In 2019, the Green Bay Packers’ roster looks very different from how it appeared at the end of the 2018 season. A large group of free agents, draft picks, and undrafted rookies will come to training camp to challenge for roster spots and a role on the team’s regular season 53-man roster. Over the next two weeks, Acme Packing Company will break down the roster position-by-position and reveal our compiled predictions for the 53-man roster.
If the opening week of the 2018 season was any indicator, the Green Bay Packers’ offensive line holds the integral responsibility to protect quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The scariest sight imaginable to Packers fans became reality that Sunday evening when Rodgers was carted off the field with an apparent knee injury. While Rodgers went on to play through the injury, his health is always a factor when playing in a division with top pass rushers including Chicago’s Khalil Mack and new Detroit Lion Trey Flowers.
Fortunately for Green Bay, the team holds one of the NFC’s better offensive lines and a pair of well-respected pass blockers at tackle. Enter a veteran free agent signing and a second-round interior swingman and the Packers hope they continued to add talent, depth, and versatility this offseason to Rodgers’ fortress.
Starters: David Bakhtiari, Lane Taylor, Corey Linsley, Billy Turner, Bryan Bulaga
This unit returns four of five starters from a year ago. Bakhtiari earned First-Team All Pro honors a year ago protecting Rodgers’ blindside, while Bulaga was able to bounce back from injury to start 14 games as the right-side bookend. The duo makes up one of the best pass-protecting tackles in the league, but Bulaga is entering a contract season. Linsley also enters the 2019 season having started each game for the past two seasons as an underrated, reliable battery mate to Rodgers. Taylor struggled in 2018 as he battled through injuries, but should continue to be Green Bay’s starting left guard after starting almost every game at the position for the past three seasons.
For APC writers, the lone addition to the starting unit should be Billy Turner, the Packers’ four-year, $28 million investment. Turner is expected to slot into the right guard role that was filled on a rotation basis by Byron Bell and Justin McCray in 2018. Green Bay needs much more consistency at the position and hopes that Turner can fill the void after playing both guard and tackle over his five professional seasons in Miami and Denver. While Turner should start at guard, he is also attractive for his tackle experience, a spot on the line that has not seen dependable depth in quite some time. His addition particularly helps Green Bay round out its backup linemen.
Backups: Elgton Jenkins, Jason Spriggs, Lucas Patrick, Justin McCray
Green Bay did not have a true backup center a year ago but, fortunately, Linsley played a healthy full season. While Jenkins should primarily play guard for the Packers, he brings center experience from the college ranks after being drafted in the second round this offseason. Jenkins should provide plenty of versatility on the interior of the line, but had enough athleticism to play tackle in college and could do so in a pinch in Green Bay. Patrick earned another nod from APC for the 53-man roster after proving to be another interior swing piece over spot starts of the last two seasons.
The Swiss Army knife McCray narrowly squeaked out a roster spot from APC writers over Cole Madison by one vote, but adds the ability to play any position on the line. McCray was not as effective as a starter last season as he was in a depth role in 2017, but gives Green Bay a valuable utility man. Spriggs was given one more shot by voters to make an impact as a backup tackle, but has had a history of underwhelming preseasons in Green Bay. With Bulaga’s contract nearing its end, Spriggs has an opportunity, if he can progress, to be a bigger part of the Packers’ long-term plans.
Released: Cole Madison, Anthony Coyle, Larry Williams, Adam Pankey, Gerhard de Beer, Yosh Nijman, Alex Light
As mentioned above, Madison just missed a spot on APC’s final roster predictions. However, the 2018 draft pick will be a strong candidate for the practice squad if that scenario truly plays out. The Packers have to feel lucky to be able to see what Madison can offer this training camp after taking a year away from the game.
Outside of Madison, Pankey and Light will enter training camp after earning limited regular season time with Green Bay the past couple of years. Each brings guard-tackle versatility of interest to the Packers. Tackle Gerhard de Beer also comes back to Green Bay after a practice squad stint in 2018 and could challenge for a backup tackle spot. Undrafted rookie Yosh Nijman served as a right tackle at Virginia Tech and is a physical specimen at 6-foot-7 and 314 pounds. Nijman and guards Coyle and Williams will have to earn their stripes in camp to find themselves on the Packers’ regular season squad.