During the 2019 off-season, the Green Bay Packers opened up their wallets. General manager Brian Gutekunst felt that the Packers needed to bolster their roster at key positions. He determined he couldn’t get that help just through the NFL draft. Gutekunst made the decision that the Packers needed to be players in free agency. He shored up the defense by signing outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith, safety Adrian Amos, and outside linebacker Preston Smith. He also plucked a player from the offensive side of the ball as well. That player, Billy Turner, has turned out to be just as important as the defensive free agents the Packers signed.
Billy Turner is Turning Out to be Quite the Pickup for the Green Bay Packers
In 2019, Billy Turner started every game for the Packers as the starting right guard. His play at right guard didn’t stand out. Turner was durable, not missing a start, but his play wasn’t to where it needed to be at. For what the Packers paid for him, much more was expected.
Even with being a well paid free agent, Turner faced competition for the starting right guard position. Longtime starting left guard Lane Taylor returned this season after re-doing his contract. With Elgton Jenkins implanted as the starting left guard, Taylor shifted to the right side. It appeared that Billy Turner would need to fight to win his starting right guard position. But the Packers had other thoughts for Turner.
Finding a Home at Right Tackle
Head coach Matt LaFleur and offensive line coach Adam Stenavich made the decision to give Billy Turner some time at right tackle this training camp. Turner split time at guard, battling Turner, as well as right tackle, battling Ricky Wagner.
Wagner was signed as a free agent prior to this season. Most expected the former Baltimore Ravens and Detroit Lions starting right tackle to be the replacement for longtime starting right tackle Bryan Bulaga. Bulaga had departed as a free agent to the Los Angeles Chargers this off-season. But Turner and his play had other ideas.
From all reports, Turner had outplayed Wagner and was expected to be the opening game starter at right tackle. Unfortunately for Turner, he hurt a knee late in training camp. The injury was severe enough that it limited Turner to backup duties in the Packers first two games against the Minnesota Vikings and the Lions.
By Week 3, Turner was deemed healthy by the Packers medical staff. He was inserted as the Packers starting right tackle against the New Orleans Saints that game. Since then, he has started every game and has played exceptionally. It appears Turner’s athleticism is better suited at tackle and he looks like he belongs on the edge. It can be argued, he has been the Packers top offensive lineman so far this season.
Turner has played well on the right side, but he has also shown he is capable on the left side as well.
Turner Showing His Versatility
When starting left tackle David Bakhtiari went down with a chest injury against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Packers fans gasped. There are three players on the Packers offense that many believe the Packers can’t lose to injury. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers, wide receiver Davante Adams, and also Bakhtiari. Bakhtiari protects Rodgers’ blindside and losing him would create a huge hole on the Packers offensive line.
That is what the Packers faced when Bakhtiari went down against the Buccaneers. They inserted Wagner to replace Bakhtiari but the results were disastrous. Wagner struggled on the left side and showed he doesn’t have the athletic ability to hold down the left side. The Packers needed someone who could move and handle the speed on that side. That is when they turned to Billy Turner.
While at North Dakota State, Turner was an All-American left tackle. So playing on the left side wasn’t foreign to Turner. Still, he hadn’t played much at left tackle at the NFL level. But the Packers needed him to make the shift and he has proven he is very capable of doing it.
Turner has started the past three games at left tackle and has more than proven he can hold his own. His versatility has been a major asset for the Packers. It appeared that the Packers didn’t have a true backup to Bakhtiari, but Turner has shown he can be that backup. When Wagner went down during the Packers victory over the San Francisco 49ers, Turner was flipped back to the right side. Once again, the position switch didn’t stop Turner. He held down the spot and the Packers offensive line didn’t miss a beat.
Proving the Naysayers Wrong
Many believed that Billy Turner wasn’t a starting NFL tackle. The thought was that Turner was better off playing in the inside and couldn’t handle the speed at tackle. When Bulaga left and the Packers signed Wagner, many thought it would be Wagner to take over.
However, Turner has proven he is more than capable of handling the tackle position in the NFL. Turner is an exceptional athlete and he has shown that this season at right as well as left tackle.
While the Smiths and Amos got all of the attention when signed, the Turner signing is turning out to be just as important for the Packers. Without Turner in the fold, who knows where the Packers offensive line would be. Gutekunst has been applauded for his defensive signings, but it appears that he should get the same amount of credit for signing Turner.
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