Packers O-Line Has Questions, But Options

There are still a lot of unknowns on the Packers offensive, but the early stages of training camp is giving us glimpses of what could be.

The first day of the Packers 2022 training camp started with an offensive line that looked like this:

Nijman
Runyan
Myers
Hanson
Newman

Jake Hanson has been a developmental guy, and seeing him at guard is bit of a surprise after seeing him work mostly at center in the early stages of his career. He looks like the weak spot of this lineup, but if he has improved, as coaches say, he could be serviceable.

Royce Newman took his lumps as a rookie, but something clicked midseason and he was a very good right guard down the stretch. Seeing him at his college position of tackle was not surprise and he could be capable in that role at the pro level.

Josh Myers had a fantastic rookie campaign and looks like a long-term fixture at center, bringing stability to the middle of the line.

On the left side, Jon Runyan has been a good guard since being drafted, and Yosh Nijman should have absolutely been the starting left tackle in the playoffs after holding down the position admirably early in the year and through the end of the playoff run. I don't think he's a future All Pro, but he was more than good enough to win with. In fact, I think the Packers would have won it all if he had been given the start in the playoffs.

This group wouldn't be my ideal line to roll into week 1 with. The right side could have some bumps in this scenario, but, honestly, I wouldn't be that worried. I think the Packers could do ok with this group.

Here's the crazy thing: This doesn't include David Bakhtiari (who, by all comments, should return this season) and Elgton Jenkins (who is reportedly ahead of schedule in his rehab).

That's two All Pro caliber talents.

That line also doesn't include the rookie class of Sean Rhyan, Zach Tom, or Rasheed Walker.

That's 10 promising linemen, enough for two full offensive lines.

The best part is, almost all of them have the flexibility to play multiple positions.

On Day 2 of camp, the shuffling started with Newman sliding into a guard position, Nijman switch from left tackle to right tackle and rookie Zach Tom coming in to play left tackle. Given the versatility of the players, we should expect to see more shuffling and experimenting at offensive line throughout training camp.

Without Bakhtiari and Jenkins, the Packers still have plenty of options.

Unlike previous years, when they've signed veteran depth like Dennis Kelley and Jared Veldheer, they're now leaning on youth (they've taken 3 offensive linemen in each of the last 3 drafts). This gives plays a better chance to learn the Packers offensive system and makes it less likely that they need to sign external free agents in the near future, bringing long-term stability and familiarity to the group.

All of these things, along with Matt LaFleur's ability to adapt the offense to his players, point to success for the Packers offense.

Yes, there are still legitimate concerns about the health of their two best linemen, but there are also a lot of options to field a unit that is good enough to win a Super Bowl.

 

Bruce Irons has played, coached, and studied football for decades. Best-selling author of books such as A Fan's Guide To Understanding The NFL Draft, A Fan's Guide To Understanding The NFL Salary Cap, and A Fan's Guide To NFL Free Agency Hits And Misses, Bruce contributes to CheeseHeadTV and PackersForTheWin.com.

Follow Bruce Irons on Twitter at @BruceIronsNFL.

 

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Comments (49)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
NickPerry's picture

July 31, 2022 at 06:50 am

Personally, I would feel more comfortable with Yosh at LT and Zack Tom at RT if, for example, Tom was a starter in week one.

Man o man it sure would be sweet if just ONE, Bakhtiari or Jenkins, could be ready for week one. Talk about problem SOLVED!

The bottom line is the coaching staff needs to see ALL these players in the exhibition season at these different positions to really get it narrowed down.

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PatrickGB's picture

July 31, 2022 at 08:32 am

After all my angst over Bakh’s knee repair, I now feel optimistic over his chances of starting sooner than later. The only worry is him hurting something else. It’s common for players coming off an injury to over extend another part of the body. Yet I am sure that the trainers know that and will include preventative measures in the build up to starting a player again. Players have to, sometimes, be protected from themselves.

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dobber's picture

July 31, 2022 at 10:43 am

If "insiders" close to the team are correct, the more Nijman plays at RT in camp, the more it points to the team expecting Bakhtiari to play at LT when the snaps count. It also helps prep additional depth at LT if Tom shows he can contribute there.

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LLCHESTY's picture

July 31, 2022 at 12:30 pm

I worry a bit about the strength in his leg. I'm sure he hasn't been able to do any squats or heavy lifts. That being said it's a lot easier to regain strength than to build it in the first place.

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PatrickGB's picture

July 31, 2022 at 02:04 pm

I think he was about 290 some pounds when we drafted him. He has bulked up over the years. It’s his savvy and athletic ability that sets him apart. I worry less about his strength than his ability to move quickly and trust his knee. Yet, in an interview, he remarked that he feels more like himself. I like that.

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stockholder's picture

July 31, 2022 at 07:38 am

I'm so use to seeing veterans. They're more technically sound. And have that air of arrogance. The Stability left, with the changes.
The OL is broken! These youngsters are in a learning process. And this is a difficult time, with two All-pros out. It's now a matter of survival.
Until they establish themselves as the starter. You're going to see penalties. And that could be crushing if a TD gets called back!
Sure they have Options. But the protection of Rodgers must be guaranteed. There must be No question about that!
And it will be disturbing to see anyone fail. Or when the game is on the line.
Right now they all look like a find. Problem solved?
I'm just so use to seeing veterans.

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PeteK's picture

July 31, 2022 at 08:44 am

Pretty much the same opening game line as last season, of course missing Turner.

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Johnblood27's picture

July 31, 2022 at 08:51 am

Turnstile Turner? He will not be missed. I am glad he is gone.

Out with the old and in with the new. The NFL is a game of replacement. Let the improvement begin.

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HawkPacker's picture

July 31, 2022 at 10:47 am

JB, I never like Turner at guard. I thought he was okay at best. However, I thought he was much better at right tackle. I don't really miss him as I think our offensive like will be just fine. I saw some tape of Bakhtiari a few days ago outside doing some training by running side to side and I thought he looked good. Would not surprise me to see him open the season at left tackle.

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PatrickGB's picture

July 31, 2022 at 02:08 pm

Turner was a good veteran voice on the team. He seemed to have a good work ethic and example for the younger players. Yes, he was not a stellar guard but he was ok at RT. He was not that good at LT and we could not afford him anymore anyway.

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stockholder's picture

July 31, 2022 at 12:58 pm

Still- Patrick was a starter too.

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PatrickGB's picture

July 31, 2022 at 02:12 pm

A good try hard type guy. He backed up his teammates but hit his ceiling as an athlete. I read that he is already injured. Myers is a superior center and back from injury.

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LLCHESTY's picture

July 31, 2022 at 03:27 pm

Yes but not a very good one, especially in the running game.

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Coldworld's picture

July 31, 2022 at 06:47 pm

Better C than G in my view.

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Guam's picture

July 31, 2022 at 07:55 am

I want to get excited about the Packers young O-line talent, but I also have to keep reminding myself that it is early and we have yet to see them play a single snap in a game. With Bahk and Jenkins likely missing some time, I hope the comments are as positive a month from now as they are today.

Also interesting that Van Lanen seems to have disappeared. He was always a bit of a long shot given his 6th round status, but he has not even been mentioned in the last couple of practice reviews.

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dobber's picture

July 31, 2022 at 10:37 am

VanLanen has gotten regular snaps with the 2s, and some snaps with the 1s when Nijman shifts to LT. It's still too early to say a lot. Van Lanen is fighting for a spot on the 53...I don't see it being an easy path for him.

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PatrickGB's picture

July 31, 2022 at 08:26 am

I am a bit surprised that Rhyan is not getting many reps. I wonder if there is something about him that the coaches don’t trust or like. He sure looks the part of guard. But I trust Steno and Butkus to sort it all out. The team is sure putting a lot of effort into getting the best guys and combinations out there.

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Johnblood27's picture

July 31, 2022 at 08:56 am

Many times, especially early in camp, the coaches put a guy in there to eliminate him, not because they love him.

Also sometimes early reps are given to those that the coaches are unsure of and the guys they have a feel for they are patient with.

I gotta believe that Tom is getting LT reps because that is the most challenging of the 5 positions he aspires to cover. If he can perform there, he would be able to begin to fill in his skill set to be the swiss army knife he aspires to be.

I gotta believe that the coaches have seen a lot they like in Rhyan and he is just being brought along slowly as they give some of the real cut candidates a chance to impress enough to get valuable reps later on. My impression of Rhyan is that he is a guy that looks much better using the pads than gliding around in his underwear. I hope he is that guy.

Those are my hopes...

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NickPerry's picture

July 31, 2022 at 09:44 am

I'm a bit surprised too PatrickGB... I figured he'd be a candidate for RT for sure but in MLF's press conferences he's started they think Ryhan is a guard. Personally, I think he could be the next Josh Sitton or TJ Lang at RG. He's got a great anchor, athletic as hell, and strong enough to be an effective rookie starter.

"But I trust Steno and Butkus to sort it all out. The team is sure putting a lot of effort into getting the best guys and combinations out there."

I do too... And I think we'll see a bunch more combinations next week.

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PatrickGB's picture

July 31, 2022 at 02:15 pm

When I look at him and look at his size I see guard. I think he was a third round pick? It’s unusual for a player picked that high not to get many reps.

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Coldworld's picture

August 01, 2022 at 09:13 am

He’s getting a lot of reps at RG. Every snap by the second group essentially—more snaps than anyone else at RG.

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dobber's picture

July 31, 2022 at 10:44 am

From Saturday's recap (Just reinforcing from previous recaps--not trying to be a doink):

"Tom - Menet - Hanson - Rhyan - CVL the second team OL. 2) Starting (1st team) OL: Tom - Runyan - Myers - Newman - Yosh."

It's early. No pads. With OL, where they need to be physical to really be assessed--especially at OG--the non-padded parts of camp don't tell us a lot.

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Coldworld's picture

July 31, 2022 at 09:42 am

At this point, before the pads go on, full contact is permitted and defenders are able to use physicality not just speed and finesse, all one can really look at is technique and mobility among OL.

Tom is a guy who is supposed to have excellent technique but there are doubts about his size/strength. He’s played LT and knows the position from college and it looks like they see him at this point as more likely to help at T than G. His other position is C, but they probably see it as essential that Myers gets all the reps there that he can at this point.

Conversely, Rhyan is a guy with power who is being asked to shift inside. He needs consistent snaps there, and he’s getting them at RG with the seconds. That’s probably the best route to getting him settled and able to contribute this year. They are looking at Hanson at G too (he’s C with the seconds). Whether that’s true faith or finding out more it’s hard to know. In the meantime they’ve been trying Newman at RT too as well as RG.

I’m fine with getting Rhyan focused G experience. Let’s see if he can then battle Newman and Hanson. As to Tom, if he’s going to play T this year, he’s likely better suited to the more finesse left side. Whether he can stand up physically we will start to see soon.

We need someone to allow Nijman to get time at right with both Bakh and Jenkins out. Early in camp is the time to test out options. Pre full contact likely suits a guy like Tom and let him settle. Let’s see what happens as time passes, but I see a plausible rationale for the handling of these players so far. The real evaluation of readiness for the rookies has yet to start.

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HawkPacker's picture

July 31, 2022 at 11:02 am

CW, I think Tom will be our backup at left tackle once Bakhtiari returns. I looked at another article the other day comparing the RAS scores of Bakhtiari and Tom, and they were pretty similar and really Tom had the edge overall.

When Tom and Rhyan were drafted, my hope was that at least one of them would be a tackle and I really did not care which one.

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dobber's picture

July 31, 2022 at 11:13 am

I think that as long as Nijman is healthy, he shifts to the left side if Bakhtiari goes out. It's hard to say who the next man up on the right side will be, but my guess is that they'll go with a someone who has shown he can compete on the left side in-season over Tom. 2023 might be a completely different story.

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HawkPacker's picture

July 31, 2022 at 11:50 am

Nicely put dobber.

Once Bakhtiari and Jenkins return at tackle ( I believe Jenkins will be the right tackle), we should have two pretty good tackles to back them up in Tom and Nijman.

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Coldworld's picture

July 31, 2022 at 06:52 pm

We will see, but I expect Nijman to continue to improve as well. The difference is that he is powerful enough to play either side. I hope Jenkins takes over the position where we are weakest at the time. Play the best 5 you have and Jenkins is good anywhere.

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LLCHESTY's picture

July 31, 2022 at 11:10 pm

Who the hell would downvote that?

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LLCHESTY's picture

July 31, 2022 at 12:40 pm

I'd like to at least see Rhyan get a shot at RT. Like I said last week he tested better in the 3-cone than Newman by a pretty good margin. But that kick step by a T is vitally important in the NFL and maybe he looks awkward doing it from the right side whereas Newman played RT in college. Duke Manyweather, who trains NFL O linemen in the offseason said for some guys it's easy to switch from left to right and some guys struggle with it.

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Coldworld's picture

August 01, 2022 at 09:18 am

Much sense in that, but if Rhyan needs time to get up to speed at RG, I think that’s the most important thing initially. He may well be needed there more over the season. I do like the fact that both he and Tom are getting a lot of time at one position early on rather than being bounced around straight away.

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PatrickGB's picture

July 31, 2022 at 02:20 pm

The pundits take on Rhyan was that he had strength but his technique at tackle needed work. That’s one of the reasons why thought he would fit better at guard. Perhaps it’s a mental thing and he needs to be coached well. We have the coaches to do that.

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Coldworld's picture

July 31, 2022 at 06:58 pm

We need back up Gs too. If the feeling is that he’s the best fit but needs time, let him focus on G. The chances are he will get playing time there this season. Tom isn’t an obvious guard prospect. That leaves Hanson and ? behind Newman and Runyon. For me we need that ? And the obvious candidate for ? this season is Rhyan. We also have Walker as another T option possibly.

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LLCHESTY's picture

July 31, 2022 at 11:38 pm

Van Lanen? They're giving him a shot at T but the general consensus last year was he'd have to move inside. I was surprised how high his RAS was, didn't really see it in 2020. He was always a good run blocker but had some struggles pass blocking. I think he was predicted to be a 2nd rounder going into that year. I think PFF had a really high grade on him in 2018 or '19. Shockingly good 7.34 3-cone. I think he played some LG during one of the practices.

I totally agree with you on Jenkins replacing the weakest starter. I wonder if they would move to Runyan to RG and give Jenkins LG back. I suppose it would be better to have some experience on both sides though.

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Coldworld's picture

August 01, 2022 at 09:05 am

It’s widely assumed that Myers is the future at C. I’m not yet completely convinced. He was bad in the Championship loss and really had one plus game before his injury and he’s going to have to have that knee braced this year, which suggests some lingering concerns.

Not that I’m calling him a bust in any way, but right now he could conceivably be the weakest link in the middle if Newman plays like he did in the last third of last season at RG. Right now the middle looks most likely to be Runyon-Myers-Newman if Bakh was back.

If Bakh comes back before Jenkins as seems to be the hope and Nijman is holding up well at RT, I think the greatest upgrade this year could potentially be to use Jenkins at C. If Newman struggles (I think he’s past that), as you note it could also be G. The assumption that Jenkins is destined to be best value at T this year isn't quite as obvious to me as the ongoing discussion seems to assume.

While Jenkins is out, my guess is that they are looking at Van Lanen as a back up RT and Hanson as back up swing C/G. I think that’s why Rhyan is consistently getting time at G on the seconds and not moving around: they want Rhyan ready to be the next up at G. Tom is likely the long term back up C, but I think they feel they need him to just focus on T due to depth (legitimately enough of a challenge) and that Myers needs as many snaps as possible at C at this point—I think that that is definitely true.

This could all change during camp—a guy like Walker could show up better than his draft position, Van Lanen could take a step or someone could get hurt, but right now the above is what I think their actions suggest is the thinking and thus that this debate is often overly narrow in terms of outcomes considered.

What is missing is who will play RT before Bakh or Jenkins return. If Tom holds up in contact, I don’t think they see him as RT capable at this point, so Nijman might be RT unless an option appears that makes them think they can keep Nijman at left comfortably. If Jenkins is back before Bakh, he almost certainly goes at left and Nijman at right, but at this point we are searching for a credible alternative at RT other than Nijman.

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GregC's picture

July 31, 2022 at 10:21 am

I'll feel better when the coaches pick their five starters. That may not happen until just before the season begins, and of course the lineup will change when and if Bahktiari comes back and when Jenkins comes back. I'm hoping the O-line can muddle their way through the early part of the season and maybe become a really good unit by season's end. They broke down in the playoffs the last two years, and at this point they are still a long way from being an O-line that you could count on in the playoffs. Their depth is very good. What they need to find is high level performance by the five starters, whoever they are.

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LLCHESTY's picture

July 31, 2022 at 11:39 pm

I think you'll see a lot of shuffling before they choose a starting 5. Kick back, enjoy the ride!

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LambeauPlain's picture

July 31, 2022 at 01:02 pm

"That's 10 promising linemen, enough for two full offensive lines." That says it all, Bruce!

Plus what seems to be a front office and coaching staff that treasures an OL with smart, athletic, versatile football players. Prospects who enter 1265 Lombardi with a ton of great college production, availability and are established team leaders.

Matt talks about a player led team (teammates being your best cheerleaders and sharpest critics). The O line exemplifies this. Steno and Butkus must truly love coaching up these men.

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dobber's picture

July 31, 2022 at 11:14 am

Just go up and down the line: these players brought in through the draft over the last couple years are almost all multi-year starters with power conference teams--Michigan, Ole Miss, OSU, Oregon, Miss St, UCLA, Wake--very few one-year wonders and small-school phenoms. Many have earned all conference (and some All-American) honors, some more than once.

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PatrickGB's picture

July 31, 2022 at 02:26 pm

With that many guys with potential, who gets released? I don’t think that the team can stash many linemen on the PS like we did in the past. I think Yosh is in his third year and better than many tackles on other teams.

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LLCHESTY's picture

July 31, 2022 at 03:31 pm

Why not? There's 16 spots to fill. I don't think other teams will get too excited about a Van Lanen or a Hanson unless they really impress in the preseason games. Walker could draw some interest but it sounds like he needs a lot of technique work so I'm not sure about that either.

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dobber's picture

July 31, 2022 at 03:55 pm

Agreed.

"I don't think other teams will get too excited about a Van Lanen or a Hanson unless they really impress in the preseason games."

Two words: Ben Braden. A year ago they were talking him up and playing him up in camp as a potential starter. He was PS fodder, but that's all.

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Coldworld's picture

August 01, 2022 at 09:29 am

I don’t think Hanson is going anywhere in the shorter term. He’s looking like the see him as going to be the game day active back up C, swing G on game day initially. When Jenkins is back that could change, but last season they already used Hanson like that (at G) in a game and he backed up Patrick at C.

Let’s get some pads on and see. If Tom doesn’t hold up well once the power rushing starts then we may see Rhyan getting a look at RT if they think he’s sufficiently ready at G. We may also see Walker start to get some looks at RT as well as Van Lanen, maybe even Caleb Jones. If one of those 3 looks credible as a short term solution or Tom plays like Bakh did as a rookie than I think they leave Rhyan to compete at G. If none of them do (or Newman) then I think we see a vet brought in.

Thus far it’s all really been positional and technique training. The trenches start getting tested on Tuesday.

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dobber's picture

July 31, 2022 at 03:57 pm

The question will be whether Bakhtiari and Jenkins practice in preseason. That's two guys who aren't playing now that will be first priorities at cutdowns.

For argument's sake, let's say Bakh is active at cutdowns and Jenkins is on the PUP. Jenkins doesn't count against your 53. Let's reserve spots for Bakhtiari, JRJ, Myers, Newman, and Nijman (5 OL). Who's next? I think Tom and Rhyan make the 53. Two guys who seem to be getting preferred snaps in camp are Hanson (some with the 1s at G and some with the 2s at C) and CVL. That's 9. I think Walker goes to the PS, and maybe an IOL candidate.

If Jenkins is practicing at the final cutdown (or if they think he'll be ready well before he can be activated from PUP), I think it gets very interesting because he can play anywhere....in which case both Hanson and CVL should be nervous (I'm not a fan of CVL, and I think he makes the PS without too much trouble). This line can absorb an OL injury if necessary, especially if Bakh is in play shape. If Bakh is right and Jenkins returns healthy, this team has some really nice depth at T.

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LLCHESTY's picture

July 31, 2022 at 05:31 pm

The preseason will tell us if Hanson is truly better than the last couple seasons. I really thought he'd be cut and end up on the PS last year but he would have been brought up when Myers went down anyway. I've seen nothing that points to him possibly being a starting G but I've been wrong before. Van Lanen tested better than he looked his last year at Wisconsin but the tools are there. Walker has the highest upside but would probably have to practice and play to draw other teams interest.

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dobber's picture

July 31, 2022 at 07:32 pm

Yeah, Hanson is a mystery to me, too. They're following the Nijman blueprint on him: PS --> roster spot but never plays --> ??? Clearly there's something they see...maybe they think he's Lucas Patrick 2.0.

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Coldworld's picture

August 01, 2022 at 09:58 am

Hanson had a really impressive college career as a C. He is strong in his upper body (33 bench press) but not in his lower position. One of the themes coming from team sources when we picked him was he’d need to add lower body mass and power.

For a guy with an elite bench press to often be described as lacking functional power is to say the least unusual. However that was common theme. He had good technique but, as one scout representatively put it “Hanson’s primary drawback is a lack of size and playing strength. He is not a powerfully built center and is not good at creating movement when asked to block downhill. He can also struggle to anchor against powerful defensive tackles.”

Put simply, Hanson was all upper body strength. He even looked top heavy in pictures. If he’s corrected that ( and he seems to have been aware of the need in the run up to the draft) then Hanson’s most cited weakness disappears. When we drafted him Gute immediately stated that he had the potential to play G as well as C. I think that had to be based on him adding lower body power and mass over time based on where he was then.

Hanson wasn’t a popular pick and he wasn’t a start now one. He started off with a negative perception among us. However, Hanson had untapped physical potential. If he indeed has addressed that, I think we may all be underestimating him and he could be a valuable rotational C/G. I will keep an open mind and see how he does in camp.

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Coldworld's picture

August 01, 2022 at 09:35 am

Walker is back now, though I think he was out during preseason so I suspect he takes a little while to get up to speed with both team and playing speed before he’s ready to compete.

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Leatherhead's picture

July 31, 2022 at 09:09 pm

This is the time to see what you've got to work with, and we've got rookies and guys who've been in the gym 20 hours a week for the last couple of months. The first scrimmage is a week from Friday so you still have a few days to figure out what you like best and then they can practice as a unit before the game.

I believe when we line up for SF, it'll be Nijman, Runyan, Myers, Newman, and Van Lanen to start. We'll see plenty of Rhyan and Tom and Walker and Hanson and maybe even Caleb "Eclipse" Jones

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ApplesAndTons's picture

August 03, 2022 at 12:38 am

Runyan won't start week 1. Tom has a better chance at this point. Maybe even Yosh as well. Also, I think Rodgers favors Newman over his 3rd year LG. We shall see

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