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My Prognosis on the Packers Offensive Line

After back to back losing seasons, the Packers 53 man roster has received quite a makeover.  Many of the familiar faces like Clay Matthews and Randall Cobb have moved on and many new faces like Z'Darius Smith, Preston Smith, and Billy Turner are looking to emerge as staples of the future.

Earlier this week, I highlighted some of the positive reports about the Packers young receiving core and gave some predictions of what to expect from the young unit.  

Today, I discuss what to expect from another positional group I believe will rebound in 2019; the Packers offensive line.  2018 started off rocky for the group as Brian Bulaga was working his way back into game shape after recovering from a torn ACL and the Packers were looking to find a right guard to fill the void left by Jahri Evans.  

The right side as a whole did not play their best football as Bulaga was rusty early on and Bryon Bell simply did not get the job done on a consistent basis.  Another member of the line who struggled with consistency and injuries was Lane Taylor.

All of these factors led to inconsistent play from the offensive line in 2018 and as a result, Aaron Rodgers was injured at the hands of Khalil Mack in week 1 and the Packers could not protect him on third down which led to one of the worst third down protection rates in the NFL.  

This season presents a new outlook and a different set of challenges for the offensive line.  One positive aspect for the Packers line is, key members of the unit are healthy and reinforcements were added.  

On the flip side, the Packers will be adding at least one new starter to the line and the potential for more shuffling of positions still exists, so they could face early challenges with chemistry and continuity.  

The hope is position battles at the right tackle and guard positions can be settled early on in the preseason so the group can spend the last 2-3 weeks developing chemistry and continuity heading into their week 1 showdown with the Bears and their vaunted pass rush.      

I have to be honest with you all, despite the early challenges they will face,  I am still pretty confident this line will be significantly improved from last year and here's why:

1. Lane Taylor will be healthy and focused and will return to his 2017 form.

2. Brian Bulaga is over a year removed from ACL surgery and has had a normal offseason of preparation.  

3. The Packers have a legitimate starting right guard who will not provide a clear path to Aaron Rodgers.

4. Corey Linsley and David Bakhtiari will continue to be the pillars of this line.

5. The Packers have players who can step in and perform well at multiple positions in the event that incur injuries or decide to move on from some veteran members of the offensive line.

What the Packers Offensive Line will have to prove in 2019:

1. They can stay healthy and consistent and develop chemistry and continuity.

2. They can protect Aaron Rodgers on third down.

3. The right and left guard positions are no longer a liability.

4. The reserves can step in and perform on a moments notice.

Players I think will emerge:

1. Billy Turner- I think consistent reps at one position and a permanent move to the right guard position will instantly infuse life into his game and accentuate his strengths.

2.  Elgton Jenkins- I think Jenkins will end up being a ten-year starter for the Packers, as he can play multiple positions, has a solid technique, and does not allow pass rushers to get to his quarterback.

My Prognosis:

I think the Packers offensive line improves because they have a bonafide right guard and a healthy, productive core at the center and left tackle positions.  I think Lane Taylor returns to form and I believe Elgton Jenkins and Billy Turner could challenge Brian Bulaga for his right tackle position as he is due to make over $8 million during the final year of his contract.  

Every indication is that the Packers offensive line will be significantly improved from last season; however, the jury is still out on who will be called on to protect Aaron Rodgers come week 1.

My Starting Offensive Line:

LT: David Bakhtiari

RT: Brian Bulaga

C: Corey Linsley

LG: Lane Taylor

RG: Billy Turner

*Elgton Jenkins is such a wildcard here because the Packers could opt to have him back up at every position and play in the event of an injury or he could potentially end up supplanting Lane Taylor, Billy Turner, or Brian Bulaga.

Sound Off:

 Let me know how you see the Packers offensive line shaping up.  Let me know who you see stepping up and who you think could be a potential cap casualty.

-------------------

David Michalski is a staff writer for Cheesehead TV. He can be found on Twitter @kilbas27dave 

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (56) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Coldworld's picture

I think that is a fair assessment. The one element missing is who provides cover at left tackle? Right now we might be best off moving Bulaga. That’s not ideal.

I think the team is still hoping Spriggs clicks. I am hoping Nijman was the heist of the century, but I think we all would like some evidence of a basis for optimism.

Jonathan Spader's picture

Lane Taylor did a serviceable job filling in for Bahktiari in 2017. Jenkins/McCray could fill at LG. Leave Brulaga at RT, Turner at RG and Linsley at Center.

Demon's picture

I sure hope the light comes on for Spriggs. The thought of Bahk going down is downright scary.

I think Mike Wahl was in his 4th year when he settled in at LG. Before that he looked awful.

mamasboy's picture

Spriggs isn't settling in anywhere. Not only is the light NOT coming on, he can't even find the switch. The classic " looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane" player. They should give his reps to players with potential!

Rossonero's picture

Pretty good assessment. Health is key, as the author noted. The amount of injuries this unit has sustained from 2015-2018 is simply mind boggling.

I hope Spriggs can be a capable back-up. If not, between him and Josh Jones' shenanigans, that's some high draft picks that could turn out to be a spectacular wastes.

Demon's picture

Far more busts in Teds later years than hits unfortunately

Nick Perry's picture

I agree with much of what David said here though I don't share his enthusiasm for Lane Taylor.

I agree the starting O-Line with be from left to right ... Bakhtiari, Taylor, Lindsey, Turner, and Bulaga. IF Bulaga is injured I think Turner slides over and Jenkins slides into the RG position. I think Bulaga will have one of his better seasons this year and re-establish himself as one of the best RT in football.

The one possibility I think is likely, maybe not right away but at some point in the season is Jenkins taking Taylor's job. I think he's better equipped for MLF offense. Either way, the Packers have much better depth than they've had in YEARS and I'm STOKED about that.

Coldworld's picture

I don’t understand the concerns about Taylor. He was good prior to last season and playing injured for the good of the team shouldn’t be held against any player. I shudder to think who would have filled in for him had he sat instead.

David Michalski's picture

I 100% agree, he was solid until last season and he sucked it up and played for the team bc his replacement would have been worse. I think he returns to 2017 form if healthy.

Bure9620's picture

I agree he returns healthy however a healthy Taylor I thinks gets beat out by my favorite draft pick Jenkins.

Nick Perry's picture

I have nothing against Taylor Coldworld... My concerns are Taylor FITTING in this new blocking scheme. Even Jenkins isn't the most athletic but I think he's more athletic than Taylor. I just think Taylor could struggle in this scheme.

I'm glad we still have him under contract and IF he can play as he did in 2017 then great. But at the end of the day, I think Jenkins is coming for the LG position and the Packers O-Line as a whole would be better IMO.

Side note... I'm curious about what people think Spriggs might be able to do in this scheme. I have NEVER been a Spriggs fan but if there was ever a blocking scheme Spriggs might excel in its MLF scheme.

Coldworld's picture

Your comment on Spriggs is on point. My concern with him was originally core strength but latterly consistency and ability to anticipate Perhaps that’s good because the light could turn on. His athleticism has never been in doubt. We will see.

As to Taylor. I think he should get the benefit of the doubt. If he struggles athletically, then perhaps you will be right. However, I think Jenkins is first man up this year. Next year, jenkins could be right guard and Turner RT if Bulaga isn’t resigned.

RWood832's picture

In my opinion, the most interesting aspect of this season's training camp will be Spriggs. His RAS score was probably off the charts when the Packers drafted him and we have seen the past two years how much Gutey is relying on that measurement. I definitely think he could have drafted this year, ahead of Jenkins, if he had been in this year's draft class and had been available at that spot.

The switch to the new blocking scheme should be a boon for him to display his athletic talents. I do believe that this is a make it or break it training camp for him. If he is not the #1 backup at LT and RT when camp breaks, I see him being cut.

Rak47's picture

I agree on Spriggs to a certain point. While LaFluer's blocking scheme should help in in the run game I'm not sure it's gonna be much different or help him in pass pro where he has struggled mightily. The light is gonna have to come on in pass pro for Spriggs to make the team and not get Rodgers hurt again.

jannes bjornson's picture

One of those projected starters may be dealt or cut by the end of camp.
Can Taylor move in a wide zone scheme? Does Spriggs have the strength to control his man or be rag-dolled? Ninyam will be a guy to watch and see if his knees are back to normal or get stashed on IR. Have to wait fora few more weeks and then trek to Packerland and view the practices.

Coldworld's picture

Nijman? Is there something up with his knees? He was fine last season and at the combine and was in attendance through OTAs and minicamp as far as I am aware. He is raw, but I thought healthy.

jannes bjornson's picture

I have him moving Spriggs out. Just his knee history was my concern, but as you say he should be 100%. Played LT for two year and RT last season for V tech and Burns did not get the best of him. Maybe Spriggs can drop his weight and compete against Lewis for a spot.

Qoojo's picture

I'd like to think that a couple reasons for improvement will be due to more dedication to run (easier said than done when a coach has a QB as talented as Rodgers), and secondly, MM was quite slow to react to give help to OL players having issues. Hoping both those trends go away with MLF.

DL could almost always pin the ears back and pass rush. Then too many times the protection would be having problems, and MM would still go empty backfield.

jannes bjornson's picture

The run is better than having your QB, On -the- Run. Beat down on the opposition, work the short passing game, which he excels at and score points. Control the ball, control the clock and give your defense a chance.
Rodgers should be smart enough to know the name of the game is staying healthy and limiting risk. With play-action working he can dominate the passing game. Just run the WCO and forget all he knows of the one-ring circus charade of the last five years; that's dead and gone. Where did 15-1 get you? Thumped on Home Turf w/out a running game and solid D.

ILPackerBacker's picture

What was your assessment last year at this time? Did you predict Lane Taylor being as bad as he got? Did you have Bulaga's play so impacted so long? Was there a forecast of the failure of every right guard?

Other than an annual roll out of green and gold glass ware where is this going? When has bulaga made an entire season at an acceptable level and since that won't happen this year either who goes to RT?

David Michalski's picture

Fair question, last year I was concerned that the team didn’t have an adequate replacement for Jahri Evans and then neglected the right guard position. I saw no reason to believe Lane Taylor would play the way he did last season although I personally believe that was largely due to injury. I was on the fence about cutting Bulaga but didn’t believe in Spriggs but knew Mack would eat him alive in week 1.

I get your point, but I tend to tell it like it is and often get blasted for my opinions. So this is me actually having something to behind my opinion of the line improving in 2019.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

I watched four games Turner played at OT last year for Denver due to a rash of comments suggesting he could be Bulaga's replacement in 2020. He has all kinds of trouble with speed rushers. In those four games, I saw two of the sacks he gave up, and multiple pressures, both to speed moves and inside moves. He is a significant downgrade as a Right Tackle in comparison with even Bulaga's overall season in 2018. I meant to watch some games with Turner at OG but I just never went back and did it.

IIRC, I didn't think much of Bell. I did assume that one of McCray, Patrick, Spriggs or Bell would emerge as a serviceable RG. That didn't happen.

I think Lane Taylor's decline in 2018 was due to injury. I do have some concerns about Taylor in the new scheme, but I think he will be acceptable.

I realize that Jenkins played some LT as a Freshman, but I just don't think he can play tackle in the pros. I actually think he'd make a nice center, and hope and actually think he can make the move to guard. I've written that I thought Erik McCoy, taken 46th, is tailor-made for a ZBS and would have been the better bet to draft, even though there really is no chance of McCoy playing OT.

Nevertheless, GB now has five guys who have shown that they can play their respective positions in the NFL, plus Jenkins, who should turn out to be pretty good at center and probably guard. Things look much better this year than last year.

flackcatcher's picture

I agree. I said this down thread, but it bares repeating. Gute had two choices in his first year as GM. Draft and sign for the defensive secondary, or draft and sign for the offensive line. Either choice contained a high degree of risk. Based on what we know now, the Packers choose to rebuild their secondary. If the NFL were a run first and pass option league, then drafting for the O line last year would have made sense. But that's not what this league is anymore. No one could have seen what would happen to two whole units in 2017-2018 and the damage the whole team took as a result. By the end of last season, like most folks I was screaming for the team to bench Rodgers. There was no need to play him with what remained of the O line. And I would have benched Taylor, Bahk, and Bulaga since they were playing with serious injuries from last year that had not healed. But the Packers could not, because they did not have the bodies. Gute fixed that this year though both FA and the draft. But don't kid yourself, outside of the current starting 5, there is no core backups for this O line. If Gute and his team are as effective in rebuilding the O line as they were in the secondary last year then the Packers will be in fine shape for years to come. As fans, we will just have to sit back, wait, and hope for the best.

Bear's picture

I agree with you on Turner! He is an average journeyman who has a problem with speed rushers. If he has to play a tackle position Rodgers will be in trouble....

PackfanNY's picture

I think Lane Taylor’s days as the starter are numbered or are over. I look for Jenkins to take his spot. Just a matter of time.

Lare's picture

Perhaps Taylor could be a backup at tackle.

Coldworld's picture

Taylor is a guard. The knock on him in relation to the new system is his lateral movement and agility, which would be even more important as a left tackle. Let’s see how he does at LG. He is healthy and a proven player there.

I am not ready to move him aside yet, but if he does get surpassed I don’t see him at left tackle if the detractors are correct. That said he performed well when asked at LT, which might suggest that some of the doubts are based on an incorrect set of assumptions!

Coldworld's picture

Duplicate deleted

jannes bjornson's picture

It will be an interesting competition between Jenkins and Taylor for the LG spot. A place that collapsed and almost took Rodgers out for the second year in a row. That cannot happen again. That's what the Gutekunst saw and any Fan that can see clear and free w/out tea shades or teenage wishful thinking. Maintaining Taylor was Sitton's replacement is ludicrous.
Hopefully Lindsley has picked up in the weight room to cover the Bull rush; his only weakness in his otherwise stellar play. When Lang bailed, they did not have a plan. The defensive selections from Ted's drafts were so underwhelming resources had to be moved to bail out the boat and the O- line replacement was ignored. This season is looking up.

Nick Perry's picture

"The defensive selections from Ted's drafts were so underwhelming resources had to be moved to bail out the boat and the O- line replacement was ignored. This season is looking up."

This is right on BUT more than the O-Line was ignored. Gute has done a FANTASTIC job in basically ONE full season as GM. Going into the 2018 season several key members of the front office left yet Gute did the best he could in the few months he had leading up to the 2018 draft which IMO he did a decent job. This year heading into the 2019 draft Gute had HIS guys in place which showed up in FA and this draft.

THIS team is totally different than the one he inherited from Thompson and he's improved it immensely.

Since '61's picture

Not that it matters now but I never understood why the Packers did not bring Evans back for 2018 even after the season started and it was obvious that Bell was not going to get the job done. IIRC Evans wanted to return to the Packers and he did not sign with another team for 2018.

As for 2019 I wouldn’t mind seeing Jenkins start at LG over Taylor with Turner starting at RG. Then Taylor could be a solid backup at either Guard position if one of the guards is injured or moved to another OL position. Bak, Jenkins, Linsley, Turner, Bulaga could be a very solid starting 5 with a bit of the nasty our OL needs as well. Thanks, Since ‘61

flackcatcher's picture

Giving the serious injuries the offensive line went though in back to back seasons, it made no sense not to bring Evans back. It suggests that the needs of the roster were so great, that the front office was willing to risk their most important player to free up a spot at another position. Or, Gute did not the authority to make the call. Seeing the moves made in the secondary, I believe it was the former. Signing Ball was a safe move, as long as you have a starting quality player ready to go. Packers gambled, and lost. 2017 was a nightmare year for the O line, there was not a single core player who did not suffer a serious injury, and three starters had possibly career ending injuries. To think the Packers could put a quality starting O line in 2018 with what happened to those players on that roster, was living in fantasy land. That the O line was effective as it was last year with their starting QB giving them no help is a testament to those players. While Gute has invested to rebuild the depth, the O line is still a question mark, with answers to come later. (How bad was 2018. Outside of the starters, the Packers had only two backup, and one was McCray who played with a shoulder injury that should have IR him before the season. Patrick was the other, and he was gone after the Atlanta game. Spriggs replaced Patrick on the active roster, and yes he wasn't ready either.)

jannes bjornson's picture

Evans? The guy was on his last legs. He was dragging ass during the later half of 2017's campaign to failure. 2017 draft went to positions that should have been secured in 2015, plain and simple. THey wouldn't pay Lang, which was wise but failure to bring in a guy with a little more juice to his game was unsound. Maybe he thought Madison could jump in that spot?? The four pick on Moore made zero sense. That need ed to go to the guard spot.

Tundraboy's picture

I don't think they'll start a rookie, Jenkins off the bat,but I would love to see him play at a level where he takes over pretty quickly.

Bearmeat's picture

The starting 5 looks very good, but what is most encouraging to me is the depth. Outside of Spriggs backing up LT, we have 3 really solid subs: Jenkins, Madison, Spriggs, McCray as backups? That's solid. NO ONE goes 9 deep at OL.

Demon's picture

Youre much more optimistic than me bear
I have no faith in Spriggs. Madison took a whole year off and was only a 5th round pick. Jenkins is a rookie, hopefully a much better use of a 2nd round pick than Spriggs. McCray thus far has been just a guy.

IceBowl's picture

Demon ,

You say ... "McCray thus far has been just a guy."

No one in the NFL is just a guy, To even be invited to a team shows exceptional talent.

I wasn't signed, were you????

jeremyjjbrown's picture

"just a guy" is a term. TT used it to describe himself as a player.

IceBowl's picture

jeremyjjbrown ,

You say .... "just a guy" is a term." And you are right. But it is in the NFL context. That boils down to 1600 or so best athletes in the world. That is a very short list my friend.

I think often we forget the quality of athlete we are talking about. It is only a matter of inches! !

jannes bjornson's picture

Football players, not necessarily the best athletes. We know damn well LeBron would dominate as a TE if he wanted to play football etc.

IceBowl's picture

jannes bjornson,

OK, you got me. I forgot to say football athletes. I can't assume anything (football) here.

jannes bjornson's picture

They are a different breed. Let's put it that way. When you watch a Pro Game from the sidelines, you really appreciate the battle. taking place. That's why Vince preached Willpower and the mental game.

jannes bjornson's picture

I like McCray as a backup guard. He is solid in the running game.

stockholder's picture

I see this offensive Line changing. More injuries happen to the offensive line, then any other position now. The zone blocking? It was flawless with the right players. It's now about big Bones and strength. It's not a secret. Turner was signed to play RG. Forget about him beating out Bulaga. We no longer have to conseal a weakness. This year we have depth. Your going to see Rotation. Keeping players fresh and fast. I believe Jenkins will end up at RT before Turner. I also believe Spriggs last hurrah will be backing up Bahk. The Mickey Mouse games are over with several players. We shall see what we shall see.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

I think the roster is healthier than it's been since 2011.

We have 2 Safeties.
We have a fully proven offensive line with many options at backup.
We have a RB who was had 5+ YPC and another who has been productive.
We have 2 veteran TEs and 2 excellent prospects.
We have 3 OLBs who have put up numbers and an Uber Athletic prospect.
We have a proven ILB
We have an All Pro level WR, a proven WR and 2 big fast guys who had very good rookie seasons.
We have a All Pro level DT and 2 solid veterans.

MLF and Pettine have the pieces. Everybody knows those guys are smart. The Zook era of Special Teams is over.

I'm stoked to see what happens. I think they have a chance to be very good and be special in a season or two.

IceBowl's picture

jeremyjjbrown,

You say .... "I think the roster is healthier than it's been since 2011."

I am not going into the "pads" thing, but there will be injuries, There always are. So who?? ARod, Amos, Martinez, Bach, Jones???? All things no one knows.

But as you show, we have more quality depth that we can count on.

The "elephant" you leave in the room is QB!!!!

jannes bjornson's picture

Will the Fans be ready for 2019? Are you getting off the couch and on the bicycle, taking walks with the dog, running marathons and pounding plate, or just pounding the jug? 100 years of NFL--Bears vs Pack is electric. Next week we Honor Bart versus the queens from the Strip Mall. I'm getting ready.
Fired up! The last two years were deplorable like other things in life. Get ready to rumble.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

The QB hasn't changed since 2011, so.I didn't bring him up in that context.

porupack's picture

Triple-J
You not counting in the CBs Alexander, King, and Jackson? I'd say a solid core of Safety+CBs to match the 3 OLBs and 2 above average DTs (and 2 solid rotational DTs) is pretty convincing reason for optimism. This is the first year since 2011 that I'm optimistic on Defense. Its the complementary value of a playmaking and solid coverage to give the OLBs and Dline another half second. Or, conversely, the pressure by OLBs and Dline will give the backfield one less second they have to cover scrambling drills, or an extra 2-3 opportunities per game to snatch an INT. One without the other is not that much useful investment.

Packer Fan's picture

Here is what I know

1) We have five solid starters if they are healthy.
2) Someone is gonna get hurt. And it has a good chance to happen before the season starts.
3) The line is only as good as the backups for there will be games missed by the starters.
4) The problem with the old coaching staff is that no one stepped up to be starter quality in the last few years. That is why Turner was signed and Bulaga retained
5) Until one of the previous backups and or Jenkins or Madison make big strides, we have risk for problems during the season.
6) l hope the new coaching staff can bring 1 or 2 of the backups along to be solid fill ins when the injuries happen.

We will see.

IceBowl's picture

Packer Fan,

At least I feel necessary replacements will be procured by Guty.

PAPackerbacker's picture

It's extremely important to have quality back up players on the OL that are versatile because someone will get injured at some point during the season. And I think the Packers do have some solid starters and excellent back ups. Protecting Rodgers is a top priority for the Packers to get back into contention for the NFC North title and a chance for another Super Bowl. If Rodgers goes down with an injury it will be a long season. I like your starting OL, but could see Lane Taylor losing the starting job to one of the back ups early on in the season.

Jibz's picture

LT: David Bakhtiari

LG: Elgton Jenkins

C: Corey Linsley

RG: Billy Turner

RT: Brian Bulaga

* back up guard - Cole Madison

4thand1's picture

We now have a healthy o-line with a lot of real game time experience, with young guys to plug in and learn. You couldn't ask for more when we have an all pro QB behind it. Big guys up front baby ! GOPACKGO

Bear's picture

Dave, I hope you are correct with your analysis on Billy Turner.
Some of the Denver analysts looked at him as only a backup.

1. Billy Turner- I think consistent reps at one position and a permanent move to the right guard position will instantly infuse life into his game and accentuate his strengths.
9 News' Mike Klis reports the Broncos are interested in re-signing OL Billy Turner.
Turner was an 11-game starter for the Broncos last season, playing both tackle spots and left guard. He did not perform particularly well at any of those positions, but he is a versatile lineman who would be valuable in a reserve role or as a stop-gap starter. If Denver wants him back, they should be able to make it happen.

IceBowl's picture

My children offered up "A Happy Fathers Day" to the Pack pack.

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