2020 Packers - Who’s Going to Play O-Line?
At first glance, it may seem that the Packers starting offensive line is set for the 2020 season, with four out of five starters returning from last year and free agent Rick Wagner replacing the departed Brian Bulaga at right tackle.
But scratch a little beneath the surface and there are many possibilities as to what may actually happen and a number of questions to be answered.
What if Rick Wagner doesn’t work out at RT?
Wagner has been a good player for much of his career, but there are questions over his 2019 performance. The Packers undoubtedly signed him as a short term (1-2 year) “plug and play” type player for the right tackle position, but if he doesn’t work out, then don’t be surprised to see Lane Taylor step into the right guard sport and for Billy Turner to move outside to right tackle.
Alternatively, but much less likely, Elgton Jenkins could move to right tackle (he started 6 games at tackle in college) with Taylor moving into Jenkins’ slot at left guard. Rob Demovsky (ESPN) reported in February that the Packers had no plans to move Jenkins to right tackle (and that was before they’d signed Wagner), so the chances of this happening seem really slim. Nonetheless, thinking and circumstances change, so it’s not impossible.
Should Lane Taylor be starting anyway?
The restructuring of Lane Taylor’s contract this off-season appears to show a commitment from the Packers for him to be on the roster this year. But even more than that, it’s quite possible that Taylor is one of the top 5 linemen on that roster and if the Packers want the top 5 in the line-up, then that may involve either Turner switching to right tackle (as in the previous scenario) or Taylor simply replacing Turner at right guard.
What if Corey Linsley becomes a Salary Cap casualty (or gets injured)?
Although unlikely, there still remains an outside possibility that Corey Linsley could be a salary cap casualty. Linsley carries a large $10.5m salary cap number for 2020 – the Packers would free-up $8.5m of that number if they opted to move on from him. There is also the possibility that he may get injured during the season. In either of these circumstances, what might the Packers do?
Firstly, it seems unlikely that rookie Jake Hanson would be ready to move straight into the line-up, so the move that would create the least disruption would be to slot Lucas Patrick into the center role.
The other possibility would be to move Elgton Jenkins to center – Jenkins started 26 games at the position in college – and move Lane Taylor into the left guard spot. This is the position that Taylor is most familiar at.
What if David Bakhtiari was injured?
This would seem to be the worst single thing that could happen to the Packers offensive line in 2020. Losing the all-pro left tackle would be a huge challenge for the Packers. In this instance, we should expect to see Lane Taylor slot into the position – he has done this on a short term basis previously.
Finally, what of the rookie draftees?
Barring injuries, we shouldn’t expect any of the three rookie draftees – Jake Hanson, Jon Runyan and Simon Stepeniak to make significant inroads this year. The Packers have seven solid offensive lineman (Bakhtiari, Jenkins, Linsley, Turner, Wagner, Taylor and Patrick) who should see all or nearly all of the offensive line snaps.
In addition, there will be other linemen in camp e.g. Yosh Nijman, Cole Madison, Cody Conway and John Leglue who will compete for a roster spot. Again, we shouldn’t expect any of these players, if they make the final 53 man roster, to receive too many offensive snaps.
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