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Packers Training Camp Roster: Offensive line depth looks much improved in 2019

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Additions in the offseason should set up the Packers much better to adjust to any potential issues up front.

NFL Combine - Day 2 Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

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.

The Green Bay Packers’ depth situation on the offensive line was ugly in 2018. The team got lucky at the tackle position, only missing a few starts from Bryan Bulaga. However, the right guard position was a revolving door - both in terms of players rotating through the position and those players allowing defenders to get by them with ease.

To fix the issue, the Packers invested heavily in versatile depth this offseason. A big contract for a free agent should give the Packers stability at that right guard spot, while a high draft pick adds significant depth. Meanwhile, two of the players who started games there last season return in more appropriate roles as backups.

The Packers should be much better equipped to handle injuries on the front line this season, and they filled the one glaring hole in free agency. That will set up some great battles for roster spots this August.

Tackles

Bryan Bulaga

Experience: Entering 10th season
How Acquired: First-round pick in 2010 NFL Draft

The third-longest-tenured Packer, Bulaga ranks behind only Aaron Rodgers and Mason Crosby in terms of length of time with the team due to some departures in the offseason. Bulaga remains one of the best pass-blocking right tackles in the NFL, and he had a solid bounce-back season in 2018 (14 games) after suiting up in just five contests in 2017.

Now in the final year of his contract at the age of 30, Bulaga would seem to be a long shot to re-sign with the Packers beyond 2019. However, a healthy season should earn him a decent deal next offseason.

David Bakhtiari

Experience: Entering 7th season
How Acquired: Fourth-round pick in 2013 NFL Draft

The best left tackle in the NFL, Bakhtiari earned his first nod as a First-Team All-Pro in 2018 after a pair of second-team honors. Bakhtiari is by most accounts the best pass blocking tackle in the league, and it is his efforts that are perhaps most responsible for Aaron Rodgers getting so much time to work in the pocket in recent years.

Bakh is also a durable player, who has missed just six games in his six years in the NFL. Another 16-game season from him should result in another All-Pro honor and maybe, just maybe, a second trip to the Pro Bowl.

Jason Spriggs

Experience: Entering 4th season
How Acquired: Second-round pick in 2016 NFL Draft

The Packers traded up to select Spriggs three years ago, seemingly expecting him to become their backup swing tackle before taking over for Bulaga eventually. He has shown no signs that he’s ready for a permanent job as a starter, and with a new head coach who has no ties to him, another poor preseason could spell the end for Spriggs’ tenure.

Still, the Packers do not seem to have a player who can clearly serve as a backup at both tackle positions yet, so they’ll need a young player to step up and back up Bakhtiari if they plan to move on from Spriggs.

Alex Light

Experience: Entering 2nd season
How Acquired: UDFA signing in 2018

Light was a surprise keep on the Packers’ 53-man roster last year, as the undrafted rookie from Richmond stuck after training camp. He has played some left tackle in the past, and he made three appearances a year ago during the regular season.

Light is probably the best candidate to take the swing tackle job from Spriggs if the former second-rounder flames out.

Gerhard de Beer

Experience: First year (entered NFL in 2018)
How Acquired: Signed to practice squad in 2018

A monstrous player and a terrific athlete, de Beer met with the Packers prior to last year’s draft but signed with the Bills as a UDFA. Green Bay scooped him up on the practice squad late in the year, however, and the former track and field athlete had a full offseason to learn the finer points of playing tackle.

A solid career at Arizona suggests that he has high potential for development. Look for him to get some run with the twos in training camp.

Yosh Nijman

Experience: Rookie
How Acquired: UDFA signing in 2019

Like de Beer, Nijman is an absurd athlete, and he also went undrafted after starring at Virginia Tech. He’s strong enough to get the job done, but needs to refine his technique and harness his athleticism; as a result, look for Nijman to be a practice squad candidate in 2019.

Interior Linemen

Lane Taylor

Experience: Entering 7th year
How Acquired: UDFA in 2013

Taylor will be in his fourth year as a preferred starter this fall, having taken over the left guard job when the Packers surprisingly released Josh Sitton at final cuts in 2016. He played reasonably well in his first two years, but slipped a year ago due in large part to injuries.

Signed through 2020, Taylor is more of a power blocker than a nimble, athletic player, which would seem to make him an odd fit in Matt LaFleur’s offense. Still, he looks to be a starter barring injury, and a healthy spring bodes well for him bouncing back this season.

Corey Linsley

Experience: Entering 6th year
How Acquired: 5th-round pick in 2014 NFL Draft

Linsley grabbed the starting center job as a rookie and hasn’t looked back since, only missing time due to injuries in 2015 and 2016. It is surprising that he has not earned a trip to the Pro Bowl yet, as he has proven himself to be one of the NFC’s best and most reliable centers.

This season, he is reportedly working more on making the adjustments and protection calls, taking over some of those duties from his quarterback. Look for him to remain a steady anchor in the middle, which was particularly critical a year ago due to the constant shuffling next to him at right guard.

Billy Turner

Experience: Entering 5th year
How Acquired: Unrestricted free agent signing in 2019

Speaking of right guard, Turner arrived as the sole offensive player among the Packers’ big free agent haul this March. Possessing the athleticism and versatility to play either guard or tackle, Turner took all of the starting snaps at right guard in camp, with the exception of a few reps at right tackle when the team was conserving Bulaga’s workload.

If all goes well, however, Turner will stay inside for 2019 before a possible move to tackle in 2020 if Bulaga departs. If not, look for Turner to be the first option if Bulaga goes down with any sort of injury, which would leave that right guard hole to be filled once again.

Justin McCray

Experience: Entering 3rd year
How Acquired: Signed as free agent in 2017

Last year, McCray disappointed after an impressive 2017 campaign that saw him play all over the line. He was slated as the starting right guard after training camp, but struggled with ineffectiveness before an injury finally pulled him from the starting lineup.

Even when healthy again, he was replaced by Byron Bell and Lucas Patrick late, so he will need an impressive camp to regain not only a role as a key backup but a roster spot as well.

Lucas Patrick

Experience: Entering 3rd year
How Acquired: UDFA signing in 2016

Patrick appears to be the Packers’ preferred option to back up Linsley, as he took most of the second-team snaps in the middle (and a few first-team reps as well) this spring. However, Patrick was the team’s starting right guard down the stretch last fall, and acquitted himself well enough to make this writer believe that he’ll be a viable backup option.

Adam Pankey

Experience: Entering 2nd year (entered NFL in 2017)
How Acquired: UDFA signing in 2017

After making the team out of camp in 2017, Pankey landed on the practice squad to start 2018 but got a promotion back to the 53 in December. Versatile enough to play guard or tackle, Mike McCarthy’s staff saw enough in him to give him a long shot as a reserve; whether LaFleur and company will do the same is to be determined.

Anthony Coyle

Experience: First year (entered NFL in 2018)
How Acquired: Signed to practice squad in 2018

Coyle ended 2018 on the practice squad and will compete for a backup job. A former Duke product (like Patrick), Coyle spent training camp with the Houston Texans a year ago before landing with the Packers in late September.

Cole Madison

Experience: First year (entered NFL in 2018)
How Acquired: Fifth-round pick in 2018 NFL Draft

Madison sat out all of 2018 after he did not report for training camp. Mental health issues kept him away from football, but it was a pleasant surprise to see the converted tackle appear for the start of 2019’s offseason workout program.

After playing right tackle throughout his college career, the Packers see Madison primarily at guard but with the ability to slide back out to tackle in a pinch. He’ll have to compete with the players above to get a roster spot, but if he can’t quite make it, expect the Packers to make a hard push to retain him for the practice squad to give him a chance to contribute in 2020.

Elgton Jenkins

Experience: Rookie
How Acquired: Second-round pick in 2019 NFL Draft

This pick is where interior depth really shines. The Packers selected Jenkins with the 45th pick in April’s draft, having been thoroughly impressed with him at the Senior Bowl and Combine. However, he has been playing guard almost exclusively in spring practices despite being a center for his final two years at Mississippi State.

While he could potentially be a backup option for Linsley, look for him to be one of the first men off the bench at either guard spot should the need arise. Furthermore, the team seems to expect Jenkins to be a starter sooner rather than later — probably in 2020 if Turner moves to tackle.

Larry Williams

Experience: Rookie
How Acquired: UDFA signing in 2019

The lone undrafted rookie among this group of interior linemen, Williams is trying to follow in Taylor’s footsteps after coming out of Oklahoma State. However, with so many players ahead of him having NFL starting experience or a significant draft capital investment, it will be a tough road for him to make a real push for a roster spot.