Packers: Offensive line is an embarrassment of riches
By Dillon Graff
Last week, the Green Bay Packers signed OT Dennis Kelly, who played last season for the Tennessee Titans.
Kelly started all 16 games in 2020, and per PFF never allowed a sack. Kelly is an experienced veteran who has largely been regulated to swing-tackle duty to this point in his career, which is the very role he’s likely to assume in Green Bay.
Kelly’s experience at tackle will allow Elgton Jenkins to move back to left guard, where the team intends to play him once David Bakhtiari is healthy. The signing also allows Bakhtiari to return to full health without any added pressure to speed up his recovery timeline. Above all else, it improves the chances of Aaron Rodgers staying upright in his absence.
You could argue the role of swing-tackle was the only spot on the offensive line that didn’t have an obvious internal candidate. With the signing of Kelly, that is no longer an area of concern.
Today we’re going to take a look at each position on the offensive line and evaluate where things stand.
Projected starters: LT – Bakhtiari, LG – Jenkins, C – Josh Myers, RG – (open competition), RT – Billy Turner
When everyone is healthy, both tackle spots are set in stone with Bakhtiari and Turner firmly entrenched. Kelly is likely to see time early but will be penciled in at swing-tackle. This is clearly an area of strength, and the added depth will serve the Packers well throughout the season.
When healthy, Bakhtiari will re-assume his position protecting Rodgers’ blindside. Until then, newly-acquired free agent Kelly will provide the insurance the team needs, with the added benefit of reliable depth when 69 is healthy.
It also gives the Packers time to evaluate and develop another swing tackle for the future, with a few intriguing options already on the roster (Ben Braden, Royce Newman, and Cole Van Lanen). Finding interior depth is obviously important, but having someone dependable to step in at tackle when needed is a much more difficult role to fill.
It’s never easy losing a player as talented as Corey Linsley, but when you’re as cap-strapped as the Packers, tough decisions have to be made.
Enter second-round pick Josh Myers out of Ohio State. Myers is a mountain of a man and moves incredibly well for his size. He’s not a mauler but Myers is always looking for work. It’s easy to see the fit in the Packers’ zone-running scheme. The Packers seem committed to giving Myers the keys to the car from day one. It’s obviously a small sample size, but the former Buckeye looks the part thus far.
Out of the options already on the roster, Jenkins and Lucas Patrick offer the most experience at the position and could offer coverage in the event of injury. I expect the team to cross train multiple players at the position to explore internal depth options.
Jenkins is expected to shift back inside to left guard, where he’ll continue to dominate. It’s possible that Jenkins’ future with the team comes at tackle but for this season he’s firmly entrenched at left guard.
Jenkins is capable of playing all five spots on the offensive line, and playing them well. Jenkins could be forced to shift around the line due to injury, much like he had to do last season. Either way, having a Pro Bowl-caliber talent with his kind of versatility is a luxury most teams would kill for.
Right guard is where things get interesting. Patrick is the incumbent starter, and he did an admirable job last season. However, the Packers have drafted a plethora of interior linemen over the last two seasons that they want to get an extended look at. This leaves the Packers with several strong internal candidates: Patrick, Runyan Jr., Newman, and Braden.
My expectation is that Patrick will retain the job unless one of Runyan or Newman lay claim to it early in camp and never let it go. There is no doubt the team is looking for more from right guard, but worst-case scenario they know what they have in Patrick. The team is going to have plenty of quality depth on the interior regardless who wins the job.
This offensive line has a tremendous amount of depth, and only so many spots they can fill. My expectation is that the team keeps nine on the initial 53. However, the Packers have more than nine players who have an argument for a spot which is a great problem to have.
Traditionally, fanbases grossly overvalue their own talent and assume that if a player doesn’t make the roster they’ll automatically get poached by another team. This year that just may be true. I wouldn’t be shocked to see someone signed or traded for after initial cut-downs.
Projected players kept: Bahktiari, Jenkins, Myers, Patrick, Turner
Bench: Kelly, Runyan, Newman, one of either Braden/Van Lanen