The Green Bay Packers PR department released the team’s first depth chart of the season on Monday. While it should still be interpreted as unofficial, the most notable thing that jumps off the page are the players missing due to injury. With the immediate futures of fellow ACL rehabbers David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins still up in the air, the two-deep of the offensive line stands out not just because of the youth but because of the homegrown nature of the group the Packers have constructed to best prevent a worst-case scenario.
Of the 14 offensive linemen listed on the above depth chart, the only player to spend any time in the NFL outside of the Green Bay Packers organization is Michal Menet. One of the Arizona Cardinals’ seventh-round picks in 2021, Menet was waived and/or released three times by October of the same year. He signed a futures contract with the Packers in December.
Outside of Menet, the remaining 13 players include one second-round pick, one third-rounder, two fourth-round selections, three sixth-rounders, and one seventh-round pick. They also have five players signed following their respective drafts by the Packers. Outside of a few weeks in the desert for Menet, this Green Bay offensive line is entirely homegrown.
That applies to Bakhtiari and Jenkins too. Bakhtiari has famously transformed from a fourth-round project pick in 2013 to one of, if not the best, tackles in the NFL when healthy. Jenkins seemed to be on a similar trajectory, earning Pro Bowl recognition in only his second season.
Why is this important? It’s all based on the types of players that the Packers bring in. It’s widely known that Green Bay has loved drafting exceptionally athletic players dating back to Ron Wolf. That happens to correspond to the Twitter hype known as RAS, or Relative Athletic Score. I doubt Brian Gutekunst is scouring Twitter to see how many bright-green boxes a player has. But if a player is going to succeed with the Packers, more often than not, they happen to have quite a few.
Outside of one of this year’s UDFA rookies in Caleb Jones, who is 6’9″ and 370 lbs., there is a great deal of athleticism up and down the Green Bay’s offensive line. The trait that emerges most from that athletic ability? Versatility. Adam Stenavich has shown his ability to make chicken salad out of chicken…well, you know. Giving the newly promoted OC as many combinations as possible to make that happen is exactly why the Packers have constructed this unit the way they did. It’s how an undrafted player like Yosh Nijman can not only hang on with a team like Green Bay but, in all likelihood, be counted on to protect Aaron Rodgers‘ blindside come Week 1.
In past years, the Packers always seemingly had a veteran free agent who came in to fill a hole, especially since the departures of Corey Linsley and Bryan Bulaga. Dennis Kelly had his ups and downs and was generally pretty reliable, but he was really only limited to playing right tackle. Rick Wagner came home to the Badger State in 2020 as an answer, again, really only at right tackle. However, that season proved to be the last of his career. Billy Turner provided a bit more versatility in Green Bay’s mold, playing both tackle and guard, but did possess many of the traits that the Packers covet in this unit.
This isn’t to say that the Packers aren’t done with this type of veteran signing. But the way they’ve constructed the team, the goal is to sustain from within. They drafted Josh Myers, who is anchoring the line at center, as a guard out of Ohio State. Projected right guard Jon Runyan Jr. was primarily a tackle in his collegiate career at Michigan. Left guard? Jake Hanson was listed as a center coming out of Oregon. On the right side, Royce Newman has already seen time at both guard and tackle and might be the most versatile of the bunch.
The Packers spent a third- and fourth-round pick on linemen in the 2022 draft, selecting Sean Rhyan out of UCLA and Zach Tom out of Wake Forest, respectively. Both have had a bit of an up-and-down camp so far, but they are being baptized by fire against what is quickly emerging not only as one of the best units on the team but likely the division in Green Bay’s defensive line. There’s plenty of potential in Rhyan and Tom, and of course, versatility to play multiple positions, and learning against Kenny Clark and Co. every day doesn’t hurt.
Of course, the best-case scenario is Bakhtiari and Jenkins returning healthy, Myers locking down the center position, and two out of the likely trio of Runyan, Newman, and Nijman occupying the final two offensive line spots. Green Bay seems a long way from that happening, if ever. But the way they’ve constructed the offensive line has allowed the Packers to mitigate the loss of two All-Pro talents as much as possible.