Since being hired as the Green Bay Packers head coach, Matt LaFleur has done a lot of things correctly. One of those things was the hiring of Adam Stenavich as his offensive line coach. Stenavich has done a remarkable job with the Packers offensive line. So much so, it earned him a promotion this off-season. Along with being the offensive line coach, he will now serve as the Packers run game coordinator. The promotion is impressive, but Stenavich knows he still has work to do. Stenavich must make sure his offensive line continues at their upper-echelon pace. Today we take a deep look at the 2021 Green Bay Packers offensive line.
Green Bay Packers Offensive Line Looks To Continue Being One of the Best
The Green Bay Packers offensive line thrived in pass protection as well as in the run game in 2020. Their ability to protect Rodgers, as well as open holes for Aaron Jones, made the Packers offense one of the best. In 2021, they will look to continue that performance.
However, Stenavich will have some challenges to overcome. His first challenge will be to find a replacement for All-Pro center Corey Linsley. General manager Brian Gutekunst allowed Linsley to depart as a free agent, leaving a hole at center.
Along with missing Linsley, it appears that the Packers might be without their starting left tackle for the start of 2021. David Bakhtiari suffered a season-ending injury late in 2020. His timetable to return in 2021 is unknown at this time.
But even with the challenges, the Packers offensive line is still expected to be one of the best in 2021. Here is a breakdown of each position on the Packers offensive line and who might have a shot in starting.
When healthy, Bakhtiari is one of the best left tackles in the game. With the knee injury, it will take him time to get back to 100%. But with the work ethic he possesses, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him return early in the season.
Until Bakhtiari returns, the Packers have two options to start at left tackle. Billy Turner shifted from the right side to the left when Bakhtiari went down. Excluding the NFC Championship game, Turner played well. He very well could start this season at left tackle until Bakhtiari returns. Or, Stenavich could keep Turner at his best position, right tackle, and slide standout left guard Elgton Jenkins over to the left tackle position. Jenkins is the best athlete on the Packers offensive line. He played some at tackle last season and didn’t miss a beat. Don’t sleep on Jenkins being the starting left tackle when the season kicks off.
Backing up both tackle spots this season will be recently signed tackle Dennis Kelly. Kelly is exactly what you want in a backup tackle. He has experience playing on both sides and has 47 games of starting experience. Gutekunst should be commended for this signing. Signing someone with the experience Kelly has so late was quite impressive by the Packers general manager. If they keep Jenkins at left guard and play Turner on the left side, Kelly could have a chance to be the starter at right tackle until Bakhtiari returns.
Others To Keep an Eye on at Tackle
The Packers also have some interesting young prospects at the tackle position. Ben Braden spent last season on the Packers practice squad. The former Michigan Wolverine had a very strong OTA this off-season when he spent some time with the first-team offense at left tackle. Along with having good size, he also has the capability of lining up at guard. He has a very strong chance to make the Packers opening day roster, as a backup at both tackle and guard.
Gutekunst spent two draft picks on tackles in this year’s NFL draft. Royce Newman was selected in the fourth round while Cole Van Laden was selected in the sixth round. Newman, like Braden, has the ability to line up at both guard and tackle. He played high-level competition while at the University of Mississippi playing in the SEC. While he might not be active for every game, he should make the Packers opening day roster.
Van Laden is a hometown favorite. He played high school football in the Green Bay area and played his college ball at the University of Wisconsin. He isn’t the best athlete, but coming from Wisconsin, who is known to turn out NFL offensive linemen, he does have the pedigree. Van Laden isn’t expected to make the roster but should be a good prospect for the Packers practice squad.
It appears that Yosh Nijman has run out of chances. The former undrafted free agent out of Virginia Tech has been a developmental prospect for the Packers the past several seasons. But with the young prospects the Packers have, there doesn’t seem to be a spot for him.
When talking about the guard position on the Packers offensive line, you have to start with Elgton Jenkins. Since being drafted by Gutekunst in the second round of the 2019 NFL draft, he has become arguably the Packers best offensive lineman. He has played all over the Packers offensive line and performed at an upper level at each spot. While he can play multiple positions, his best position is at guard. He could go down as Gutekunst’s best pick.
Lucas Patrick doesn’t get a lot of love, but he should. Patrick was once an undrafted free agent who was signed by former general manager Ted Thompson as a tryout player. Since making the Packers, he has worked his way up the ladder. Last season, he started at right guard and is expected to be the starter once again this season.
The expected top backup at guard is Jon Runyan Jr. Runyan saw spot duty last season at left guard when Jenkins was forced to move over to center as well as tackle. When given the chance, Runyan performed well and has many believing he will eventually take over for Patrick after this season at right guard.
The depth at guard took a hit recently. 2019 sixth-round pick Simon Stepaniak retired due to injuries in training camp. His retirement weakens the depth but it is also another wasted late-round pick by Gutekunst. Braden and Kelly both are able to play guard, as well as Newman, which will provide the necessary depth.
Replacing an All-Pro player is never an easy thing to do, especially if you are a rookie. But Josh Myers seems to be off to a very good start in doing so.
Myers has already gotten the attention of the reigning MVP. Selected in the second round of this year’s NFL draft, it appears that Myers will be the Packers starting center in 2021. He will have some big shoes to fill, but it looks like he will be up for the challenge.
The Packers do have backup plans in case Myers falters. Jenkins was a standout center in college and played some there in 2020. He could very easily slide over and take over for Myers if necessary. Patrick also has seen time at center and could move over to center as well. Both are solid backups to Myers.
It appears that second-year center Jake Hanson will be the odd man out. Hanson was cut last season and was then signed to the Packers practice squad. If he doesn’t make the team, and is not signed to the practice squad, he will be another wasted late-round pick by Gutekunst from the 2020 NFL draft. With Jenkins and Patrick having the ability to play at center, it makes Hanson expendable.
Packers Offensive Line Depth Chart Projection
At tackle, it will be Bakhtiari, Turner, Kelly, and Braden. For Guard, Jenkins, Patrick, Runyan, and Newman. The only true center will be Myers. Expected practice squad signings will be Hanson, Van Laden, and rookie Coy Cronk out of Iowa.
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