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When will 'somebody take it over' in Packers' O-line competition?

QB Aaron Rodgers discusses how offense looks up front, at receiver

QB Aaron Rodgers
QB Aaron Rodgers

GREEN BAY – With David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins sidelined, the Packers' No. 1 offensive line at this point in training camp looks like this:

Yosh Nijman is at left tackle, Jon Runyan is at left guard, Josh Myers is at center, and there are two open spots on the right side.

Thus far, Royce Newman has taken snaps at both right guard and right tackle, while Jake Hanson has played right guard and rookie Zach Tom right tackle on the first unit as well.

With the first preseason game just a couple days away now, the competition will continue to intensify, and quarterback Aaron Rodgers made it clear what the next step is.

"We need to see those guys step up and somebody take it over," Rodgers said after Tuesday's practice, which he sat out for a veteran rest/cardio day. "We need consistency out of those guys."

Considering Newman started 15 games last season as a rookie, at right guard, it would seem likely he'll land one of the two spots. Rodgers called him a "smart dude" who's playing with a "better base" in his second season, having beefed up a bit.

But whether he's best suited for guard or tackle remains an open question. Hanson and Tom haven't played NFL games yet and also haven't lined up alongside one another with the first team, either. Newman is always paired with one of them, another sign he's the fourth active lineman right now.

The timelines for Bakhtiari and Jenkins to return remain unknown, so while it's possible these camp configurations won't be necessary come Week 1 against the Vikings, the Packers are preparing as though they might be. In that vein, there's no overstating the importance of the three preseason games coming up to decide which is the best group without the two Pro Bowlers.

"They're all young guys, they're going to play in the preseason," Rodgers said. "We need to see them play well and have some really good moments so we feel good going into Minnesota and that pass rush they've got."

Rodgers also seems to feel pretty good about what he's seen from Juwann Winfree and rookie Romeo Doubs in the receiver competition, mentioning them specifically by number for "a lot of positive things" on the practice field.

He didn't reference it specifically, but he doesn't appear to have changed his perception from the spring that Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb and Sammy Watkins are the top three receivers on the roster. Their experience goes a long way with him, and rightly so, as Rodgers discussed both Winfree and Doubs in terms of providing quality depth.

That said, there's still a lot to sort out. Rookie Christian Watson (knee) has yet to practice and Malik Taylor just returned to practice this week. Amari Rodgers, who like Doubs has worked as a punt returner as well, plus rookies Samori Toure (seventh round) and Danny Davis (undrafted) have all flashed and should get plenty of preseason snaps to build on those moments.

From the quarterback's point of view, the ups and downs need to start smoothing out to determine which receivers can be relied upon.

"Mistakes are going to happen," Aaron Rodgers said. "And the most important thing is to learn from those mistakes—not make repeat mistakes. There's been too many of those from some of those guys that are really on the bubble to make the squad."

The errors he's talking about are mental errors with adjusting routes, being alert for signals, and reacting to the scramble drill. Some provide great teaching tools, such as one he noted with Doubs on a blocking assignment against a blitz on Monday.

For a young player like Doubs who has stood out in so many ways, a miscue like that was "the best thing that could happen," according to Rodgers, because it came now and not in a real game. Figuring out which players will leave their mistakes in August as opposed to carrying them into September will define these next three weeks.

"That's why I said at the beginning we need to have a lot of patience," Rodgers said of the young receivers, "and the expectations need to be reasonable."

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