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Packers’ training camp battle for the right tackle job is taking shape

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With Bryan Bulaga assumed to be out to start 2018, here are the players competing to be his replacement.

NFL: Green Bay Packers-OTA USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

In all likelihood, the Green Bay Packers will not have a healthy Bryan Bulaga ready to start the 2018 season at right tackle. The eight-year veteran tore an ACL last November, leaving his status very much uncertain for the start of the upcoming year. However, the Packers have a multitude of options to fill in for him until he returns — or even through Bulaga’s return to the field.

This group consists of a pair of relatively recent draft picks, a surprise free agent signing, and a couple of wild-cards who could work their way into the mix with a strong camp. Here’s a look at who could be starting next to a yet-to-be-named starter at right guard.

The Top Options

Jason Spriggs

Spriggs missed the first half of the 2017 season on injured reserve, but returned to become the starter once Bulaga went down. Following a catastrophic preseason at left tackle, Spriggs was mostly okay down the stretch in last year’s campaign, when he started five of seven games.

A hyper-athletic player, Spriggs definitely seems more comfortable outside than inside at guard, where he played a few games as a rookie. Here’s hoping another offseason’s worth of work will put Spriggs in a position to succeed over the first half-season or so.

Kyle Murphy

While Spriggs started late in the year, it was Murphy who filled in for an injured Bulaga in week one before moving to the left side for the next two games with David Bakhtiari injured. However, a season-ending injury of his own put him on the shelf after just three contests, just when the Packers needed depth at tackle the most.

Like Spriggs, Murphy has been limited a bit by his injury in spring practices, thanks to his rehabbing from having screws removed to stabilize his foot injury. But when he returns, he absolutely should be in the mix to fill in for Bulaga.

Byron Bell

Bell is this year’s Jahri Evans, in a sense; he’s a veteran player who signed his free agent deal with the Packers late into the spring. However, unlike Evans at right guard last year, he’s not a sure-fire starter.

As a backup for the Cowboys in 2017, Bell started a pair of games in place of benched Chaz Green, who got embarrassed by Adrian Clayborn to the tune of five sacks mid-season, and the injured Tyron Smith. However, his 2016 was lost entirely to injury, as he suffered a foot injury on the first day of OTAs with the Titans. Prior to that, Bell was a solid starter at both tackle positions (with a few games at right guard) for Tennessee and Carolina.

If he doesn’t win the job, look for Bell to back up just about every position on the line, but he will probably get a shot to show whether he deserves to start in week one.

Unlikely, but not totally crazy

Justin McCray

Although McCray is an interior lineman by trade, he filled in remarkably well at right tackle (particularly for a player who had played only a few snaps at tackle in practice since high school). With the Packers seemingly preferring to let McCray earn the vacant right guard job, don’t expect him to be in the mix on the outside, but if both he and Lucas Patrick show out marvelously in training camp, McCray could get a few extra shots at tackle again to see if the team can get both players on the field.

The Rest

Adam Pankey

Pankey earned a call-up from the practice squad when the Packers suffered their myriad injuries early in the season, though he received little playing time as the team moved McCray and Lane Taylor out to tackle instead. The former West Virginia Mountaineer should at least get a chance, however, and his reps with the starting offense at right tackle in Monday’s OTA practice will only help him.

Kyle Meadows/Alex Light

The team’s two undrafted rookie tackles are unlikely to make much noise in this competition, at least for this year. The better of the two should make the Packers’ practice squad for week one.