The competition for starting jobs at left and right guard along the Green Bay Packers offensive line has turned into a three-player race.
Packers coach Matt LaFleur pointed to Lucas Patrick, Royce Newman and Jon Runyan as the top three candidates to start at the two guard positions to open the 2021 season.
“It really comes down to the interior, the two guard spots. Whatever the combination may be of Lucas Patrick, Royce Newman and Jon Runyan. I’d say those are the most likely candidates to fill those two spots,” LaFleur said Thursday.
The Packers are expecting to start Pro Bowl guard Elgton Jenkins at left tackle while David Bakhtiari continues recovering from ACL surgery, opening up another starting spot at guard. Last season, Jenkins and Patrick handled the majority of the snaps at left and right guard.
Patrick, Newman and Runyan have been interchangeable at guard throughout camp. The Packers have also mixed in Ben Braden, but LaFleur didn’t mention him on Thursday.
The next step in the battle: Saturday’s preseason finale against the Buffalo Bills.
“It’s a competition all the way through,” LaFleur said. “There’s been moments of really good play upfront, and there’s been some moments of inconsistency. We’re looking for guys that go out there and consistently execute, not only their assignment but also with proper technique. Ultimately that will lead to more long-term success.”
Patrick played over 900 snaps at guard last season and can play all three interior line spots. Runyan, a rookie in 2020, played over 150 snaps at the two guard spots as a backup. He’s also being trained at center.
It’s increasingly possible that the rookie will win a starting job.
Newman, a fourth-round pick, has positioned himself as a legitimate candidate to start after excelling in both preseason games. He started against the New York Jets and could start again on Saturday against the Bills.
“Royce has done an outstanding job. You can certainly see the talent. We just have to make sure he keeps progressing every single day,” LaFleur said.
LaFleur said he wants Newman to keep learning the “nuances” of the offense and playing the position so he can play fast and without hesitation.
The Packers open the 2021 season against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday, Sept. 12.