The Packers Offensive Line Cannot Afford Any More Injuries

The Green Bay Packers offensive line has done an impressive job this season. Injuries have hit the unit all season so that the team has never had their top five desired starters in the lineup at the same time. Despite the injuries, the offensive line has done a good job of protecting Aaron Rodgers and an adequate job of run blocking.

But the injuries just keep coming. And by now, the Packers have reached the point that they honestly cannot afford any more injuries to the offensive line without seriously compromising the ability of the offense to move the football.

When the season started, All Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari was on the PUP list. Bakhtiari is considered one of the best pass blockers in the league when he’s healthy but he has yet to play a down this season.

The Packers moved Pro Bowl left guard Elgton Jenkins to left tackle until Bakhtiari was ready to return. Jenkins did a very good job at left tackle although he missed three games with an ankle injury earlier in the season before suffering a season-ending knee injury in the Packers Week 11 loss to Minnesota.

When both Bakhtiari and Jenkins were unavailable, the Packers turned to Yosh Nijman at left tackle. Although he had never started a game in his NFL career, Nijman did a serviceable job against some talented pass rushers. While the Packers did have to help Nijman at times by keeping tight ends or running backs in to block, he has continued to get the job done at left tackle and will hold that job down until Bakhtiari is ready to return.

Jon Runyan, Jr. was originally set to be a backup but he assumed the starting left guard position in Week 2 and has played every game since then. Runyan has done a steady job there and the former Michigan star has showed progress in his second NFL season.

Rookie Josh Myers started the season at center but he suffered a finger injury that caused him to miss one game and then a knee injury that has had him out of the lineup since Week 6. While the Packers have said they hope Myers can play again this season, no timetable has been announced for his return to practice let alone return to a game. Lucas Patrick has taken over as the starting center. Patrick is a tough, blue-collar center who gets the job done and has the respect of his teammates.

Royce Newman has started every game at right guard and has yet to miss a snap this season. While the former Mississippi star got off to a slow start, his play has picked up in the last three or four weeks as he makes the adjustment to playing in the NFL.

Billy Turner is the most recent Packers offensive lineman to go down with an injury. Prior to getting hurt in last week’s game against Chicago, Turner had been a consistently strong performer at right tackle. Turner was steady and added leadership to the offensive line but he will miss time after injuring his knee last week.

The Packers have yet to say how long Turner will be unavailable and what the extent of his injury is but head coach Matt LaFleur told reporters on Wednesday that the team was hoping Turner’s injury was not season ending.

Veteran Dennis Kelly stepped in and played well in 42 snaps against Chicago. He did not allow a sack or a pressure and did a solid job of blocking for the run. Kelly started all 16 games for the Titans a year ago and has the experience necessary to fill in for Turner.

But what happens if there are any more injuries along the offensive line? Right now, the backup center would be second-year man Jake Hanson. The Oregon alum has played only five snaps on offense in his NFL career with all of them coming against the Chiefs in Week 9. It is not clear if Hanson is ready to start if the team needed him to play.

The other remaining backup offensive lineman is swingman Ben Braden. The former Michigan star has played in five games for the Packers this season but has yet to take a snap on offense. Braden had a good training camp and showed some potential during the preseason, but he has played only four snaps on offense in his NFL career with all of them coming with the Packers in 2020.

The team does have three offensive linemen on the practice squad including rookie center Michal Menet, free agent swing man Jon Dietzen and former sixth-round pick Cole Van Lanen.

The Packers are hoping Bakhtiari can return to the lineup shortly and he is practicing again. But while offensive line coach Adam Stenavich has done a great job of keeping his players ready for almost anything, the lack of proven players behind the current group would be a major concern for the Packers especially in the playoffs against top competition.

The Packers need to make sure they suffer no further injuries along their offensive line. If they do, it would be a major obstacle to their goal of reaching and winning this year’s Super Bowl.

 

You can follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers

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6 points

Comments (28)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
Brockrice99's picture

December 16, 2021 at 12:04 pm

Kenny is out... Packers are cursed this year with injuries and Covid... it is sad :(

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packer132's picture

December 16, 2021 at 08:17 pm

Packers have had some terrible injuries this year, though were fairly healthy in 2020 and 2019. They have done a good job with covid protocol however. Look at the teams that have players out with just covid this weekend ( Washington-16, Browns-20, Rams-25). Good thing that Green Bay has one of the deepest and best rosters in many years. If the Packers had 12 on the covid list this weekend, it would not be pretty.

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Since'61's picture

December 16, 2021 at 12:17 pm

I’m not sure that there is a way that you can prevent injuries to NFL players. It really is a matter of luck and timing.
The Packers OL has not had much of either this season.

Hopefully Bak returns soon and we remain stable for the duration. GPG! Thanks, Since ‘61

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Leatherhead's picture

December 16, 2021 at 01:41 pm

I absolutely, positively, think you can do things to minimize getting injuries and recover quickly. These professional trainers are super knowledgeable, and they have access to state of the art technology, and I bet they have a lot of suggestions about preparing your body for collisions.

But it’s on the player, too. I’m going to give you an example using Tramon Williams and Jaire Alexander.

Tramon was a smart, fast guy who could cover, but he took a lot of flak for being a soft tackler, deservedly so. Once, a guy on the Bears said they wanted to run to his side because he wasn’t going to be real aggressive. At the time, I held his “soft” tackling against him, but later realized he didn’t miss games with injuries. He protected himself.

Alexander had a chance to put a monster hit on an RB, but RBs run into much bigger players than Alexander, and they are compact packages of hard muscle and bone. He broke himself for one blow up hit and hasn’t been available since He could have just gone old school and “hit and wrapped “ and waited for help. It wouldn’t have made any difference but he’d still be on the field.

You are gonna get hurt, but you’ve gotta use your head for something besides tackling.

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Since'61's picture

December 16, 2021 at 02:08 pm

Leatherhead I take your point there are some things you can do. However, in the case of Tramon Williams he suffered a pinched nerve in his shoulder during the 2011 season and he was never the same player which was at least part of the reason why he became a soft tackler and tried to avoid reinsuring his shoulder.

As for Alexander he took the worst of the hit maybe he could have avoided the injury and if he does maybe the RB breaks free for a long gain. We'll never know.

However, the topic of this article was Ol injuries. Turner was rolled up on from behind. I'm not sure how he could prevent that. That happens to many OLs and DLs during the battle at the LOS. Tendons and ligaments are not meant to take the stress of 600 pounds or more as they are bent sideways and/or backwards etc. with 2,3 or more big bodies piled on top.

Yes a DB may have a chance to make a tackle without being injured and maybe an LB as well but the guys in the trenches have little control over how or where they get hit from. It's an unfortunate reality of the NFL and the Packers OL is paying a heavy price this season. Thanks, Since '61

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Johnblood27's picture

December 16, 2021 at 02:35 pm

I know they do not want to hear it, but knee braces would sure reduce the risk of many of the knee injuries we have had to the OL this season.

Bak, maybe
Myers, maybe
Jenkins, almost certainly
Turner, maybe

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Coldworld's picture

December 16, 2021 at 04:34 pm

Ever tried playing in one worth having? Yes, it may help somewhat in protecting against injury but it likely won’t help one’s play.

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Johnblood27's picture

December 16, 2021 at 10:30 pm

told ya they wouldn't want to hear it...

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Pizzadoc's picture

December 17, 2021 at 01:34 am

What kind of knee brace? Metal or neoprene or both? How restrictive? Any studies? I'm interested... We do have flak jackets for QBs.

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Johnblood27's picture

December 17, 2021 at 08:12 am

now you're thinking outside the box.

I will have mine with italian sausage, mushrooms, roasted red peppers and extra cheese please!!!

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jannes bjornson's picture

December 16, 2021 at 08:03 pm

It's not flag football. Play your cards and keep the mojo working.

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TarynsEyes's picture

December 16, 2021 at 12:37 pm

Protect the QB and now the QB has to protect the Oline. Quick passes in/from a lot of 22 formation sets, and maybe you can hit Adams/Scantling/Lazard for quick big gain/house connections. Running the ball too much will put the Oline in a bad situation as will asking them for deep ball pass routes to develop. Sometimes you need to plan 14+ play drives to eat the clock. Yes, the more plays you do the higher the risk of a turnover, but Rodgers needs to take what little is there often for the good of the Oline.

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Minniman's picture

December 16, 2021 at 01:36 pm

The work that Rodgers does at the line of scrimmage in calling defenses and directing the blocking assignments cannot be overestimated too - we saw the effect of not having that in the Chiefs game.

I'm not saying that he works miracles - Newman is only just now getting it and coming into his own - but yes, agree, he and MLF do need to look at play options to relieve pressure on the line if more injuries hit and it starts to leak.

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Guam's picture

December 16, 2021 at 02:42 pm

Taryn: Not sure I understand how "Running the ball too much will put the Oline in a bad situation.....". O-linemen are often hurt on pass plays where they get rolled up by other linemen, but running the ball usually spreads out the O-linemen more and has them pushing forward and away from a crowd rather than collapsing back into the pocket. I haven't seen too many O-linemen hurt run blocking. What am I missing?

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TarynsEyes's picture

December 16, 2021 at 05:03 pm

The Oline is more apt to get rolled on trying to pull as they get tangled up. Quick pass protection has them in more an upright one on one for the quick 1-1/2 seconds for the ball to be thrown. Naturally, a QB that wants to run or calls a lot of roll-outs is another issue for a lesser quality Oline.

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Lphill's picture

December 16, 2021 at 12:49 pm

Clark is out all part of the plan Goodell wants the patriots against Tom Brady .

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Since'61's picture

December 16, 2021 at 02:39 pm

Regrettably, there is no doubt in my mind that the league will work to make that happen. The way the season is playing out they will want Pats/Chiefs in the AFCCG and Packers/Bucs in the NFCCG. Those matchups are likely to draw the highest national TV ratings which is all the league cares about.

Out of those 2 games they know that Bucs/Patriots will be the highest rated SB. How do they make that happen?
All they need to do is pay the officials special bonuses for doing outstanding officiating at the appropriate moments throughout the playoffs to make it happen.

The most egregious example was during the Saints/Rams NFCCG and the famous non-call against the Rams which preserved the game for them. The league usually prefers to get both coasts to the SB since they are the largest markets. If the Pats and to play the Saints they would have been defeated by the Saints team that season. But atrocious officiating stepped in at the critical moment.

Going back even further the Patriots entire run began with the "Tuck rule" in their playoff game against the Raiders. A call that was never made before and never made since. If that call stands as a fumble recovered by the Raiders do the Patriots go on their run? We'll never know. But nothing that happens in the league surprises me any longer. They will do anything for TV ratings and the owners are fine with it because the more revenue means more profit for all of them. That's the bottom line. Thanks, Since '61

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Starrbrite's picture

December 16, 2021 at 03:23 pm

Yep—-I’m in agreement with you ‘61, the league and their obedient officiating crews are making it happen as they determine the outcomes for their rating favorites. Last week the Bills are preparing to win the game near the goal-line against the Bucs, and a blatant PI by the Bucs defender in the end zone was completely ignore. It of course created the OT scenario—-and then, what a surprise—the “Golden Calf” wins the game in OT with TD pass. It’s infuriating to watch this charade.

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blacke00's picture

December 17, 2021 at 07:53 am

I hate to be a "conspiracy" person, but God look at all the situations that raise questions. Example, last night a very a penalty was called on the Charger DB for PI. Almost the same situation occurred in the Bills/ Bucs game ...no call! What????
As I noted in a previous thread 3 non calls against the Bucs that would have had a different outcome in the Bills/Bucs game.
Don't forget the gambling issue.....I'm telling you it's going to be problem.

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jannes bjornson's picture

December 16, 2021 at 08:06 pm

If it works for Q, it doesn't work for me.

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Oppy's picture

December 16, 2021 at 12:59 pm

"The Packers offensive line cannot afford any more injuries" could have been stated before the last three injuries, and everyone would have agreed with the statement, but amazingly, the statement would have been wrong.

Let's hope we don't have to find out if it's accurate or not again before the end of the season.

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Johnblood27's picture

December 18, 2021 at 07:55 am

I have faith in Braden and Hanson.

I do not know much about the new guy, but give him a couple weeks in the room and he will be fine also.

Stenovich.

Butkus.

'Nuff said...

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PackBacker's picture

December 16, 2021 at 03:53 pm

This is the sort of story that gets written when somebody just HAS TO write something. It's football. It's a violent sport where injuries happen. And will continue to happen. The only way to prevent more injuries to the offensive line is to not play any personnel from the offensive line. Some people might agree that's maybe not such a great idea. So far, Gute and crew have done an excellent job filling the gaps. They seem to know what they're doing. I have faith that they will continue to do a good job.

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jannes bjornson's picture

December 16, 2021 at 08:08 pm

Milt Hendrickson

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egbertsouse's picture

December 16, 2021 at 06:03 pm

Another insightful article by Captain Obvious.

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Pizzadoc's picture

December 17, 2021 at 01:42 am

You read it, be nice.

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Johnblood27's picture

December 18, 2021 at 07:56 am

The 'Za man pinch hitting for Miss Manners... You GO!

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Qoojo's picture

December 18, 2021 at 11:07 am

It's probably the delivery, but "4 out of 5 OL starters out".

The starting QB group cannot take any more injuries either.

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