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