Losing a starter is never an easy task to fill. However, when that player is a three-time Pro Bowler who holds down the most important spot on the offensive line, well, that is a downright gut punch. That is the situation the Green Bay Packers now find themselves in. With starting left tackle David Bakhtiari lost for the season with a torn ACL, the Packers must figure out a way to plow forward. If that wasn’t bad enough, the Packers are still in a fight to lock down the number one seed for the NFC playoffs. The Green Bay Packers offensive line will need to rise to the occasion.
Green Bay Packers Offense Line Will Be Put to the Test
Offensive line coach Adam Stenavich has done a remarkable job this season with the Packers offensive line. He has guided them into playing like one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. However, he now faces his most difficult task at the most crucial time.
Stenavich, along with head coach Matt LaFleur, will need to figure out a way to replace Bakhtiari. Replacing their Pro Bowl tackle is difficult enough, but they will need to figure out a way to replace the leader of the Packers offensive line. Fortunately for them, this isn’t the first time they have had to do it this season.
Blessed With Depth on the Offensive Line
Dealing with a player’s injury is never a good thing when you are an NFL team. But for the Packers, it might have been a blessing in disguise.
In their Week 5 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Bakhtiari suffered broken ribs. That injury was severe enough that it caused him to miss the next three games. The injury forced Stenavich to shuffle the starting lineup for the Packers offensive line. It also gave them a trial run with having to be without Bakhtiari for the rest of the season.
During that stretch, starting right tackle Billy Turner moved over to the left side while back up tackle Rick Wagner stepped in on the right side for Turner. Even with missing their standout starting left tackle, the Packers offensive line didn’t skip a beat.
Bakhtiari wasn’t the only Packers offensive tackle that suffered a knee injury in the past two weeks. Wagner departed with a knee injury last week in their victory over the Tennessee Titans. With Bakhtiari lost for the season, losing Wagner for an extended amount of time would have been another huge blow to LaFleur and the Packers offensive line. However, the Packers appear to have gotten some good news. It appears Wagner will be ready to go this week against the Chicago Bears.
Elgton Jenkins, Swiss Army Offensive Lineman
Billy Turner and his ability to play multiple positions on either side of the line are proving to be a major asset for the Packers offensive line. This season, he has started at right guard, right tackle, and left tackle. His ability to play multiple positions, especially now with the loss of Bakhtiari, has been a season saver for the Packers.
While Turner has shown that he is capable of playing tackle on both sides, the same can’t be said for Wagner. When Bakhtiari was lost in the Buccaneers game, the Packers inserted Wagner to replace him. The results were a disaster. So, if something were to happen to Turner, it is doubtful that it would be Wagner to take his spot on the left side. That is where Elgton Jenkins comes in.
Jenkins was voted to his first Pro Bowl this season. In only his second season in the NFL. He made the team as a guard, his primary position for the Packers. However, he has been utilized all over the Packers offensive line this season. Something that might come into play if something were to happen to Turner or Wagner the rest of the season.
Jenkins has played at both left and right tackle this season. When forced into action at those positions, Jenkins held up quite well. Brian Gutekunst selected Jenkins in the second round of the 2019 NFL draft. At the time, some fans were disappointed it wasn’t a wide receiver. But now, they are singing the praises of Gutekunst for making the pick.
If Turner or Wagner are forced out, Jenkins might not just be Gutekunst’s best pick. Jenkins might turn out to be Gutekunst’s most important pick.
The Show Goes On
Losing a player of Bakhtiari’s caliber is a big blow, not only to the Packers offensive line but the entire offense. He has protected Aaron Rodgers blindside the past eight seasons. Not only has he done it, but he has thrived at it.
Still, the season goes on and the Packers have the ability to continue to play at a high level. “Next man up”, has become the mantra of all NFL teams when they suffer an injury to a key player. For the Packers, that is the situation they face. Don’t bet against them, they have shown they are capable of adapting.
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