The Green Bay Packers offensive line was decimated by injuries in 2021, especially at the tackle position. Unfortunately, some of those injury issues may linger into the 2022 campaign.
All Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari played only 28 snaps all season and they came in the first half of the season finale in Detroit. Bakhtiari was unable to play two weeks later in the Packers 13-10 playoff loss to the 49ers and in his absence, the Green Bay offensive line was overmatched. San Francisco registered five sacks in that game and was able to disrupt the Green Bay offense enough to pull off the upset.
Heading into the 2022 offseason, injuries are still a concern along the Green Bay offensive line. The first question surrounds Bakhtiari and whether he will be able to come back at full strength and once again take his place as the game’s best pass blocking offensive tackle.
Last season was a rough one for Bakhtiari. He suffered a serious knee injury in practice before the season finale in December of 2020. The former Colorado star started the 2021 season on the PUP list and wasn’t activated until mid-season. Then, there was a weekly guessing game as to when he would be able to return to the starting lineup.
Unfortunately, the knee didn’t respond well to practicing. Bakhtiari even had to undergo a second surgery to “clean up” the knee which filled with fluid and got sore when he tried to practice.
General manager Brian Gutekunst said he expects Bakhtiari to be ready to play in 2022. If he is and he returns to form, then left tackle is presumably set with Bakhtiari protecting the blind side of Aaron Rodgers or Jordan Love or whoever ends up as the Packers starting quarterback next season.
However, Bakhtiari is now on the wrong side of 30 and his inability to get on the field last season is a cause for concern. The Packers are hoping that he will make a full recovery.
When Bakhtiari went down, the team moved Pro Bowl guard Elgton Jenkins to the left tackle spot. Jenkins played very well there although he missed three games early in the season due to an ankle injury and later suffered a season-ending ACL injury of his own in November.
Gutekunst was optimistic about the status of Jenkins’ rehab but these injuries could a year to heal or more and it’s possible the former Mississippi State star won’t be ready to start the 2022 campaign on time as he continues his rehab.
“We’re midway through kind of his thing, but he’s doing great so far,” Gutekunst said at his pre-combine press conference when asked about Jenkins. “Another guy that just does stuff the right way. I can’t say enough about Elgton and his ability to play all five spots in the National Football League at a high level. There’s just not many guys in the league that can do that.”
While Jenkins is younger than Bakhtiari and everything is going well so far according to Gutekunst, it is still possible that Jenkins will not be ready to start training camp on time or even that he spends time on the PUP list early in the season.
There are other concerns at tackle besides the health of Bakhtiari and Jenkins. Starting right tackle Billy Turner may end up as a cap casualty. Turner presently has a cap hit of $9.1 million according to spotrac.com. The Packers could save more than $4 million in cap space by letting him go or they could try to extend him or add void years to lower his 2022 cap hit.
Turner will turn 31 in October and has been a reliable starter for the Packers at both right tackle and right guard over the past three seasons. He has struggled however, when asked to play left tackle against the 49ers.
The only other player at offensive tackle with starting experience is Yosh Nijman who started eight games at left tackle last season when both Jenkins and Bakhtiari were out with injuries. Nijman did a solid job in his first extensive action in the NFL but the fact that the Packers chose not to start him in the playoff game against San Francisco casts doubt on exactly how much faith the coaching staff has on him at this point.
Dennis Kelly and Lucas Patrick are unrestricted free agents and their future with the team is uncertain. It’s possible neither of them will be back with the team in 2022.
The Packers still have injury concerns and depth concerns at offensive tackle as we head into this offseason. They could address the position in the draft, via a trade or free agency although cap issues may limit who they could bring in via the latter two methods. But something must be done to reinforce this position.
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