Corey Linsley projects Packers' ground game will continue making strides

Veteran center believes second year in system will pay dividends

C Corey Linsley

GREEN BAY – Last season, Head Coach Matt LaFleur brought a different running game to Green Bay, and much of the talk heading into Year 2 has been about making it an even stronger foundation to the Packers' offense.

Veteran center Corey Linsley believes having that transition in the rear-view mirror will help the Packers' returning offensive linemen do their part to carry out LaFleur's vision.

"I expect us to improve for sure," Linsley said in a virtual media session Wednesday. "It's the second year in the system. We have a year under our belts.

"We all know the plays a lot better than we did last year. We all know what we're trying to accomplish on our plays, not just our assignments but big picture-wise, and we can kind of anticipate the direction that we're going in games. All of that is going to play into our success this year, and I expect us to take another step."

The strides the offense made with the ground game in 2019 are borne out in the statistics.

As running back Aaron Jones turned in a breakout campaign, he became the Packers' first 1,000-yard rusher since 2014. His 16 rushing TDs in the regular season rank second for a single season in the team's record book, and the 17 rushing TDs by running backs (Jamaal Williams added one) were the most in one year by Green Bay ball carriers since 2003.

To Jones and Williams, the Packers added rookie running back AJ Dillon from Boston College with a second-round draft pick, so LaFleur should have no shortage of options to carry the load on the ground at any given time.

Up front to pave the way, the Packers have everybody back except right tackle Bryan Bulaga, who signed as a free agent with the L.A. Chargers.

LaFleur hasn't committed to a starting unit in 2020, saying there will be competition as the coaching staff finds the best five to work as a group.

The simplest approach would be for newly acquired Rick Wagner to step in for Bulaga, with the rest of last year's starters – Linsley at center, David Bakhtiari at left tackle, Elgton Jenkins and Billy Turner and left and right guard, respectively – staying put. Linsley commented that Wagner picked up the playbook rather quickly and easily through the unit's virtual offseason meetings.

However it shakes out, finding a comfort level as a unit will be the offensive line's priority this month, particularly once the padded practices start in a couple of weeks.

"We'd love to have as much time as possible but the reality of it is we need to be ready to go ASAP," said Linsley, who has 95 career starts, including postseason. "We need to have the utmost urgency and getting comfortable with whoever's going to be there.

"The urgency and the discipline from all of us along the offensive line to build that cohesion as quickly as we possibly can is going to be critical for us to having success early on in the season."

Linsley, a Pro Bowl alternate each of the last two seasons who is entering a contract year, anticipates the offense incorporating more no-huddle concepts in 2020 as well, though work on that won't begin in earnest until later in camp.

The Packers had their share of success over the years with quarterback Aaron Rodgers running the no-huddle under former coach Mike McCarthy, and Linsley indicated LaFleur has shown an interest in moving more that direction in his second year at the helm.

"Without a doubt, we're going to get to that and put an even greater emphasis on that this year," Linsley said. "With the film study and everything we've done on it, I think that's something he likes to use."

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