David Bakhtiari’s knee injury is devastating news. The Green Bay Packers’ success on offense has been in no small part due to their offensive line, and Bakhtiari is the premier piece of the group.
And while the Packers do have options for filling Bakhtiari’s spot on the line, let’s make one thing perfectly clear: the Packers can’t replace him. This is a mitigation effort, and everything the Packers do should be with an eye toward making the loss of their best pass blocker as small a problem as possible.
So what do the Packers do? Here are three options.
1 - Start Rick Wagner at left tackle, Billy Turner at right tackle, and Lucas Patrick at right guard
This is how the Packers dealt with Bakhtiari’s first absence this season, when a chest injury knocked him out of the team’s Week 6 loss to the Buccaneers. Wagner was rough in relief, and the Packers moved on to other options in subsequent weeks. But you can see the thinking here: Billy Turner has played most often on the right side and Lucas Patrick has played better at right guard than left guard. If Wagner could hold down the fort on the left side, this would allow for less disruption along the offensive line as a whole.
2 - Billy Turner at left tackle, Lucas Patrick at right guard, Rick Wagner at right tackle
After the Wagner experience didn’t work out, the Packers went with this lineup combination for the next three weeks. It worked reasonably well against a fairly low level of competition. In games against the Texans, Vikings, and 49ers, Aaron Rodgers was sacked only two times. While this lineup does call for Turner to make a less natural start on the left side, he’s a better option than Wagner.
3 - Start Elgton Jenkins at left tackle and Lucas Patrick left guard
This grouping is the most intriguing in my mind. Jenkins is the best athlete on the line and has shown he can play anywhere on the line on fairly short notice. If the Packers want to get a look at this lineup prior to the playoffs, throwing Jenkins into the fire now — with very little time to prepare — might be a good way to do it.
This configuration also leaves the right side of the line completely intact. If you’re hoping for as little disruption as possible, that’s worth remembering.
Additional consideration: the Jon Runyan factor
It should be noted that Jon Runyan might be a better option than Lucas Patrick in each of these lineup combinations. Though he’s slightly lighter than Patrick, he’s longer. More to the point, he might just be better. Patrick, though playing hurt, was rough in his last few opportunities, especially against the Eagles. If the Packers want to see what they have in Runyan, there’s no time like the present.