With Bakhtiari Set to Return, Packers Have Tough Choices Along the Offensive Line

With Bakhtiari Set to Return, Packers Have Tough Choices Along the Offensive Line

NFL

With Bakhtiari Set to Return, Packers Have Tough Choices Along the Offensive Line

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The Green Bay Packers offensive line has been dealing with injuries all season. Through the first six games, the team has started four different combinations along the line and none of them involve all five starters the team ideally wants on the field to have their best unit out there. In addition, in-game injuries have often meant changes in the lineup midway through each contest.

The team is likely to have another starting offensive line combination this Sunday when they host the Washington Football Team as starting center Josh Myers suffered a knee injury against the Bears and is likely to miss several games as a result. When Myers was hurt, Lucas Patrick stepped in and did a solid job at center for the rest of the game against a strong Chicago front seven.

While Myers will miss time, there has been good news along the injury front. Elgton Jenkins returned to the lineup against the Bears and after a slow start, he played better as the game went on. The Packers plugged Jenkins back in at left tackle where he started the season after being named to the Pro Bowl last year at left guard. Jenkins can play all five positions along the offensive line and play all of them at an elite level.

Jon Runyan, Jr. has started as left guard in each game since the season opener and has done a good job especially at pass blocking. Patrick was the starting left guard in Week 1.

Right guard Royce Newman has struggled at run blocking and been a decent pass blocker. Newman has a lot of potential but still makes rookie mistakes picking up blitzes and making shifts in assignments when opponents stunt or shift rush lanes.

Right tackle Billy Turner has started every game this season and has been a consistent performer and veteran leader at right tackle. Tuner can also play guard and gives the Packers more versatility along the line.

On Monday of this week, head coach Matt LaFleur announced that All Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari will likely resume practicing with the team this week. Bakhtiari hasn’t played this season as he recovers from a serious knee injury suffered before the 2020 season finale which required surgery. He opened the season on the PUP list and is just now eligible to return to practice. Once he does start to practice, the Packers have a three week window to either place him on the active roster or end his season and place him on IR.

Once Bakhtiari returns, he will almost certainly be placed back at his traditional left tackle position. But that leaves questions for the rest of the lineup. Because of Jenkins’ versatility, where the Packers place him will be the key. Do they return him to left guard, the position he played so well the last two seasons? Do they move him to center until Myers returns to the lineup? Or do they move him to right guard or right tackle to try to get their best five players out there on the line?

Of all the remaining offensive linemen, Turner seems the most secure at right tackle. He has been a steady veteran presence there and moving him to guard or benching him would not make sense right now barring more injuries along the line.

Myers will be the starting center once he’s healthy again, but we don’t know when that will be. Are the Packers better off moving Jenkins to center, a position he played extensively in college, or keeping Patrick there until Myers returns? Patrick is a strong backup center and plays the position better than he plays guard. Does moving Jenkins there weaken other positions too much? The Packers have to determine which lineup gives them their best five starters.

The guard situation is the biggest question facing the LaFleur and offensive line coach Adam Stenavich. If they move Jenkins back to guard, they must decide who starts on the right side opposite him. Do they keep Newman at right guard and hope he continues to learn and grow at the position? Or is Runyan a better choice to move to the right side and allow Newman the chance to learn a little on the bench?

Stenavich has done an excellent job of using his versatile and talented roster as the team has struggled with injuries. The Packers had to adjust their game plan when both Jenkins and Bakhtiari were out of the lineup. Quick pass releases were much more frequent and the team had tight ends, running backs and even receivers chip pass rushers to help protect Aaron Rodgers.

The Packers schedule gets tougher soon with games against the Cardinals, Chiefs, Seahawks, Vikings and Rams approaching between Week 8 and Week 12. They will need to have their offensive line working well once this difficult stretch begins. The good news is that the team should have Bakhtiari and Jenkins, their two best offensive linemen, back in the lineup soon. Now they must figure out how to create the best offensive line with the healthy players they’ll have available.

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