Jon Runyan proving his worth as next-man-up on Packers' offensive line

Rookie sixth-round pick has been reliable in a pinch this season

G Jon Runyan

GREEN BAY – There was a lot of commotion inside the visiting locker room at Levi's Stadium last Thursday while the coaching staff was figuring out what to do with starting right tackle Rick Wagner out with a knee injury.

It was decided starting left guard Elgton Jenkins would bump out to left tackle and Billy Turner – filling in at left tackle for an injured David Bakhtiari – would move back to right tackle.

The flurry left an open spot for rookie sixth-round pick Jon Runyan to fill – if only the coaching staff could find him.

"There was a lot of yelling for Jon and Jon was actually sitting right over here and they didn't see that he was hearing the entire conversation," said quarterback Aaron Rodgers with a smile.

The quiet and professional Runyan heard the whole dialogue loud and clear, and knew what was required. He had to step up, just like he did for an injured Lane Taylor in the opener in Minnesota, and during a brief appearance late in Week 2 vs. Detroit after center Corey Linsley exited with a thumb injury and the Packers shuffled players up front.

The path to the playing surface for a young offensive lineman is often a monotonous waiting game. You'll see backups standing on the sideline, with helmets on and chin straps buckled, ready to jump on the field at a moment's notice.

Turner filled that role for years in Miami and Denver. So, too, did starting right guard Lucas Patrick, who perfected the art of a reserve offensive lineman for three years before graduating to a starting job this season.

Needless to say, the ever-versatile veteran has been impressed by how Runyan has performed in a pinch this season.

"I think Jon's done amazing," Patrick said. "Knowing that role is pretty (much) standing on the sidelines for 30, 40, sometimes 50 plays and then having to go in and play hard, it can be tough. Your body is tight but Jon comes in with a very quiet confidence.

"Really, we haven't missed a beat when he's been in there, which is a credit to him and kind of how he's approached his rookie year because sometimes it can be overwhelming."

This season has been a mix of learning and application for Runyan, a former All-Big Ten left tackle who spent most of training camp working at guard, the position many scouts had him projected to play at the next level.

As the son of a former Pro Bowl right tackle, the younger Runyan joked earlier this season about lengthy phone calls he's had with his namesake to break down film after games.

He's also been busy in the offensive line room with position coach Adam Stenavich, who spoke recently about how Runyan has picked up the center position, as well. While Jenkins and Patrick can play that spot in case of emergency, the Packers don't have a natural center behind Linsley at the moment.

"Just getting him integrated into playing some center, he's been doing a great job with that," Stenavich said. "The more guys that can snap, the better. So obviously that's the most important fundamental in football. We keep all those guys up and getting reps at center as much as possible."

Last Thursday, however, Runyan was asked to hold down the fort at left guard. Once the dust settled in the halftime locker room, the 23-year-old and the rest of the makeshift offensive line kept Rodgers clean throughout the second half.

"Jon has proven that he's a reliable backup and he's done a good job," Rodgers said. "He's been in three times now because of injury and done a good job all three times."

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