GREEN BAY – As the Packers get ready to face the New York Giants this Sunday, Head Coach Matt LaFleur is leaving all options on the table as to who will start at right tackle.
After leaving in the first quarter with a knee injury in Sunday’s 37-8 loss to San Francisco, Bryan Bulaga was one of three players who sat out of Green Bay’s walkthrough on Wednesday.
While LaFleur isn’t ruling out the 10th-year veteran, second-year reserve Alex Light or starting right guard Billy Turner are the most likely candidates to step in if Bulaga isn’t cleared to play against the Giants.
“We’ll look at everything,” said LaFleur before Wednesday’s practice. “Our goal is just to put our best five out there and we’ll go from there. And we’ll take the week to figure that out.”
Light played 71 snaps in Bulaga’s stead against the 49ers in what amounted to his most extensive playing time to date. An undrafted free agent out of Richmond in 2018, Light has served as the swing tackle to both Bulaga and left tackle David Bakhtiari through the first 11 games.
Turner has started all 11 games at right guard this year but was signed in March due in part to the across-the-line versatility he’s showcased throughout his five-year NFL career.
A former left tackle at North Dakota State, Turner has started at both guard positions in the NFL. The 6-foot-5, 310-pound offensive lineman also made four spot starts at right tackle last year in Denver when starter Jared Veldheer missed time with a knee injury.
While he’s made right guard his home so far, Turner was told from the moment he signed with Green Bay he might end up playing multiple positions at some point. Mentally, he’s stayed ready and won’t blink if that’s what’s asked of him Sunday.
“We’ve talked about it before in the past … if some guys went down, my number might get called to play tackle,” Turner said. “I know that that could be a possibility at any given point in time during the season. It just so happens that it’s Week 13 and that’s the situation at hand.”
The biggest adjustment Turner says he has to make at right tackle is defending more space in pass protection and controlling the width of the pocket, rather than the depth at guard.
If Turner were to bump inside, the Packers could slide third-year veteran Lucas Patrick in at right guard. Patrick, who has six starts on his NFL resume, has served as the backup at both guard posts and center since rookie Elgton Jenkins replaced an injured Lane Taylor at left guard in Week 3.
Beyond Patrick, the Packers are also carrying guard/tackle Adam Pankey and undrafted rookie Yosh Nijman on their 53-man roster. Nijman was promoted Tuesday after the team placed Cole Madison on injured reserve Satudray after the first-year guard sustained a “significant” knee injury in practice Thursday.
“Options are usually good,” said quarterback Aaron Rodgers when asked about the team’s depth on the offensive line. “I think that’s why we brought Billy in because he gives us some versatility. He played some right tackle in our training camp and the offseason program. I have a lot of confidence in Alex Light. He’s been a really nice, steady guy for us this year. Lucas Patrick is a guy you can fill in at multiple positions.”
On paper, the Giants don’t boast the same firepower as San Francisco’s league-leading defensive front. However, New York still has playmakers the Packers will have to be cognizant of despite sitting 27th in total defense and 29th in scoring.
Whoever plays at right tackle could very well be lining up across from outside linebacker Markus Golden, who has 7½ sacks in 11 starts this year.
“Regardless of who you’re going up against, you have to be on your game,” Turner said. “Whether that is technique, whether that’s athleticism, whether that’s using your brute strength a little more in one week, it doesn’t really matter. You have to always be prepared to go into a game. You can go into a game preparing to play Khalil Mack and you could end up playing someone completely different. That’s how the NFL works.”