Countdown to Camp: In sorting out offensive line, Packers have options

Unit is stocked with veteran versatility and young prospects

OL Elgton Jenkins

As training camp approaches, is examining Green Bay's roster, position by position. The series continues with the offensive line.

GREEN BAY – The Packers have some questions to sort out on their offensive line prior to Week 1.

But for each one, multiple answers exist, due to the way the unit is built.

One looming uncertainty is whether left tackle David Bakhtiari will return from his ACL surgery in time to start the season opener in New Orleans. Bakhtiari (6-4, 310) earned his fifth straight All-Pro honor in 2020 (and second selection as a first-teamer) before injuring his knee during practice prior to the regular-season finale.

If Bakhtiari isn't back for Week 1, the Packers' most likely options in his stead would be Billy Turner or Elgton Jenkins.

After starting every game at right guard in 2019 as a free-agent acquisition, Turner (6-5, 310) started games at three different positions last season (right tackle, right guard and left tackle) and was Bakhtiari's replacement on the blind side during the playoffs. Position coach Adam Stenavich has noted right tackle is probably Turner's best position, and that's where he'll be when everything settles down, but his versatility has proven to be a valuable asset.

Same goes for Jenkins (6-5, 311), who earned a Pro Bowl selection last season, a rarity for a second-year lineman. If any spot is Jenkins' anchor, it's left guard, but the former college center and second-round draft pick lined up all over last year, can play any of the five positions, and is a rising star in the league.

Another key question is who will replace All-Pro center Corey Linsley, who departed in free agency. Again, choices are available.

Jenkins could step in there. So could fifth-year pro Lucas Patrick (6-3, 313), who started 17 games last season (including playoffs) at the two guard spots but has handled center duty before.

The Packers also spent a second-round draft pick this spring on Ohio State center Josh Myers. He took the majority of the first-team snaps during OTAs and minicamp, an indication the Packers are going to give him every opportunity to prove he's up to the job.

Tough, big (6-5, 310) and experienced in big games with the Buckeyes, Myers could make things easier on everybody if he's the starting center from Day 1. In that case, Patrick would remain focused at guard and possibly backup center, while Jenkins could direct his energies more toward left guard and possibly left tackle depending on Bakhtiari.

The following is the fourth installment in a series of photos examining the Packers' roster position by position. This installment examines the offensive line.

Who else is in the mix? Plenty of guys, as the Packers have drafted a total of six offensive linemen the past two years, kept a few developmental prospects and added some undrafted hopefuls.

In 2020, guards Jon Runyan (6-4, 307) and Simon Stepaniak (6-4, 316) came aboard via the sixth round of the draft, with Runyan getting extensive time in several games as a sub off the bench. The Michigan product didn't start any games but will be squarely in the competition for a starting spot in Year 2.

Stepaniak's rookie season was mostly wiped out due to recovery from an ACL injury sustained during his final college season at Indiana, but he'll look to put his freakish strength (37 bench-press reps at the 2020 scouting combine) on display when the pads go on.

Center Jake Hanson (6-4, 296) from Oregon is another 2020 sixth-round pick fighting for a roster spot after spending most of his rookie year on the practice squad and dealing with injuries.

The 2021 picks are Myers and a pair of versatile linemen getting a look at both tackle and guard, fourth-rounder Royce Newman from Ole Miss and sixth-rounder Cole Van Lanen from Wisconsin. A local product from Bay Port High School, Van Lanen grew up just a few miles from Lambeau Field and is living every Green Bay-area kid’s dream.

Practice-squad holdovers and roster reserves Ben Braden, Yosh Nijman and Zack Johnson also return with an eye on climbing the depth chart.

The big-bodied Braden (6-6, 329), who entered the league with the Jets in 2017 and came to Green Bay two years later, took snaps at both guard and tackle in the spring, making a good impression. Nijman (6-7, 314), undrafted in 2019, is a massive tackle who was on the active roster all last season but played mostly on special teams. Johnson (6-6, 301), undrafted last year as a guard, spent his rookie campaign on the practice squad.

This year's undrafted crop includes San Diego State's Jacob Capra, Iowa's Coy Cronk and Wisconsin's Jon Dietzen, a teammate of Van Lanen's and another local player from nearby Seymour, Wis. The latter two dealt with multiple injuries in college that almost certainly hurt their draft status.

The Packers haven't listed specific positions yet for any of those three, but Cronk (6-4, 318) played mostly tackle in college, while Capra (6-5, 300) and Dietzen (6-5, 312) played both guard and tackle.

Countdown to Camp series

Related Content