... and of course Bahk if healthy....(assuming Jenkins isn't ready)

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stockholder's picture

July 07, 2022 at 12:56 pm

I like the versatility of the group. They can put anyone anywhere. It won't matter. They'll still get the job done.

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mnbadger's picture

July 07, 2022 at 01:13 pm

Sorry Gil, but I think you're wrong. The only question about starting tackles is who's available. If DB is ready on Day one, Yosh is RT1, period. He played his butt off when called on last year. I'm quite sure that the coaching staff is still questioning why they shook things up for the playoff game.
If DB is a no go, then Yosh is LT1, period. All the names mentioned will vie for short term RT1 position.
When EJ comes back, a decision will have to be made regarding where to play him. If, as I suspect, Yosh is holding his own at tackle, I'm pulling to put EJ back at LG to put that side of the line into elite status.
In Yosh I trust! GPG!

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TarynsEyes's picture

July 07, 2022 at 01:31 pm

I see that versatility is often spoken to with the OL depth, but it's one thing to have such to accommodate a few games here and there and have success, though the success seems to fail in the playoffs, and another to think of it as efficient as having true starter types, or an equal measure. If so, then the Packers should cut ties with Bakhtiari, but it isn't and if the Packers believe a group of non-masters of a position is best, don't expect the grand goal to be achieved this year or next or next. You need three solid starters on the OL, not one or none. Maybe a couple will become the master of a position, and all may be well, but at the moment going into camp and season start, it doesn't appear to be anything more than reaching into the bag of miscellaneous, or an 'Island of misfit toys.'

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PewAuKeeFan's picture

July 07, 2022 at 01:56 pm

Wow!

T-Eyes, finally I am able to give you an up-vote. Well, we now know miracles can happen!

Instead of being your usual Debbie Downer, you have actually presented a logical paragraph. I look forward to more of the same 😀.

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TarynsEyes's picture

July 07, 2022 at 02:21 pm

Nah, not a 'miracle', as I almost always make the good point, but the 'presentation' of those points is what is disliked, as another has told me. I don't use sugar and won't use it to assuage a truth.

I'll be sure to bookmark and cherish your upvote. I've been waiting, forever, to get it.

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Leatherhead's picture

July 07, 2022 at 01:44 pm

I’m not going to factor Jenkins in until he is active.

Left tackle is the most important line position, and we have a real good starter. If we have a good backup, like Nijman, then that spot is OK. Next most important is Center, and Myers will be fine if he’s healthy. If he’s not, it’ll probably be Tom.

Now it’s RT. Who is your best remaining lineman? IMO, we should look first at Newman. He’s not a rookie, he started quite a few games…out of position. He was a RT in college. Van Lanen will be given a shot.

That would leave Runyan and Rhyan as front runners for guard spots. A putative opening day line would see Bakhtiari, Runyan, Myers, Rhyan, and Newman starting, with Nijman, Van Lanen, and Tom as our reserves.

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T7Steve's picture

July 07, 2022 at 02:51 pm

I noticed Nijman and Newman were trading places with the first team quite a bit in OTAs & mandatory. So I think they have a working plan to start with. Newman needs to take a step this year and avoid penalties too.

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LLCHESTY's picture

July 07, 2022 at 04:27 pm

It would be nice to put Nijman at RT in TC and leave him there but even if Bakhtiari is healthy he's going to get rest days so I'm guessing he gets practices at LT too. Their rotations in OTAs and minicamp have no meaning. Braden practiced with the ones last year. Newman, Rhyan and Walker probably all get snaps at RT during TC and let the preseason games dictate the depth chart.

I'd like to see Tom compete with Myers for starting C but if they're sold on Myers as the starter then Tom should get some practices at T too.

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dobber's picture

July 07, 2022 at 05:02 pm

I think they might have an eye on Tom being the Lucas Patrick replacement, and will be asked to learn all 3 IOL positions in camp. Will be interesting, given they carried Hanson on the active roster all season a year ago, and he's had snaps at G, too.

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Leatherhead's picture

July 07, 2022 at 06:43 pm

You read my mind. He’s the interior backup.

IF we dress 9, I’d split time between Bakhtiari and Nijman at LT in practices and games. We need over 1000 snaps at LT and maybe it helps Bakhtiari stay available. I’d play Runyan at LG, Myers at C, Rhyan at RG and Newman at RT. Remaining backups would include Hanson, Tom, and Van Lanen and they’d be special teams guys

Until guys start getting injured. Then these guys like Walker and Turner make the practice squad, then they move up to the 53, then they’re starting for us in the playoffs. Hasn’t that happened the last couple of seasons?

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PackEyedOptimist's picture

July 07, 2022 at 04:29 pm

The first thing I'd add is this: Maybe this year's OL starters have to be better run blockers than in the past. If so, and I think that's a real possibility, a guy like VanLanen maybe gets to start.
I think that it's unlikely a rookie will start the first game, there are too many guys who have some experience already. I like Rhyan and Tom a LOT, but I don't see them starting game one unless there are injuries.
All I'm sure of is I like this team's OL depth more than any we've ever had over the past 50 years.

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dobber's picture

July 07, 2022 at 05:03 pm

Under LaF, the Packers haven't had an aversion to starting rookies. Play the 5 who give you the best chance to win.

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mnbadger's picture

July 10, 2022 at 03:13 pm

IMO, Vanlanen was JAG at UW. If he played at Rutgers, he's not in the NFL. He wasn't strong nor athletic. Now, if he he's been able to add strength and improve first step quickness, he did show good technique. Maybe he makes it, but I see him as a fairly early cut or trade if rookies show promise. GPG!

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mnbadger's picture

July 10, 2022 at 03:13 pm

IMO, Vanlanen was JAG at UW. If he played at Rutgers, he's not in the NFL. He wasn't strong nor athletic. Now, if he he's been able to add strength and improve first step quickness, he did show good technique. Maybe he makes it, but I see him as a fairly early cut or trade if rookies show promise. GPG!

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MarkinMadison's picture

July 07, 2022 at 05:06 pm

The OL is a mess right now. The only certainty is J Runyan Jr., and Myers is a pretty safe bet. Beyond that, I literally don't know who else will be starting week 1, and neither does anyone else at this point. It doesn't mean that they will be bad, but there is a ton of work to be done at camp and in the pre-season. I don't expect the positions to settle down until Jenkins is back, and that might not be until Thanksgiving. We just don't know.

TE isn't much better.

I don't expect the WR position to settle down at all this year - at least I hope that it does not. If it settles into a groove in week 1 and does not change then that likely means that Watson and Doubs have not emerged, and that will be a bad thing.

So that is six starting positions on the offense that will see a really healthy dose of competition between now and final cut-down day. That is more than enough drama for me.

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GregC's picture

July 08, 2022 at 06:46 am

Yeah, except for QB and RB, the offense is a mess. I'm expecting them to get off to a slow start, and it will be an uphill battle to develop into a consistent unit.

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HDbikerguy's picture

July 08, 2022 at 09:21 am

MIGHT be a bit over dramatic..... I don't expect sudden superstardom from the receivers but Lazzard and Cobb are definitely not a mess and Watkins should be fine, health is really the only concern as a whole.... also, in the MLF offense, the rookies should contribute early and get better as the season goes on.... I will agree with the O-line, especially until we know if Bahk will be healthy....

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dobber's picture

July 08, 2022 at 09:25 am

I guess it depends on what you mean by "certainty". They've got four returning guys who were starters over a significant number of games in 2021: Nijman, Runyan, Myers, and Newman. They were a competent four with Turner at RT.

...and that's minus two all-pros.

I think the mess from our perspective is in that this is unlike the past 2-3 seasons where it was Bakh, Jenkins, LInsley, RG, Turner, and there was only one position that was nominally up for grabs. One all-pro should be back in the lineup, which moves that competent LT or creates competition on the right side. Newman played a lot of snaps and got visibly better as the season wore on. He might be the weak link--and he might be out of position inside--but he can play. This isn't the Bears or Vikings OL room.

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GregC's picture

July 08, 2022 at 07:19 pm

The standards are high. Being better than the Vikings and Bears is not good enough. We want this team to win the Super Bowl. And the OL got their asses handed to them in the playoffs two years in a row. They were a nice little unit during the regular season, but they could not hold up against good defensive fronts that were playing with playoff intensity. The Packers could very well could put together a better OL than the ones that failed them the last two years when it counted most, but they have a lot of work to do.

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Oppy's picture

July 08, 2022 at 02:00 am

If Bakhtiari isn't "ready to go" in week 1 of this season, his career as a starting tackle in the NFL is likely over.

If the knee is still taking on fluid to the extent that he's not willing to play through it 21 months after his injury (December 2020), at age 30, I don't know how you rely on him to be a starter. The talent is still there obviously, but availability leads to consistency and consistency on an OL is everything for the unit to operate efficiently.

This is absolutely not a knock on Bakhtiari, but in the old days players would put football above personal health and just have the trainers slam a hypo in the joint and drain a milk jug's worth of fluid after every game and practice if need be. Those days are mostly gone, and probably for the better, as today's players have learned the lesson after watching yesterday's players half crippled and one foot in the grave by age 45. But with that shift the reality is length of starting caliber careers has been shortened in favor of personal long term health.

Bakh is a phenomenal LT, but if the knee hasn't stopped taking on fluid or he hasn't made the decision to live with it, the Packers need to anoint a new starter at the position who will be available for practice and sundays reliably.

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dobber's picture

July 08, 2022 at 09:18 am

"If Bakhtiari isn't "ready to go" in week 1 of this season, his career as a starting tackle in the NFL is likely over."

He needs to have confidence in that knee, but in terms of practice time, he doesn't need all that much. I have no problem with the Packers bringing him along slowly, and if the past is any indication, he wouldn't play very many preseason snaps. I think you're right on in that ultimately being the barometer: week 1.

The interesting piece will be Nijman. If he plays well on the right side after being a capable fill-in on the left side in 2021, he's going to command at least a lower-end starting OT salary in 2023...and Jenkins will be in line for a big payday. That would give the Packers 3 starting quality OTs wanting starter money. I know what I'd do...we'll have to see if the Packers end up in that position.

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Leatherhead's picture

July 08, 2022 at 03:16 pm

Yeah, having too many good blockers is always a problem..........

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LLCHESTY's picture

July 08, 2022 at 05:12 pm

Nijman is still a RFA next year. They'll probably have to give him at least a 2nd round tender but control his rights. It gives them time, Bakhtiari is much easier to cut after the '23 season if he's struggling to stay healthy.

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dobber's picture

July 10, 2022 at 06:58 am

You are correct, sir!

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Oppy's picture

July 08, 2022 at 09:55 pm

Packers are historically cautious with their players' health, but if you listened to Bakhtiari himself at the end of last season when he talked about his knee, he specifically stated that "people" around the building were looking at him and saying whenever you're ready, but the underlying tone was more along the lines of 'you need to get out on the field'.

It was odd to hear Bakh insinuating he was being pressured to man up and get back out there considering the Packers' cautious approach to player rehab. But if the Packers were already getting antsy by the end of the 2021 season, they're probably not going to be any less antsy in 2022.

Hope for the best, but I really do feel this is the crossroads for Bakh's career. unfortunately. Which road do we go down?

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x24's picture

July 08, 2022 at 10:14 am

I agree with you here, and I too love the guy. I hate it, but the trajectory of Bahk's knee doesn't exactly point to "bright future". I sure hope I am wrong

I also hate to think about what could have been accomplished with the dollars in that contract. Hindsight is 20/20

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Leatherhead's picture

July 08, 2022 at 03:11 pm

You can't be sure about Bakhtiari so you split time at that position with Nijman and hope that you can line up a good, healthy, LT in the playoffs for once. To me, that seems the simplest solution. Squeeze as many good snaps as you can out of him, but be prepared to play without him, Meanwhile, we get to see if Nijman is our starting LT of the future.

From there, you've got Runyan at LG and Myers at C. That's a solid left side. Over on the right, I'd guess that Newman might be our best option. He's a college RT who started a bunch of games for us at guard last year and that should put him ahead of the rookies, or Van Lanen. And then you put Rhyan at RG.

That leaves us with a starting line of Bakhtiari-Runyan- Myers-Rhyan- Newman with Nijman, Tom, Van Lanen and Hanson???? maybe

These guys like Walker and Turner ,,,,,,,barring injuries, we're going to have to cut them and try to resign them to the practice squad. But that doesn't mean they won't be starting for us in the playoffs.

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