In most cases, NFL teams do not get too excited about losing a game. However, in the Green Bay Packers case, their 37-30 loss to the Detroit Lions brought some excitement. The reason for this is due to the fact that two very key players returned from injury. With the return of David Bakhtiari and Josh Myers, the Green Bay Packers offensive line now has options for the NFL playoffs.
Bakhtiari and Myers Strengthens Green Bay Packers Offensive Line
The Health of the Green Bay Packers Offensive Line
Green Bay Packers Offensive Line coach Adam Stenavich was not the only one that was excited to see Bakhtiari and Myers return to the Green Bay Packers offensive line on Sunday in Detroit. Aaron Rodgers was happy to see both his starting left tackle and center return to action.
Bakhtiari suffered his knee injury a little over a calendar year ago. Many, especially Bakhtiari, thought he would return sooner. No matter the timeline, it was quite a thrill for Packers fans to see Bakhtiari back in action. In the 27 snaps, Bakhtiari was on the field Sunday, it appeared he did not have much rust. While he did battle some fatigue from his first in-game action in more than a year, he looked solid protecting Rodgers blindside.
Myers, who had been out since October seventh, also saw valuable action in the Lions game. The rookie center played 32 snaps on Sunday and like with Bakhtiari, looked solid in his return.
While Bakhtiari and Myers returned on Sunday, it appears they are not the only member of the Green Bay Packers offensive line that will be returning. Billy Turner, who injured his knee against the Chicago Bears on December 12th, has been activated from COVID reserve list. All indications are that he will be back on the field for the NFL playoffs.
The Packers will still be without Elgton Jenkins, who is out for the season with a knee injury. Still, getting Bakhtiari, Myers, and Turner back is a huge plus for the Green Bay Packers offensive line. Their return bolsters the unit but also gives Stenavich and head coach Matt LaFleur options for the NFL playoffs. Here is how their return gives the Packers options for each offensive line position.
This season, while Bakhtiari was rehabbing, the Packers used Jenkins and Yosh Nijman in his place. Both players more than held their own while the Packers were without their standout left tackle.
Nijman surprised many while substituting for Bakhtiari and Jenkins. Now with Bakhtiari returning, the Packers have a true backup at left tackle. But even with Bakhtiari’s return, Nijman still might be utilized during the playoffs. Bakhtiari is still trying to get up to form, even with playing 27 snaps against the Lions, so there is a chance Nijman still might see action. The action Nijman saw this season, gives Stenavich and LaFleur confidence he will be ready if called upon.
The Packers starting right tackle situation looks to be just as strong for the NFL playoffs. Before Turner’s injury, he was having a very strong season. In his Packers career, Turner had bounced around from guard to left and right tackle. But this season, by staying put at right tackle, he had performed at a high level.
During his absence, Dennis Kelly stepped into the right tackle spot. A free agent pick up late in training camp, Kelly was signed to bring experience behind Turner. While his play was not perfect as the starting right tackle, he did hold up and showed that he could step in if Turner isn’t ready to go for the playoffs.
By Bakhtiari and Turner returning, the tackle position on the Green Bay Packers offensive line is deep, talented, and experienced.
With Myers out with a knee injury, veteran utility offensive lineman Lucas Patrick stepped into the starting center position. A five-year veteran, who has played guard as well as center during his career, did a nice job filling in for Myers. Not nearly as big or as athletic as Myers, Patrick is a fighter and very intelligent. Patrick has also gained the trust of Aaron Rodgers. Gaining Rodgers trust is not an easy thing to do, so knowing that Rodgers has his back, says a lot.
While Myers was the starter before he was injured, Patrick has shown that he is more than capable of handling the job if Myers is not at full strength. But with how Myers played on Sunday, he is expected to be the starter at center when the Packers play their first playoff game.
There is no doubt that the Packers miss having Elgton Jenkins in the starting lineup. Jenkins is the most athletic lineman the Packers have on their roster. So not having him at left guard, which is where he would be if he was healthy now that Bakhtiari has returned, is a blow.
While Jenkins was playing left tackle in Bakhtiari’s place, Jon Runyan Jr. was holding down the starting left guard spot. Runyan Jr. does not have the same type of skill or athletic ability, he has proven that starting at guard is not too big for him. He started 16 games this season for the Packers and has proven he is a starting-caliber guard in the NFL.
At the other guard position, rookie Royce Newman has been holding down that spot this season. He started 16 games this season and proved that he is durable. While his ability to stay healthy was a plus for the Packers, he did have some very rough spots. Those spots were rough enough that with Myers back, there is a chance Patrick could slide over to the right guard and send Newman to the bench. While it might be a blow to the rookie’s ego, it might be best for the Green Bay Packers offensive line for the playoffs.
There is another option that the Packers might have for their starting offensive line for the NFL playoffs. Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel brought it up on the most recent Green 19 podcast. He pondered keeping Kelly as the starting right tackle and moving Turner, who has played guard for the Packers in the past, to right guard. While it would give the Packers the best five offensive linemen, it would be a drop-off at right tackle.
More Options that Strengthens the Offensive Line
While moving Turner to right guard does not seem like the best of moves, the Packers do have options. Options, on the offensive line, that they haven’t had this season.
Stenavich, arguably, might have done the best job any Packers assistants did this season. Injuries depleted the Green Bay Packers offensive line but he held it together. Now, with three starters returning, Stenavich has options. The options are not just numbers, but options that can take a solid unit and make it even better.
NFL playoff teams are looking to get their best players on the field. The return of Bakhtiari, Myers, and Turner will give the Packers just that.