The Competition at Guard Still Wide Open

The competition at guard is still wide open with Lucas Patrick, Jon Runyan, and Ben Braden all taking valuable reps with the first team offense.

Without David Bakhtiari manning his post at left tackle, Elgton Jenkins has been filling in--and doing so beautifully, might I add. But with that, there are now two openings along the offensive line, both of which come at each guard position.
 
In no surprise, Matt LaFleur has already mentioned that Josh Myers is likely going to be the starting center while Billy Turner will continue to hold down the right tackle position. Rookies Royce Newman and Cole Van Lanen continue to get consistent work with the second and third offenses, which really leaves Lucas Patrick, Jon Runyan Jr, and Ben Braden vying for the two guard openings. 
 
Those three players have constantly been rotating through the left and right guard positions during training camp. Patrick is easily the most experienced of the trio, having appeared in 56 games over his four-year career, and he put together a sneaky good 2020 season. 
 
According to PFF, Patrick allowed just three sacks and 21 pressures over 650 pass-blocking reps. By PFF's pass-blocking efficiency metric, he ranked 12th among 86 eligible guards, not to mention that by ESPN's pass-block win rate metric, he ranked sixth at the guard position, and his overall run-blocking grade from PFF ranked 31st--not too bad. 
 
"My mental approach is I love competition," Patrick said via Packers.com. "To speak as frankly as I can, I think the NFL is awesome because you have a healthy fear for your job.
 
"I've had that mentality since Day 1. It doesn't matter if I've started 100 games or zero games, I'm going to approach it the same. Competition to me, I think everyone rises, or the best person will come out of that."
 
As a sixth-round rookie, Runyan filled in quite admirably last season, which included being called upon during Green Bay's Week 1 matchup with Minnesota. Runyan was on the field for 161 total offensive snaps in 2020, including 81 in pass protection in which he allowed no sacks, no quarterback hits, and four hurries.
 
"Definitely after the first game, and then I got in a little Week 2 against the Lions, that set me up pretty well and I felt comfortable anytime my number was called, going in there," Runyan said via Packers.com. "I think definitely after Week 2, I really started feeling comfortable at guard, left and right side."
 
It's not a surprise whatsoever that these two are competing for playing time, but Braden really came out of nowhere. At 27-years-old, Braden has primarily been a practice squad player during his NFL career, with only five total offensive snaps--all of which came last season.
 
However, it was during mini-camp that offensive line coach Adam Stenavich spoke very highly of Braden, telling reporters that "he's (Braden) really going to compete for a starting job at guard or tackle."
 
And so far, he hasn't disappointed--Braden is getting every opportunity to try to win one of these job openings at guard. 
 
When Bakhtiari returns, it's only going to make things more complicated as Jenkins will likely move back inside, and one of the starting guards -- whoever that ends up being -- will then head to the sidelines. But for the Green Bay Packers, that's a good problem to have. 
 
As we saw in 2020, with all of the injuries they sustained along the offensive line, you can never have too much depth. And despite the missed time and what felt like constant shuffling, this was the best offensive line unit in football by several metrics last season.
 
There is still a long ways to go before these final decisions have to be made, but I believe it's safe to say that you can expect Patrick, Runyan, and Braden to continue splitting time with the first-team offense. As LaFleur often tells us, the goal is to put the best five offensive linemen on the field. 

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Born and raised in Green Bay, WI and I still call it home. After my family, watching the Packers, sharing my opinions on the team through my writing and interacting with other fans is my greatest passion. You can find me on Twitter at @Paul_Bretl. 
 

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7 points

Comments (43)

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

August 06, 2021 at 06:36 am

Last year's metrics are for last year's team. Interesting, but by no means a guarantee for a repeat this year. Lucas P said it best, "Competition . . . everyone rises, or the best person will come out of that." It sounds like we've got competition across the line. Depth, good coaching and teamwork are the necessary ingredients for continued success. Let the games begin. GPG!

9 points
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KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

August 06, 2021 at 06:40 am

The OL talent and particularly the depth has really evolved in recent years. It had been my opinion that the Pack would need an OT in round 1 of 2022. I no longer feel that is the case and the team can focus on either DL, WR, OLB, or IL. Nice problem to have!

11 points
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Packers0808's picture

August 06, 2021 at 06:47 am

All the speculation about Bakh makes this an interesting circumstance. Should be able to give Bakh ample time to make sure all is right and ready to go with his injury! Lets hope he regains full strength and his old form!

4 points
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dobber's picture

August 06, 2021 at 09:30 am

Ample, yes. But not excess time. He's still the best LT they've got and will need a few weeks after he's activated to get back to form. The PUP means he's doing essentially nothing but working out.

4 points
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NickPerry's picture

August 06, 2021 at 07:13 am

One person who doesn't get enough credit IMO at least is Adam Stenavich. When MLF named his coaching staff I remember thinking who the hell are these guys. Just about everyone of them I had never heard of AND they lacked a lot of experience. I quickly leaned why I do what I do for a living and why MLF is 26-6 as a HC in 2 seasons!

Stenavich does a magnificent job with the O-Line and Gute has done just as magnificent job stocking the O-Line with an excellent blend of talent. Just about everyone of these guys is at least 6'4" and 310 LBS. Patrick is the "Shortest" at 6'3" but he's 313 lbs. Jake Hanson is a shrimp at 6'4" buy only 296! Bottom line is these guys are big and they can ALL move well. They all play well in pass pro and in the run game. One thing is certain, IMO the Packers are MUCH better prepared to handle injuries at the tackles position should we have a injury late in the season like last season....Knocking on wood..

I think the Dennis Kelly signing was one hell of a smart signing by Gute. Had we had Kelly last season we win the SB and personally I think he should be our RT if they don't decide to move Jenkins out there at some point. That's assuming David Bakhtiari comes back strong soon.

18 points
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RCPackerFan's picture

August 06, 2021 at 08:44 am

I brought Stenavich up a few days ago as needing more credit. I completely agree. While Gutey and the scouting staff has brought the players in, he has done a masterful job of getting the players ready and helping them learn multiple spots.

Just look at all the players they have and all the positions they can or could play.

Jenkins - LT, LG, C, RG, RT
Patrick - LG, C, RG
Turner - LT, LG, RG, RT
Runyan, LG, C, RG (I believe he could fill in at RT if needed too).
Braden - LG, C, RG
Newman - LG, RG, RT
Van Lanen - LG, RG, RT

The versatility and the talent level these guys have, is just crazy good. It is the players, but its coaching also. Stenavich deserves a ton of credit!

5 points
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Turophile's picture

August 06, 2021 at 09:34 am

Campen did a decent job later in his career as coach (though I didn't like him much early on). Stenavich has been very impressive. Sure he needs talent to work with, but you have to get the best out of whoever you have................and the way the Packers never missed a beat last year, throughout all the O line changes, says a lot for the coaching.

4 points
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RCPackerFan's picture

August 06, 2021 at 02:25 pm

exactly right. Every week last year it seemed like we were showing up with a different OL. And they did a fantastic job of coaching them to know what they were supposed to do. The players did it on the field, but you could see the coaches prepared them to be ready on the field.

1 points
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dobber's picture

August 06, 2021 at 09:27 am

Kelly is a hard guy to figure. Even with his experience and demonstrated ability to play both OT positions, he was still there to be had on a low-money deal. He's not young, but should have a few years left. I don't know how likely he is to accept another low-money contract and the Packers won't have the wherewithal to hand him much more than that. I don't think he comes back to the Packers.

0 points
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MarkinMadison's picture

August 06, 2021 at 09:43 am

I've been on that train for a while. He was able to hold the line together with band-aids and Elmer's glue last year. And it worked, at least until the NFCCG. I don't know if there is an award for OL coaches, but if there is, he should have won it for last year.

4 points
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coolhand's picture

August 06, 2021 at 01:48 pm

I blame the coaching decisions in the NFCCG. With Bakh out, they should have slid Jenkins out to LT, put Runyan at LG and kept Turner at RT. Wagner was a disaster and kept getting beat to the outside.

3 points
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Coldworld's picture

August 06, 2021 at 05:29 pm

Wagner was playing on a bum knee that led him to retire. Rather like King, there is a certain respect for a willingness to go out and play through pain, but one really has to wonder if the coaches should have asked them to and certainly why there was not a back up plan if the known injuries worsened.

3 points
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jannes bjornson's picture

August 06, 2021 at 09:23 pm

You are correct in your assessment of the situation. Double bogey on the coaching. LaFleur may have had too much fear of Suh etc. Patrick beat on him pretty well. The laissez-faire approach most likely cost them the Game at crunch time.

2 points
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dobber's picture

August 06, 2021 at 10:26 pm

So...the OL lineup that surrendered one sack v. Chicago in its first game and then none to the Rams in the playoffs should have been completely reconfigured in advance of the TB game? Or they should've reconfigured mid game and moved Jenkins outside to LT where he had minimal practice snaps?

3 points
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stockholder's picture

August 06, 2021 at 07:35 am

Rotation is a good thing. Just don't make it a revolving door.

2 points
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RCPackerFan's picture

August 06, 2021 at 07:45 am

The OL maybe the deepest position on the team, but also may have the most amount of questions. The flexibility and versatility is what really makes a difference. The starting OL right now hinges on Bakhtiari. Once he is back, he is LT, Jenkins LG. If he isn't ready to play Jenkins will be LT and we don't know who will be LG. Myers likely is the OC. RG and RT are still up in the air as well. Turner likely will be the RT, but Kelly could also be the RT and Turner could also slide into RG. Though I think they like Turner more at OT. Another option which doesn't sound like they have done this yet is Turner to LT, Kelly at RT, and Jenkins back at LG.

OG is the biggest question mark on the OL. Assuming Bakhtiari doesn't start right away, LG and RG are open for the best man to take the spot. Right now Patrick has the most experience, and should be penciled in at RG. That would leave LG. Runyan has some experience, Braden is getting a real shot as well. Newmann and/or Van Lanen could be in the running as well if they start showing up well in the next few weeks.

Its early to talk about cuts, but its going to get really interesting when cuts start to happen. Lets say Bakthiari is ready to play, then our starters will look something like this. Bakhtiari, Jenkins, Myers, Patrick, Turner. That means that we have Runyan, Braden, Newman, Kelly, Van Lanen for the depth. That is 10 guys. Whether they keep everyone, or if someone else slides in there, we will have to wait and see. I didn't add Yosh into the list, and he could very well be there.

This OL is deep and versatile. Gutey has done a great job of getting depth onto the roster!

-2 points
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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

August 06, 2021 at 08:49 am

As a note, Kelly has played snaps in the NFL at LG, RG, RT, and LT, plus * TE slash as a tackle eligible. Okay, he caught one pass on one target for just one yard, but it was a TD.

4 points
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RCPackerFan's picture

August 06, 2021 at 02:14 pm

Yeah, I was thinking they would likely use him at LT, RT probably only. But could be an option inside as well.

I think the TE role is saved for Jenkins this year. :)

1 points
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jannes bjornson's picture

August 06, 2021 at 09:32 pm

Kelly was a solid signing. It will pay dividends. Bhaktiari will not be ready until the end of October and that would an Optimist's calculation. Ride the Tiger.

3 points
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nostradanus's picture

August 06, 2021 at 07:48 am

This is the deepest OL group in recent memory with a nice mix of seasoned vets, second year guys and promising rookies.
Having Steno & Butkus orchestrating the group has been amazing to watch!

6 points
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LambeauPlain's picture

August 06, 2021 at 12:23 pm

Good shout out for Luke! I think he and Adam are truly connecting with the young OL room.

1 points
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Guam's picture

August 06, 2021 at 08:34 am

Braden is a good camp story, but after five years on practice squads, I have to believe he is a long shot to make the team. Maybe the light did finally come on, but he will have to be clearly better than the other guys simply because of his age (27). All other things equal, the Packers will keep the younger guys because they have more development time ahead of them. Also haven't heard a single mention of Nijman or Hanson so far in TC which may signal their time as Packers is coming to a close.

I suspect the starters will be Jenkins, Runyan, Myers, Patrick and Turner with Kelly, Newman, and Van Lanen as reserves. I think Bahk may be the ninth OL as he seems close enough that they may not want to put him on PUP and lose a minimum of six games from him.

2 points
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dobber's picture

August 06, 2021 at 09:23 am

I think you're right on Bakhtiari: he's the wild card. His status drives how they build their OL. I think if he's not activated off the PUP right after that second preseason game, he stays there.

2 points
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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

August 06, 2021 at 12:07 pm

As someone noted in Day Seven of the practice rouondup, Deguara took almost 10 months to the day to be activated. 10 months for Bakh is late September, and Bakh is a bigger guy. Sounds like Bakh might miss Sept. 12, 19, and 26, and the Oct. 5 game might be iffy. PUP might make sense - 6 weeks.

Of course, Bakh could do a Bulaga and come back sooner, but it could be later. GB will have a better idea in a few weeks.

4 points
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Coldworld's picture

August 06, 2021 at 05:36 pm

He’s also older, which is a factor. ACL injuries vary and so do individual physiognomies, but age and weight both favor Deguara all things being equal. I do not rule out Bakh staying on the PUP. The better Jenkins looks, the more likely the team are to be excessively cautious. Doing so reduces the risk of ancillary injuries once training fully. We need him for the playoffs primarily. If we don’t get to them due to his absence in this division, we have other problems.

3 points
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MarkinMadison's picture

August 06, 2021 at 09:46 am

The coach says he is competing for a starting spot. So how is he a long-shot to make the roster? I understand your argument about age, but if Braden is cut I'll buy you a beer at Lambeau. He is a legit 4 position back-up.

I think Nijman is gone.

3 points
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Guam's picture

August 06, 2021 at 11:19 am

Coaches say a lot things in training camp and I have almost never heard a Packer coach be anything but upbeat about a player. I obviously am discounting training camp talk and looking at the player history. Between Braden's history and the fact the Packers would have to cut either Kelly, Newman or Van Lanen to keep him, I think he doesn't make the team. I think his only shot is if they have an injury problem (fingers crossed).

I'll take that beer if he gets cut or buy you one if he makes the team!

1 points
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MarkinMadison's picture

August 06, 2021 at 08:53 pm

Deal.

1 points
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blacke00's picture

August 06, 2021 at 05:16 pm

They keep 10 with Bahk, if he's that far along...don't count on it! 10-11 months minimum to Rehab after an ACL. I would not really count on getting him into playing shape before Late October. Don't forget other injuries can and do occur. If you really think you're on a super bowl run the OL is the last place you want to be thin.

2 points
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jeremyjjbrown's picture

August 06, 2021 at 08:42 am

Wow, with that much depth I wonder if some expensive Oline contracts are in flux next off-season.

3 points
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Coldworld's picture

August 06, 2021 at 08:50 am

I think you are right and that will factor into the eventual roster. Thus far we’ve heard virtually nothing reported about play from those not on the first group. That’s going to change with preseason games.

2 points
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dobber's picture

August 06, 2021 at 09:20 am

I think Billy Turner is auditioning for a new team in 2022, yes. If the Packers have capable RTs, his $4M savings against the cap next year will be hard for a cap-strapped team like the Packers to ignore.

5 points
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jannes bjornson's picture

August 06, 2021 at 09:39 pm

Bhaktiari will be a blue chip in the trade scenarios. Jenkins may take charge of the left flank.

3 points
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dobber's picture

August 06, 2021 at 10:32 pm

It will need to be further down the line than 2022. The accelerated cap hit in 2022 if Bakh is dealt is untenable, although dealing him before his $10M roster bonus kicks in makes it only really painful. I think it's safe to say Bakhtiari isn't going anywhere until after 2022 at the soonest.

1 points
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mnbadger's picture

August 07, 2021 at 07:50 am

Sorry Dobber, but Bakhtiari isn't going anywhere. Can we just marinate in this team and this season before crazy talk season starts back up? No more drama please. GPG!

1 points
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MarkinMadison's picture

August 06, 2021 at 09:58 am

Turner and Bakh are really the only two OL who are well compensated. Everyone else is on rookie deals or cheaper. Jenkins is #3 on the list for OL. Unless Bakh is not the same player he used to be then his contract won't be touched. Turner has a $4.8M dead cap hit for next year (down from $7.9M dead cap hit this year). So even ditching him will likely cost a lot of money, relative to the other salaries for this OL. Really, the Packers have an awesome OL at a dirt cheap price right now.

5 points
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Coldworld's picture

August 06, 2021 at 08:52 am

I am going to disagree with the apparent general premise that there is a set group of candidates somewhat simply because of two considerations.

Firstly, no O lineman is proven in shorts. They need to show in scrimmages and better in games against non team mates going for it. That’s when they are tested and weaknesses exposed.

Secondly, at this point most of the young players are still having to learn the system and calls. As camp progresses we may see one or two start to emerge enough to at least pose questions and guard is the one position where that is most likely.

There is a long way to go. Let’s see how those who haven’t been regular starters perform in anger before we get truly confident as to who starts and who joins them. Camp has barely started for linemen.

7 points
8
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MarkinMadison's picture

August 06, 2021 at 10:07 am

Fair point. And if Jenkins is outside we are basically talking about a rookie at center, probably Patrick, and then an inexperienced guy on the inside. What makes me feel good is Runyan looked competent last year.

The one thing that would make me feel better about this OL is for a clearly dominant younger player to emerge at RT.

2 points
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jannes bjornson's picture

August 06, 2021 at 09:41 pm

Kelley is the Veteran swing guy. Newman competing for a spot . The Badgers need to hope for a PSquad assignment.

3 points
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LambeauPlain's picture

August 06, 2021 at 12:35 pm

Agree! Playing angry against opponents not your teammates will tell the tale who mans the front lines.

And one intangible about Lucas Patrick is his post snap nasty streak. He has simply improved every year. He will be tough to dislodge.

6 points
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LambeauPlain's picture

August 06, 2021 at 12:36 pm

Double post.

0 points
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WestWi_Packfan's picture

August 06, 2021 at 11:44 pm

It looks like one of the deepest units the Packers have ever put together and if Myers can even come close to Linsley's level of play this could be one of the better OL's in football. Scary to think we were the top offense in 2020 and looks like we could be even better this year.

3 points
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CheesyJord's picture

August 10, 2021 at 06:08 am

0 points
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