On Monday, the Green Bay Packers got some encouraging news on one injured offensive linemen, but some potentially devastating news on another. Guard Lucas Patrick, who left the Packers’ week one game before halftime with a shoulder injury, is expected to recover quickly, potentially in time for their week two game against the Detroit Lions. Lane Taylor, who started the game opposite Patrick at right guard, was not so lucky, as reports say that the Packers fear his season is over.
The two players leaving the game left offensive line coach Adam Stenavich in an unenviable position, compounded by the fact that the team was already shorthanded on the line. Billy Turner, the presumed starter at right tackle, was inactive with a knee injury. That led the team to decide to start Elgton Jenkins in that spot instead of just dropping in Rick Wagner — a curious decision to say the least given Jenkins’ stellar play at left guard last season and Wagner’s solid play at tackle in the past.
That opening line of David Bakhtiari-Lucas Patrick-Corey Linsley-Lane Taylor-Elgton Jenkins was an unusual one, but the unit played well early in the game, helping the Packers drive down the field and reach either the red zone or the end zone on each first-half possession. Patrick’s injury forced Jenkins back to guard, however, with Wagner coming in at right tackle to fill out the line that most expected to see at the start of the game.
Then late in the game, Taylor’s knee injury forced the team to play its only other reserve guard on the active roster, Jon Runyan, Jr. (Yosh Nijman was the team’s 8th active offensive lineman, but he is exclusively a tackle.) Runyan held up well in 15 snaps down the stretch, and the Packers scored a pair of touchdowns (including one on a run to Runyan’s side) with him on the field. It was an encouraging start for the sixth-round pick, who may now be called into extended action moving forward.
All signs point to Taylor going on injured reserve shortly. Even if his injury is not season-ending, he will surely be out at least a few weeks, and that will force the team to shuffle up the deck on the line. Patrick and Turner are the big short-term question marks, as either one could line up at right guard if they return healthy next Sunday. With Wagner playing well on the right side, the Packers’ best option may be to simply keep him there for the time being, especially with Jenkins needed on the interior and uncertainty at the other guard spot. This sets up myriad possibilities for the team heading into week two.
If both Patrick and Turner come back, the team could go with those two on the right side. If only one is ready to play, expect him to start at right guard with Wagner staying at tackle, still giving the Packers a steady veteran player at every position.
The really tough test comes if both are out or if there is another injury on the line. That would almost certainly force Runyan into the lineup, and it would likewise require the team to add to the roster. Runyan’s fellow sixth-round picks likely are not options — Jake Hanson has been working exclusively at center while Simon Stepaniak remains on the Non-Football Injury list through at least the first six weeks of the year. That leaves only undrafted rookie Zack Johnson as a practice squad candidate.
Wednesday’s injury report will be a crucial one for the Packers, as Patrick’s and Turner’s statuses will go a long way to determining whether the Packers will indeed need to add a lineman to fill the spot that will be freed up if and when Taylor goes on injured reserve. With few veteran guards available on the open market — remember that Jared Veldheer has only ever played tackle in the NFL — promoting from within may be the Packers’ only real option.
At that point, it will be up to Stenavich to continue getting his group ready in order to keep Aaron Rodgers upright.