The Green Bay Packers are in the midst of voluntary OTAs this week. The team is coming off three consecutive 13-win seasons and three straight NFC North titles and is favored to win a fourth straight by most experts.
The roster is deep and talented and for the most part, the starting jobs are known pending injuries or a big jump by a player that goes well beyond what anybody expected.
But there are still two areas where starting positions are, for now, unsettled. Here is a look at the two position battles as of now during OTAs:
- Right Tackle and Right Guard
The left side of the Packers line seems set as of right now. David Bakhtiari is the left tackle if he’s healthy and the Packers seem set at left guard with Jon Runyan, Jr. and at center with second-year man Josh Myers.
But the right side of the line is more unsettled. Royce Newman was the right guard for nearly all the 2021 campaign but he was inconsistent. While his play improved in the last few games of the season, his hold on the starting job appears vulnerable after the Packers drafted three interior offensive linemen including two who will likely see reps at guard. They are third-round pick Sean Rhyan and fourth rounder Zach Tom. The two rookies will be there to compete for the job depending on how quickly they can pick up the offense and adjust to life in the NFL.
Then at right tackle, Yosh Nijman is the projected starter as of now. Nijman played left tackle last season and started eight games there when Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins were both out with injuries. Nijman was a pleasant surprise.
Rhyan and Tom may also get reps at tackle and the Packers also have seventh-round pick Rasheed Walker in camp.
The winner of the battle in OTAs and training camp will likely be holding the position until Elgton Jenkins finishes rehab and returns from his season-ending knee injury from a year ago. Jenkins has played left guard and left tackle extensively for the Packers and earned Pro Bowl honors at left guard after the 2020 season.
The Packers will likely plug Jenkins in at right tackle upon his return, but he may go where he is most needed depending on injuries and how the players starting at each position on the line are performing when he returns.
- Wide Receiver
The race for the wide receiver spots is wide open after the departures of Davante Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling. That leaves two of the three starting positions wide open heading into OTAs and training camp.
Allen Lazard is the top returning wideout on the perimeter with Randall Cobb the incumbent in the slot. Lazard had a career-best 40 catches for 513 yards and eight touchdowns. This will be his first opportunity to become the primary receiver on a team at the NFL level.
Cobb is coming off a 28-catch season for 375 yards and five touchdowns. The former Kentucky star will turn 32 in August and has not played a full 16 or now 17 games in a season since 2015. If he stays healthy, his experience and chemistry with Aaron Rodgers give him an edge as the team’s top slot receiver.
The Packers have several other players fighting for a shot at the top three receiving positions. The Packers are hoping second-year wideout Amari Rodgers will take a leap forward this year and increase his paltry total of four catches for 45 yards in his rookie season.
The Packers also signed free agent Sammy Watkins. Watkins has speed and veteran experience but he has also had difficulty staying in the lineup. With the Ravens last year, Watkins was limited to 13 games and caught 27 passes for 394 yards and one score.
The Packers also drafted three wide receivers this year in second-round pick Christian Watson, fourth round choice Romeo Doubs and seventh round selection Samori Toure. All three were deep threats in college and have raw skills. But the big question for any rookie wide receiver is how quickly they can pick up the playbook, adjust to the NFL game and gain the trust of their All-Pro quarterback. Rodgers has a history of being slow to trust young wideouts and most young receivers take two or three years to become integral parts of the offense.
Other returning veterans in the mix include Juwann Winfree and Malik Taylor while undrafted free agent Danny Davis out of Wisconsin is also competing for a roster spot.
It will be an interesting battle for three starting spots and six (or seven) berths on the roster.
The Packers lineup is mostly settled as of now, but these two areas are the most contested as of right now.
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