Mini Camp just wrapped for Green Bay and 1st-year Head Coach Matt LaFleur. Over the course of the next 6 weeks, I’ll be giving you the lowdown on all position groups of the green and gold, and let you know who to keep an eye on once training camp kicks off.
Here’s some info you will ask yourself as training camp approaches:
- Training camp starts Thursday, July 25th for the Packers
- There will be 2 joint practices with the Houston Texans the week before their preseason at Lambeau on August 8th.
- There are at least 14 undrafted free agents vying for a spot on the final 53-man roster
We’re starting with the Big Uglies, The Hogs, the guys that never get the attention or credit they deserve, the Offensive Lineman.
The Packers return a solid O-line unit from last season, obviously anchored by left tackle David Bakhtiari, who has been selected to three consecutive All-Pro teams, not to mention a couple of Pro Bowls to boot.
WARNING: I’m about to rant about how David Bakhtiari is the best O-linemen in the NFL today.
According to Pro Football Focus, Bakhtiari has graded out as the best pass-blocking lineman in the league over the last three seasons, and he also leads all offensive tackles in pressure percentage allowed and pass-blocking efficiency over that same span.
Bakhtiari was recently announced as the 13th best overall player in the NFL and the best offensive lineman on Pro Football Focus’ Top list of Top 50 Players for the 2019 season. Bakhtiari has also won “Pass Blocker of the Year” two of the last three seasons on PFF’s website.
Okay, David Bakhtiari is a phenom, a legend, a damn good football player, but sadly we don’t have five of him suiting up on Sundays. The rest of the line is solid, but there are questions to be asked.
Center Corey Linsley is an above average center and has been a steady player up front. Three times in his five years on the team, Linsley has played every snap of the season. I was slightly concerned to see that Linsley was not active today during the starters’ snaps on the last day of minicamp.
Left guard Lane Taylor has been solid the last couple of years and is expected to take the next step in his development or he’ll likely find a new home after the 2019-2020 season. With free-agent addition Billy Turner and 2nd Rounder Elgton Jenkins now in the running for a starting spot, eyes will be on Taylor to make sure he deserves to start up front.
Speaking of Billy Turner, he’s certainly been the least-talked-about free agency signing for the Pack, but he will most likely be a starter come week one, but I expect it to be at a position most don’t expect (more on that soon). Turner spent time in Miami, Baltimore, and Denver over 5 seasons. Playing 40 games and starting 25 of them, he had his best year last year in Denver; which saw 11 starts while playing in all 16 games.
For all of the success and consistency that the Packers have been blessed with at left tackle, they’ve seen the opposite at right tackle. Bryan Bulaga, Iowa’s favorite son and the source of plenty of grey hairs and stress lines for Packers’ fans, has won our hearts and drove us bananas many times over.
Look, Bulaga is a good right tackle when he’s healthy and nobody will argue that. However, keeping him healthy has been a mighty big challenge for the Pack. He’s torn his ACL twice and in nine seasons, he’s played in less than 60% of them.
At 30, if Bulaga doesn’t have a great camp without a setback, I expect Coach LaFleur and GM Brian Gutekunst to move on and give Billy Turner a go at right tackle. Perhaps another lineman on the roster could step up, but I believe Turner was brought in for this very reason. Here’s to hoping that Bulaga shows up healthy and dominates, we all want that to happen.
If Bulaga does get cut, and Turner does in fact take over at RT, expect Rookie Elgton Jenkins and 2018 5th rounder Cole Madison, who took all of last season to get his mental health in check, to majorly compete for right guard.
As far as the reserves go, the Packers are rich with depth and a fair amount of experience. Lucas Patrick, Justin McCray and Jason Spriggs have all started games in the past, with McCray the only one who has started at both guard and tackle.
It wouldn’t hurt my feelings if Spriggs saw his final snap in green and gold. As a 2016 2nd rounder, he has majorly under-performed with plenty of opportunities to seize a starting spot due to injuries (Bulaga).
Adam Pankey, Larry Williams, Alex Light, Anthony Coyle, Gerhard de Beer, and Yosh Nijman make up what I’ll call practice squad call-ups. Pankey, Light and Nijman I predict will fill the 53-man roster, but could easily be rotated out as the roster ebbs and flows.
There’s serious potential for the Packers to have a Top-10 offensive line this year, with or without Bulaga on the right side. Our left side is Top-10 caliber easily, and the potential that Turner and Jenkins bring makes me sleep well at night knowing Aaron Rodgers will be in good hands.
Thanks for reading the first of many position previews, next up will be the Defensive Line.
Am I spot on, on a different planet or somewhere in the middle? Let me know what you think!
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