Each winter, Acme Packing Company breaks down the Green Bay Packers’ roster from the previous year by position to examine the team’s performance and needs in the offseason. Today we continue this series by looking at the offensive line.
After a down year full of injuries for the Green Bay Packers’ offensive line in 2018, the unit was looking to bounce back in a big way this year. I think we can say mission accomplished on that end.
The injury bug stayed away from the Packers this season, as they only had two different starting lineups throughout the entire regular season. They added a third in the postseason as Jared Veldheer started for Bryan Bulaga, who missed the Seattle game with a concussion. The regular season switch happened in week two when starting left guard Lane Taylor went down with a season ending biceps injury. The injury seemed to be a blessing in disguise as Elgton Jenkins stepped in, made an instant impact, and made a strong case as a superstar in the making.
After Jenkins took over, there were a few injuries here and there but nothing significant. Over the course of the 16 game season, no starter on the offensive line played lower than 83.3% of snaps on the season. Billy Turner led the way with 99.81%, David Bakhtiari was 99.72%, Jenkins with 89.42%, Corey Linsley got hit with minimal injuries coming in at 88.13%, and Bryan Bulaga rounded out the group at 83.3%.
Having the continuity throughout the offensive line all season helped pave the way for 1,795 rushing yards (15th in the league) with 18 rushing touchdowns (seventh in the league) on the season. The pass protection was the best in the league according to ESPN, where the Team Pass Block win rate was at 72%. Bakhtiari (96%) and Linsley (98%) led their respective position groups while Jenkins (95%) finished eighth.
While not cracking the top 10, Bulaga had another very good season anchoring the right tackle spot and Billy Turner came in and filled the void at right guard nicely. The offensive line also had a huge improvement in the sack department, only giving up 36 sacks on the season while they had 53 in 2018.
While the starters did an excellent job, I’d have to say that the depth of the offensive line was just as important. We can start with the impact of drafting Jenkins in the second round during the 2019 NFL Draft. With starter Lane Taylor going down so early in the season, it forced Jenkins into the lineup maybe a little earlier than expected but he showed he was ready for the spotlight.
Corey Linsley also got hit with some injuries this year, including a back injury in week 17 against Detroit but Lucas Patrick stepped in played without a hitch. Patrick has improved every season with the Packers and has become a great safety net for the interior of the offensive line.
As always, Bryan Bulaga gets hit with injuries throughout the year. However, he was able to start all 16 regular season games for only the second time in his career. He did have some small injuries throughout the year and, early in the season, the Packers had raw tackle Alex Light to fill in. Light struggled with the speed on some of the edge defenders so the Packers looked for an upgrade later in the season. Enter Jared Veldheer.
Veldheer was claimed off waivers from New England at the end of November and put to rest any anxiousness when Bulaga would come out with an injury. I feel his acquisition was one of the most important on the season as he solidified the depth for the playoff run.
OVERALL GRADE: A-
Overall, the season was a success up front. Staying healthy for most the season was an important factor in the line bouncing back in 2019. With All-Pro David Bakhtiari, Corey Linsley, Billy Turner, and the emergence of Elgton Jenkins through the season, the Packers look to have a solid group coming back in 2020.
Brian Gutekunst will have important decisions to make on free agents in the off-season. The big decision comes on if they will bring back Bryan Bulaga. Free agent backup Jared Veldheer and the future of Lane Taylor will also need to be addressed soon. More on that later today.