Green Bay Packers

How Do the Packers Boost Their Interior Offensive Line?

Photo credit: Mark Hoffman-Milwaukee-Journal Sentinel via USA TODAY Sports

While the Green Bay Packers have plenty of young offensive weapons, their interior offensive line remains a cause for concern. If they don’t address that problem, it could become the Achilles heel of an otherwise stellar unit. Luckily, the Packers have several decent options, but they should invest most heavily in the center and right guard positions.

The tackles are secure with Zach Tom holding down right tackle and either David Bakhtiari or Rasheed Walker on the left side. Elgton Jenkins is also back to elite form as one of the best left guards in football.

That leaves uncertainty at center and right guard. Josh Myers and Jon Runyan Jr. have been serviceable but hardly franchise cornerstones. They have evident shortcomings, especially in the run game.

Last year was Myers’ worst season as a pro. He had a 55.8 PFF grade, the lowest in his three years. However, Packers offensive coordinator Adam Stenavich praised Myers last season, and the coaches may believe he can improve.

The Packers still might be unsure of what they have in Runyan. While the Michigan product has provided excellent value for a sixth-round pick, his time in Green Bay could be coming to an end. Runyan dealt with injuries and split reps with second-year guard Sean Rhyan for most of the year. Runyan’s play improved late in the season, but he finished with the lowest PFF grade since his rookie year at 54.7. Runyan has expressed interest in returning to Green Bay. However, his contract expired, and the Packers may go in a different direction.

Speaking of Rhyan, the former third-round pick was not much better than Runyan. Rhyan finished with a lower PFF grade (51.7) for the year. But the UCLA product has come a long way from his disappointing rookie season. The coaches may have confidence in him. But from the outside looking in, it seems like the Packers must make a challenging decision between Runyan and Rhyan.

This year’s draft class will offer the Packers a plethora of opportunities to improve at center or guard, including viable options on Days 2 and 3. But if the Packers will take a guard or center, they should prioritize those positions. They found Bakhtiari and Walker late in the draft. Sometimes, these longer shots pay off. However, the Packers must address the interior offensive line on Day 1 or 2 if they want a Week 1 starter.

Green Bay may be able to find a player who eventually becomes better than Rhyan or Myers late in the draft. Still, that player likely won’t be able to replace them immediately. And they can afford the upgrade. The Packers got an influx of available cash when the NFL announced the new salary cap. Depending on who they restructure or extend, they should have ample cap space to work with.

Graham Barton looks like an excellent first-round option for the Packers. Barton played tackle at Duke but has the tools to bump to the interior. Barton could be available in the second round and be a plug-and-play starter.

Boston College guard Christian Mahogany also could be available in the third round. The 6’3”, 325 lb. guard is a violent blocker who could excel in Green Bay’s zone-blocking scheme. The Packers could reunite Mahogany with Jeff Hafley, his former head coach and now Green Bay’s defensive coordinator.

Former Miami Dolphins right guard Robert Hunt intrigues me as a free-agent option. Hunt, 27, is 6’6”, 335 lbs. and would be an instant starter. If the Packers sign Hunt, they would arguably have the best guard duo in the league with Hunt and Jenkins. Hunt wouldn’t have to adjust to a new scheme because Matt LaFleur runs a nearly identical system as the Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel. Hunt will be expensive as Spotrac gives him a market value of 11.8 million. If the Packers see him as the final piece to make their offensive line among the best in the league, it seems like a small price to pay.

In the third round, the Packers could address center with Georgia’s Sedrick Van Pran. The steady starter for the Bulldogs may not be an immediate upgrade over Myers. Still, it would provide some versatility and depth with the potential to overtake Myers in the near future.

The Packers have a weak link at the interior of their offensive line. Keeping Jordan Love upright and maintaining lanes for Jones to run through open are of the utmost importance. If the Packers have doubts about Rhyan, Runyan, and Myers, they should invest in a guard early in the draft or sign a free-agent guard. The O-line is the offense’s anchor, and Green Bay needs theirs to keep them steady rather than hold them back.

All stats and data via ESPN and PFF unless otherwise noted.

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