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Countdown to Camp: Packers look for competition to bring out best from deep offensive line

Starting guard spots, right tackle will be up for grabs this summer

G Jon Runyan
G Jon Runyan

"Countdown to Camp" is a daily look at the Packers' roster, position by position, leading up to the start of training camp. The series continues with the offensive line.

GREEN BAY – As many challenges as the Packers faced on the offensive line last season, the future appears bright as ever for one of the most talent-rich position groups on the roster.

Optimism begins with the highly anticipated return of five-time All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari, who missed most of last season while rehabbing the torn anterior cruciate ligament he suffered at the tail end of the 2020 season.

While Pro Bowler Elgton Jenkins also succumbed to a torn ACL last November, adversity brought the best from the Packers' offensive line during Aaron Rodgers' fourth MVP campaign.

Along the way, the Packers found a long-term answer at center in rookie second-round pick Josh Myers. The 6-foot-5, 310-pound center had big shoes to fill in replacing fellow Ohio State alumnus Corey Linsley but proved to be up to the task.

With his Week 1 start against New Orleans, Myers joined Linsley as the only rookie centers to start for the Packers in a season opener since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger.

Although a freak knee injury against Chicago sidelined Myers for 10 games, the 23-year-old center returned in time for the playoffs and showcased the power, athleticism and intelligence that led to Myers becoming the earliest college center Green Bay has drafted in the modern era (No. 62 overall).

Beyond Bakhtiari and Myers, the rest of the starting spots appear up for grabs after the Packers invested three draft picks into the offensive line for the third straight year.

Leading the way is the returning starting guard tandem of Royce Newman and Jon Runyan.

A sixth-round pick in 2020, Runyan received his first NFL start at left guard against Detroit in Week 2 after Lucas Patrick suffered a concussion in the season opener against New Orleans.

Runyan held onto the job for the remainder of the year, starting the final 17 games of the season, including the playoff contest.

Newman, a 2021 fourth-round pick out of Ole Miss, emerged as a starting candidate at right guard midway through training camp and ultimately led the offensive line with 1,084 snaps.

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

Against New Orleans in Week 1, Newman became just the third rookie to start for the Packers at right guard in an opener since the 1970 merger.

While most of his attention was set on guard last year, Newman could be a candidate to start at either guard or tackle this year after playing both positions in college.

Originally signed as an undrafted free agent in 2019, third-year veteran Yosh Nijman became a household name in Green Bay last season due to injuries and circumstance.

Nijman made his first three career starts at left tackle while Jenkins nursed an ankle injury and was pushed back into the lineup after Jenkins tore his ACL in Week 12.

In eight regular-season starts, the 6-foot-7, 314-pound tackle held his own en route to earning the respect of Rodgers and the rest of the locker room.

With Bakhtiari retaking the reins at left tackle, it's expected Nijman will get a chance to compete for the starting vacancy at right tackle following Billy Turner's release in March.

The three veterans will be pushed by an incoming draft class consisting of UCLA's Sean Rhyan (third round), Wake Forest's Zach Tom (fourth) and Penn State's Rasheed Walker (seventh).

The 6-foot-5, 321-pound Rhyan was a three-year starting tackle for the Bruins and recorded the best vertical jump (33½ inches) of any offensive lineman at this year's NFL Scouting Combine.

The next closest was Tom at 33 inches. The 6-foot-4, 304-pound offensive lineman started at both center and left tackle at Wake Forest, and has NFL bloodlines. His older brother, Cameron, has played four seasons between New Orleans and Miami.

Walker was a three-year starting left tackle himself, earning third-team All-Big Ten honors during his redshirt junior season. At 6-6, 324, he has the prototypical size for the position.

Also competing for roster spots are center Michal Menet and tackle/guard Cole Van Lanen, a 2021 sixth-round pick who attended nearby Bay Port High School and spent his entire rookie season on Green Bay's practice squad.

With Bakhtiari and Jenkins in the rehab group this spring, Van Lanen split time at left and right tackle with the first-team offense during the offseason program.

The Packers also picked up three prospects in college free agency: Indiana tackle Caleb Jones, Oregon guard George Moore and Central Florida center Cole Schneider.

Listed at 6-foot-9, 370 pounds, Jones would be the largest player in Packers history should he make the 53-man roster.

Countdown to Camp series

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