The 2021 NFL season is now in the books. With 2021 in the rearview mirror, it is a good time to dive into each position for the Green Bay Packers. In our first installment, we take a dive into the Green Bay Packers offensive tackles.
Breakdown of 2021 Green Bay Packers Offensive Tackles
Packers offensive line coach Adam Stenavich had his work cut out for him this past season. Stenavich, along with head coach Matt LaFleur, had to deal with many injuries in regards to the Green Bay Packers offensive line. No position was hit harder than the Green Bay Packers offensive tackles.
It seems that the Green Bay Packers offensive tackles were in constant flux, week in and week out. But credit to Stenavich, he didn’t use that as an excuse. In fact, the Packers offensive line still played at a high level throughout the season, even with the injuries. Their play helped earn Stenavich a promotion to offensive coordinator this off-season.
Today, we take a look at the Green Bay Packers offensive tackles for 2021 and how they graded out for the season.
David Bakhtiari, Grade: Incomplete
LaFleur and Stenavich knew David Bakhtiari would be limited going into 2021. After suffering a major knee injury late in 2020, Bakhtiari’s availability for 2021 was a major question going into the season. The Packers were hopeful they would get their starting left tackle at the very least for the playoffs. But those hopes didn’t become reality.
All signs pointed to a possible return in November for Bakhtiari. Unfortunately, he suffered a setback, which pushed out his return. He did return for the Packers last regular-season game against the Detroit Lions. In that game, he played 27 snaps. Even with shaking off the rust, he did look solid, especially for missing so much time.
However, that limited playing time in the Lions game caused some discomfort in his surgically repaired knee. It was severe enough that it forced him out of the Packers playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers. That game turned out to be the Packers last game of the season, losing 13-10 at home.
Giving Bakhtiari an incomplete grade was a no-brainer, with playing only 27 snaps. Now, for LaFleur, Stenavich, and the new offensive line coach Luke Butkus, getting Bakhtiari ready for 2022 is the focus. Hopefully, after this pseudo redshirt season, he will be at full strength when the Packers kickoff 2022.
Elgton Jenkins, Grade: B+
With Bakhtiari out, starting left guard Elgton Jenkins shifted over to tackle. Jenkins, the Packers most athletic Packers offensive lineman, did more than hold his own replacing Bakhtiari. Playing in eight games and playing 496 snaps, he earned an 82.1 grade by Pro Football Focus. He only gave up two sacks in his 496 snaps.
However, similar to what happened to Bakhtiari in 2020, Jenkins went down with a season-ending injury. Against the Minnesota Vikings, Jenkins suffered a torn ACL. The injury caused him to miss the remainder of the 2021 season. But the injury is also expected to cause Jenkins to miss part of 2022 as well.
Before the injury, many had speculated that Jenkins could be a replacement for starting right tackle Billy Turner if the Packers were to cut him. Others believed he could replace Bakhtiari, long term if Bakhtiari’s injury proved to be career-threatening. But with the injury, the Packers are now just hoping that Jenkins can get back to the All-Pro level he played at when at guard.
Billy Turner, Grade: B
When the Packers were dealing with injuries at left tackle, Billy Turner appeared to be the iron man out of the Green Bay Packers tackles. Turner started 13 regular-season games for the Packers in 2021, playing 810 snaps. His play during that span drew the attention of quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers proclaimed Turner as the unsung hero of the Packers offensive line.
However, once again, the injury bug reared its ugly head. This time, it was to Turner. In the Packers December 12th game against the Chicago Bears Turner went down with a knee injury. The injury wasn’t as severe as Jenkins, but it was enough to force Turner to miss the rest of the regular season.
Turner did return for the Packers playoff game against the 49ers. However, instead of putting him back at right tackle, Stenavich had Turner shift to the left side. It was a curious decision, with figuring in how well Turner played on the right side during the regular season. It was a decision that backfired on the Packers offense. Rodgers dealt with pressure throughout the 49ers game.
Turner’s name is frequently brought up when it comes to possible salary cap casualties. But with so many injuries to the Green Bay Packers offensive tackles, Turner’s return looks like a strong possibility.
Yosh Nijman, Grade: B-
In week three against the 49ers, the Packers found themselves without Elgton Jenkins. To the surprise of many, Yosh Nijman was called upon to replace Jenkins at left tackle.
Nijman surprised many with his play. The former undrafted free agent played well replacing Jenkins, helping the Packers in their victory over the 49ers. Nijman went on to start eight games for the Packers this past season, playing in 590 snaps.
His play was an unexpected surprise, a very welcome unexpected surprise. But Nijman’s play needs to be put into perspective. While he played better than what was expected, Nijman was given a lot of help. Tight end Marcedes Lewis lined up frequently next to Nijman. Lewis, one of the best blocking tight ends in the NFL, took a lot of pressure off the young offensive tackle. While many Packers podcasters have portrayed Nijman as the next Anthony Munoz, that is far from the case. He played well, but without Lewis, it would have been a lot worse.
Nijman will be a restricted free agent this off-season. If another team decides to give Nijman big money, it is expected he will depart. Russ Ball, the Packers salary cap guru, has left the Packers in a tight money situation. Paying Nijman big money will be out of the question. But if Ball can get creative, Nijman is well worth it to re-sign. He could be a long-term answer as the Packers swing tackle.
Dennis Kelly, Grade: C-
Brian Gutekunst signed free agent offensive tackle Dennis Kelly late into training camp. Signing Kelly, a veteran offensive tackle with starting experience was deemed a solid signing by Gutekunst.
Kelly’s signing turned out to be a necessity due to the injuries on the Green Bay Packers offensive line. When Turner was lost late in the season, Kelly was inserted to replace him. Kelly started four games playing 305 snaps. At best, Kelly’s play was uneven. He had his moments where he looked solid. But he also struggled at times. His struggles were on full display against the 49ers in the playoffs. He struggled mightily against 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa.
Even with playing his worst game at the most crucial time, Kelly did what was expected of him. Kelly isn’t a long-term answer as a starting tackle. However, when a starter goes down, he is good enough to step in. He will be an unrestricted free agent this off-season. His return to Green Bay will be linked to Nijman. If another team offers Nijman a lot of money, Gutekunst could bring back Kelly to be the Packers swing tackle.
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