Green Bay Packers

What Does Green Bay's Ideal Starting Offensive Line Look Like?

Photo Credit: Tommy Gilligan (USA TODAY Sports)

It’s a slow news day for the Green Bay Packers, as starting quarterback Jordan Love prepares for this Sunday’s game against the downward-trending Kansas City Chiefs.

In a week where it seems the Packers are finally shaking off the injury bug and getting back some of their most-impactful players, Aaron Rodgers will miss Sunday’s game due to a positive COVID-19 test. While the Rodgers news dominates the headlines, Love has a chance to get not only his top receivers back but his best offensive lineman as well.

While the Packers haven’t activated David Bakhtiari as of this writing, the All-Pro has a good chance of playing this Sunday after a long ACL rehab. On Monday, Matt LaFleur claimed the team had made their decision, but that little rascal hasn’t told us yet. This is excellent news for Love and the Packers, as the Chiefs just traded for pass-rusher Melvin Ingram. Love could use the extra protection.

Green Bay’s offensive line has shuffled all season long due to injuries. Down No. 69, the Packers lost his backup Elgton Jenkins to injury at times. Rookie center Josh Myers is on IR with a knee injury. It cannot be overstated how well offensive line coach Adam Stenavich has coached this season. But with Bakhtiari’s return, so does some normalcy for the guardians of the quarterback. However, what does normalcy look like? Who are the Packers’ best five starting offensive linemen?

The only certainties are that a healthy Bakhtiari will be the left tackle and a healthy Myers will play center. Bakhtiari is probably the best left tackle in the game, and LaFleur is committed to giving his second-round center the chance to grow into his role.

While Jenkins’ time as a tackle understudy has shown he can handle the spotlight, moving Billy Turner from right tackle doesn’t make much sense. Turner has quietly been excellent this season as the one constant of the line. He’s faced some of the league’s most frightening pass rushes and mostly come out on top. Rodgers called Turner the “unsung hero” of the Packers earlier this season.

“Billy Turner needs to get consideration for the Pro Bowl,” Rodgers said on his weekly Pat McAfee Show appearance. “I know we’re only six games in, but he’s played outstanding. He really has. He’s a master of his craft. Nobody works harder at his craft than Billy. I’m really proud of him.”

No point in changing what’s working, so both tackle spots are in good shape. You’re not not going to have Jenkins on the line, so his natural spot at left guard makes the most sense for the versatile rising star. So, just like the preseason, you essentially have three options for one spot at right guard: Royce Newman (the current starter), Jon Runyan Jr (currently at left guard), and Lucas Patrick (your current starting center).

Green Bay has gotten their money’s worth on Patrick’s modest contract. He’s played a major role in the past two seasons. With the timeline on Myers’ return to center still murky, Patrick looks to stay in that spot for the time being. The Packers also likely want one of their young starters to take over right guard permanently, giving Newman and Runyan the edge if everyone is healthy.

Newman got the edge at right guard to open the season, but injuries called Runyan up pretty quickly, leading to similar playtime. PFF credits Newman with a 47.3 grade on 509 snaps compared to Runyan’s 63.2 grade on 452 snaps.

Newman has had one penalty and four sacks allowed on the year. Runyan has had zero and two, respectively. Newman, in particular, has struggled in run-blocking, which isn’t ideal considering how much the Green Bay offense relies on the run.

The numbers currently favor Runyan, though the difference isn’t massive. Neither player has draft pedigree as a driving force. Both were Day 3 picks, with Newman in the fourth round and Runyan in the sixth, and we know the Packers have success with late-round linemen.

But projection matters if you’re trying to get the best five linemen protecting Rodgers/Love/Blake Bortles. If the coaching staff believes Newman is the guy, benching him now could have negative implications on the mental aspect of his game. Newman is still a rookie, and comparable players like Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang needed time to become stalwarts. It’s less about who these young players are now and more about who they could be.

From the couch GM perspective, Bakhtiari-Jenkins-Myers-Runyan-Turner looks like the best fit, but Newman/Runyan at RG is a tough call.

Ultimately, this is an excellent problem to have. Many teams struggle to put out five competent linemen every week, while the Packers are deep at the position. And injuries in the trenches are common, meaning the chances of always having your five best aren’t great.

It might still be a few weeks until this puzzle solves itself. But until then, whoever starts at quarterback for the Packers should feel pretty safe.

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Photo Credit: Tommy Gilligan (USA TODAY Sports)

Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur loves to talk about getting his best five offensive linemen on the field. Coupled with Green Bay’s skill at drafting […]

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