Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator confirmed two things about the team’s offensive line heading into next week’s OTAs: first, that the team continues to want the best five players on the field as starters and second that the team expects to have a competition at multiple positions along the line.
“We got a lot of competition on the right side, at guard, right tackle, or even center. We are just going to go out there and put those guys at different spots,” offensive coordinator Adam Stenavich told reporters on Tuesday. “Getting those best five out there, that gel the best and are the most physical, that’s what I’m looking for.”
So, the question is who are the best five on the roster? Assuming everybody is healthy, Stenavich indicated the left side of the offensive line is more settled. David Bakhtiari is the left tackle and will protect Jordan Love’s blindside. Elgton Jenkins will be back at left guard. Both former Pro Bowlers returned from serious injuries last season and rounded back into form.
Bakhtiari played at a high level when he was in the lineup but ended up missing four more games later in the season due to an emergency appendectomy. He played in 11 games during the season and hopes to be available for all 17 in 2023.
Jenkins started the season at right tackle and struggled early in the season. He was moved back to left guard and his play improved when he was back at that familiar position. Jenkins should be back to his Pro Bowl self now that he is further removed from his season-ending knee injury suffered back in 2021.
That leaves the remaining three positions along the offensive line open. The incumbent at center is Josh Myers. The former second-round pick out of Ohio State was the lowest graded of the team’s starting offensive linemen in 2022 according to Pro Football Focus.
Myers struggled most as a run blocker and was inconsistent over the course of the season. Last year was his first full year as a starter after missing significant time due to injury in 2021. The Packers are hoping Myers takes a big step forward as he starts his third NFL campaign.
Jon Runyan, Jr. is the returning starter at right guard. Like most Packers offensive linemen, Runyan graded out better as a pass blocker than a run blocker. The former Michigan star is more consistent and has the tenacity the team likes in its guards, but he is still vulnerable to a challenge for his starting job.
Right tackle was held down by Yosh Nijman for most of the second half of the season. The former Virginia Tech star started 13 games for the Packers at tackle in 2022 and performed better in pass protection than at run blocking like most of his teammates on the Green Bay offensive line.
The 6’7”, 314-pound, New Jersey native will battle for the right tackle position again in 2023 after signing his tender as a restricted free agent this offseason.
The wild card in determining who the “best five” are along the offensive line is second-year man Zach Tom. The Wake Forest alum played in nine games and started five. Like Jenkins, Tom is extremely versatile and can play any of the five positions along the offensive line.
Last year, he played left and right tackle and left and right guard at various times when injuries struck the offensive line. Despite that, GM Brian Gutekunst said during this offseason that before the Packers chose Tom in the fourth round in 2022, they thought center may be his strongest position.
Stenavich added, “I know right now, Zach is going to compete a lot at right guard and right tackle, and possibly some at center, and see how that goes.”
If Tom establishes himself as one of the top five, it will change the team’s starting offensive line. Stenavich and head coach Matt LaFleur will have to determine where Tom should play and who should sit as a result.
Of course, injuries could change the Packers plans at any time.
The offensive line is one of the more stable parts of the team in a year full of a lot of change. In fact, all five 2022 starters are still on the roster and ready to play. But that won’t stop the coaching staff from seeking to put their best five players on the field and to form a cohesive unit that can help protect Love and open holes for Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon in the running game.
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