2019 Season in Review - Offensive Line
Another day, another position! In our fifth instalment of reviewing every player at every position, we turn our attentions to the offensive line. Is Agent 69 still at the top of his game? What will the future hold for Lane Taylor? Let's find out!
Linsley started all 16 regular season games for the third straight season and fourth time in his 6-year NFL career. He was in on 950 offensive snaps (88.1%) in 2019 and committed just 2 accepted penalties (1 holding, 1 false start). Linsley is a dependable blocker in both the run and pass game and probably ranks around the no.10 mark for all centers in the league. He was named as alternate for the Pro Bowl.
Linsley should be back in 2020 to anchor the line again. He is entering the last year of his current contract with cap hit of $10.5M – which means that the Packers may be looking soon to re-work his deal.
Jenkins was the Packers 2nd round selection (44th overall) in the 2019 NFL Draft. He started in 14 regular season games, having replaced the injured Lane Taylor after week 2, and in the process had an outstanding rookie year. He was in on 964 offensive snaps – 89.4% of the team’s offensive total. Jenkins made the PFWA, PFF and The Athletic All-Rookie teams thanks to his outstanding performance - according to PFF he allowed zero sacks on 571 pass blocking snaps and just a single QB knockdown – becoming one of the top 10 left guards in the entire league. Jenkins gave up 9 penalties (5 holding, 3 false starts, 1 illegal block). He was selected to the PWFA All-Rookie team.
Jenkins looks like a Pro Bowl Guard in the making. The Packers will be expecting him to play close to that level in 2020.
Free agent signing (4yrs, $28m) Turner came to the Packers with previous starting experience at both guard and tackle. In 2019, Turner started all 16 games for the Packers at right guard and he led all Packers offensive players by playing in 1,076 snaps (99.8% of all Packers offensive plays). This means that Turner missed just 2 offensive snaps all season long. He was charged with committing just 1 accepted penalty (a false start).
Turner put in a solid and effective performance at right guard for the Packers in 2019, without being a world beater. He’ll be back to start again in 2020 at that spot.
Taylor entered 2019 as the 3-year starter at left guard but was under immense pressure from rookie Elgton Jenkins to retain his spot. Taylor just held off Jenkins for the first couple of games (although Jenkins did see some duty in those games) before suffering a bicep injury and being placed on injured reserve (21st September), where he remained for the rest of the season. In his 2 starts, he played on 114 offensive snaps (10.6%) and was responsible for no accepted penalties.
Given Taylor’s 2020 salary cap number of $5,487,5002 and the emergence of Jenkins, it seems unlikely that Taylor will be back with the team this year.
Patrick is the Packers' primary back-up at both guard and center and is valued enough by the team for him to be offered and sign a 2-year contract extension in December. In 2019, he played on 137 offensive snaps (12.7%) – 122 of those coming in two games (54 against the Cowboys in week 5 and 68 against the Lions in week 17), both times at center filling in for the injured Corey Linsley.
Given his 2-year contract extension, we should expect Patrick to be back as part of the 54-man roster in 2020.
Madison was the Packers' fifth round draft pick in 2018 but sat out all of the year due to personal reasons. He returned to the team in 2019 to compete for roster spot which he duly won. In what was his “real” rookie year, Madison didn’t see any playing action – he was placed on the gameday inactive list each week until going on injured reserve on 23rd November due to a torn ACL.
If his recovery from the ACL injury goes as planned, we should expect to see Madison again compete for a roster spot as a back-up guard in 2020.
The versatile Pankey had been on and off the Packers roster in both 2017 and 2018 and competed for a roster spot again in camp in 2019. This time around Pankey was released by the Packers at the final cutdown to the 53-man roster (31st August) but was re-signed by the Packers (off the Tennessee Titans Practice Squad) on 21st September – filling the free roster spot created when Lane Taylor was placed on injured reserve. He was again released on 9th December. The Miami Dolphins picked Pankey up off waivers the following day.
Leglue was signed off the New Orleans’ Saints Practice Squad on 21st December. He was inactive for each of the Packers subsequent games (including the playoffs). Leglue is extremely versatile – starting multiple games at center, guard and tackle whilst in college – so this helps him in his 2020 challenge for a roster spot with the Packers. This assumes that the Packers want Leglue back and re-sign him as will be an Exclusive Rights Free Agent come March.
Braden was signed to the Practice Squad on 12th September (taking the spot that became available when WR Allen Lazard was promoted to the full roster). Braden had previously been with the New York Jets but was released from their practice squad 2 days prior to the Packers signing him. Braden was later released from the Packers Practice Squad on 7th November. He was picked up by the New York Jets, firstly onto their Practice Squad, later activated to the full 53-man roster.
Coyle was waived at the final cutdown to the 53-man roster. He was subsequently signed to the Atlanta Falcons Practice Squad in November but was again released. Coyle was drafted by the New Guardians team to play in the 2020 XFL.
Allen was signed just prior to the Packers final pre-season game (29th August) – he had previously been with the Chicago Bears for a few days in the spring - but was waived by Green Bay at the cut-down to the 53-man roster two days later. He is part of the St. Louis BattleHawks roster for the upcoming XFL season (having been drafted by St. Louis, then traded to the New York Guardians and then subsequently released by New York and re-signed by St. Louis).
The versatile McCray started 13 games for the Packers in 2017 and 2018 and was expected to compete for, and probably win, a roster spot with the team again in 2019. So, it was somewhat of a surprise when he was traded to the Cleveland Browns on cut-down day (31st August). In return for McCray, the Packers and Browns exchanged 7th round picks in the 2020 draft. McCray started 4 games for the Browns in 2019.
Williams was signed by the Packers on 3rd May as an undrafted free agent but was waived on 27th July when the Packers signed RB Darrin Hall.
Some will feel that Bakhtiari wasn’t quite at his very best at times in 2019, but that is judging him by his own high standards. He remains one of the league’s premier left tackles, being particularly adept in pass protection. Bakhtiari started all 16 regular season games playing on 1,075 offensive snaps (99.7%) – meaning he missed just 3 offensive snaps all season. Bakhtiari’s 12 penalties (6 holding, 5 false start, 1 illegal use of hands) were the third most by any offensive lineman in the NFL this year. Bakhtiari was named 2nd Team All-Pro by AP, All-NFC by PFWA and voted to the Pro Bowl (he did not play).
Bakhtiari enters 2020 in the last year of his current contract with a $14.7m salary cap number. He is the top offensive lineman on this team, so barring injury and/or a dramatic loss of form, it will be interesting to see how the Packers handle Bakhtiari’s contract situation in the next 12 months or so.
Bulaga had one of the best seasons of his outstanding career, staying injury free and starting all 16 regular season games at right tackle - playing in 898 offensive snaps (83.3%). Though active, he did miss the divisional play-off game against Seattle due to illness but was back for the NFC Championship Game. Bulaga is a tough operator, equally adept as a run blocker and pass protector – one of the league’s better players at his position. He committed 5 accepted penalties (2 holding, 3 false starts) in 2019.
As the free agency period began, Bulaga agreed to a reported 3 year, $30m deal with Los Angeles Chargers, thus ending a fine 10 year career with the Packers.
Veldheer was signed on 29th November off waivers from the New England Patriots. As he had previously been on the Patriots' retired list, he was immediately granted a two week commissioner’s exemption from the active roster. He was activated on 9th December replacing Adam Pankey who was released the same day. Veldheer played in the final two games of the regular season – seeing action only on special teams in week 16 (Vikings) but was in on 35 offensive snaps in the finale (Lions), replacing the injured Bryan Bulaga. – demonstrating that he had moved ahead of Alex Light as the senior back-up at tackle for the Packers. The following game, in the divisional play-offs, Veldheer again stepped in for Bulaga when the man from Iowa missed out due to illness. For the regular season, his 35 offensive snaps played represented 3.3% of the team’s season total.
Veldheer is an unrestricted free agent entering 2020, but it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that the Packers will attempt to bring him back.
Light played in 13 games (no starts) and was in on 151 offensive snaps (14.0%) and committed no penalties. It’s fair to say, that with limited practice time (being behind the starters) that he struggled when called upon – particularly in pass protection. Light was the team’s no.1 back-up tackle for most of the season before being surpassed late in the year by the experienced veteran Jared Veldheer.
We should expect to see him challenge for a roster spot again in 2020, although we should also expect him to have to fight off strong competition to make it.
Nijman was signed to the Practice Squad on 1st September, having been waived at the final cut-down to the 53-man roster the previous day. He remained on the Practice Squad until activated to the 53-man roster on 26th November (replacing Cole Madison who had been placed on injured reserve 3 days previously). Nijman was placed on injured reserve on 21st December and replaced on the active roster the same day by John Leglue.
Nijman is an interesting prospect who will likely be back to compete for a roster spot in 2020.
Spriggs was waived/injured on 6th August. He went unclaimed through the waiver process and by rule, reverted to injured reserve. Spriggs has been with the Packers for 3 (active) seasons playing in 36 games and starting 9, but it’s fair to say that he hasn’t lived up to the hopes that the Packers had for him when he was selected in the 2nd round of the 2016 draft.
Spriggs is an unrestricted free agent and it seems unlikely that he’ll be around in 2020 to challenge for a roster spot with the Packers.
Conway was signed to the Practice Squad on 26th November – replacing Yosh Nijman who had been activated to the full roster earlier the same day. Conway signed a futures contract with the Packers just after the season finished, meaning that he’ll be back in 2020 competing for a roster spot.
Gerhard de Beer
South African de Beer was signed to the Packers Practice Squad late in the 2018 season and competed for a roster spot in a big offensive line field during the 2019 camp and pre-season. He was waived by Green Bay at the final cutdown to the 53-man roster (31st August). In November he was briefly on the Practice Squad of the Indianapolis Colts before being released again. He has since signed to be part of the Team 9 Squad in the XFL.
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