The Green Bay Packers won 13 games in 2021 for the third straight season under head coach Matt LaFleur. The Packers were the top seed in the NFC and had All Pro players on both sides of the ball.
But what people may overlook is that the Packers accomplished this feat without several key players who missed significant time with injuries.
Here is a look at the players returning from injuries and how they should help the Packers in 2022:
CB Jaire Alexander
Alexander played in only four games in 2021 before suffering a shoulder injury tackling Pittsburgh’s Najee Harris. He did manage to return for the Packers playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers although he was only on the field for eight defensive snaps in that game.
Alexander is healed from his shoulder injury and should be ready to go when training camp starts later this month.
His speed and confident attitude help make the Packers defense better. The former Louisville star is considered one of the better cover corners in the league when healthy and his return will give the team three outstanding cornerbacks in Alexander, Eric Stokes and Rasul Douglas.
TE Robert Tonyan
Tonyan suffered a season-ending knee injury against the Arizona Cardinals which ended a frustrating season for the former Indiana State star. Tonyan had a career year in 2020, catching 52 passes for 58 yards and 11 touchdowns. He is the team’s best downfield receiving threat at the tight end position.
Although Tonyan was still working out with the rehab group at OTAs, multiple reports indicate the team projects that he will be healthy and ready to play when the season starts in September.
Tonyan’s numbers had fallen off in 2021 even before he was injured in part due to increased blocking assignments due to injuries along the offensive line.
While it may be difficult for Tonyan to match his 2020 efficiency and productivity, a healthy season from him combined with the additional opportunities provided by the departure of Davante Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling can make him a vital cog in the offense this season.
OT David Bakhtiari
Bakhtiari barely saw the field in 2021, playing only the first half of the season finale against the Lions. He was injured in practice the week before the 2020 season finale.
Bakhtiari was working with the rehab group throughout mandatory OTAs and minicamps but was not practicing with the players on the active roster. Head coach Matt LaFleur indicated he was “hopeful” that Bakhtiari would be ready to start training camp and participate fully but was not able to give any guarantees.
The return of Bakhtiari is a big key for the Packers. He was an All Pro in 2020 and was widely considered one of the best pass-blocking offensive tackles in the game for years before the injury.
If Bakhtiari is healthy and ready to go and comes close to returning to form, the Packers will be comfortable with their protection along Aaron Rodgers’ blind side. If not, the offensive line’s situation will be very unsettled with uncertainty at both tackle positions and both guard positions.
In addition, Bakhtiari’s career may be in jeopardy if he’s still unable to play roughly 20 months after his injury and that would be a big blow to the Packers salary cap and lineup.
OL Elgton Jenkins
Jenkins suffered a season-ending knee injury last November in the Packers Week 11 loss to the Vikings. Jenkins can play all five positions along the offensive line at a high level and was a Pro Bow guard in 2020 before taking over as the starting left tackle last season after Bakhtiari’s injury.
Most people expect Jenkins to not be ready to start the season on time and he is a strong candidate to start the season on the PUP list. If that happens he would miss at least the first six games of the 2022 campaign.
Once Jenkins returns, he will likely take over as the starter at whatever position he can most help the team along the offensive line. If Bakhtiari is unable to play, Jenkins is likely going to be inserted at left tackle. He could also play right tackle or either guard position depending on injuries and where the biggest need is.
Jenkins is going to be a free agent after the 2022 season unless GM Brian Gutekunst signs him to a new deal. If both Jenkins and Bakhtiari return to the lineup and return to form, the Packers could potentially have one of the better offensive lines in the league.
RB Kylin Hill
Hill was the Packers seventh-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft and he served as the team’s third running back and primary kick returner until he suffered a knee injury while returning a kick against the Cardinals.
Hill was also working with the rehab group during OTAs and may start the season on the PUP list if he’s not healthy enough to play when the season starts.
When he is ready, the former Mississippi State star will be competing for the third running back and kick returner positions again and could see a bigger role if injuries strike either Aaron Jones or A.J. Dillon.
Follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers
Click here for more great Packers coverage