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The Packers must think they’re fine at left tackle

Deep breaths. In, out. Hold for five seconds. Release. It’s gonna be okay.

Syndication: PackersNews Joshua Clark/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wis. via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Starting training camp with both of your projected starting offensive tackles on the physically unable to perform list is never a good sign. There’s no way to sugarcoat that. With that being said, the way the Green Bay Packers have acted since the team activated offensive lineman Elgton Jenkins off of the list yesterday shows how optimistic they are in their tackle woes being resolved in the near future.

Jenkins, who tore his ACL against the Minnesota Vikings last November, made a miraculous recovery and was able to return to the active roster in about nine full months. Almost immediately, the team began to feed him looks that correlate to him playing right tackle, though, head coach Matt LaFleur played down what the activation of Jenkins, receiver Christian Watson and tight end Robert Tonyan — who were all activated on Sunday — means in the short-term.

When Jenkins hit the field on Sunday, it sure looked like he was getting prepped to suit up at right tackle moving forward. Former Packers tackle Mark Tauscher stated on Twitter that he agreed with the local beat’s consensus on the subject.

Prior to Jenkins’ addition, Green Bay was working two offensive line rotations, with the only difference being right guard and tackle:

  • Yosh Nijman-Jon Runyan Jr.-Josh Myers-Jake Hanson-Royce Newman (left to right)
  • Nijman-Runyan-Myers-Newman-Zach Tom

On Monday, a walkthrough before the team gets joint practices against the New Orleans Saints, the Packers had Jenkins play right tackle in team looks with Newman playing right guard. Over the last two days, the Packers have been playing around with Tom, a rookie fourth-round pick, seeing reps at left guard to push Runyan. LaFleur stated in the pre-practice presser on Monday that the team is trying to add as much competition as possible to as many positions as possible when asked about why Tom, who has mostly played left and right tackle this camp, lined up at guard with “the ones” on Sunday.

Curiously, though, the one position the team isn’t really testing, despite the uncertainty of David Bakhtiari’s return, is left tackle. Nijman has held down the position since quarterback Aaron Rodgers returned to the team in minicamp.

Bakhtiari, the team’s projected starting left tackle when healthy, is still on the physically unable to perform list following his late-season ACL tear in 2020. During the broadcast of the Packers’ preseason opener, Bakhtiari confirmed that he’s had three surgeries on his knee, one following his injury, one in-season last year and one this offseason. Bakhtiari was activated off of the PUP last November, just to only to get action against the Detroit Lions in Week 18 during the first half of what amounted to a preseason game for a Packers team that had already clinched the top seed in the NFC.

Following that game, the expectation was that Bakhtiari, who pulled himself out of the Lions game, would play in the Packers’ post-season opener against the San Francisco 49ers in the divisional round, but Bakhtiari’s inflammation in his knee never stopped and Billy Turner (left) and Dennis Kelly (right) ended up getting the starts as the team’s bookends over Nijman, who — like Jenkins — started half the season at the left tackle position. Turner was released by the team this offseason while Kelly’s contract with the team expired, leaving Nijman as the only healthy player on the 2022 Packers roster with starting left tackle experience on the team.

Moving forward, with Jenkins getting right tackle reps, there seem to be two options for the team at their blindside tackle position:

  1. Bakhtiari, who is working on-field with the rehab group, will return to the team by Week 1.
  2. Nijman, who last season was not thought good enough to start in the playoffs, will be the opening week starter for the Packers.

Either way, Green Bay, based on their actions, doesn’t seem too concerned about it. Their battles right now are at the guard positions, if Jenkins is ready to play football by the regular season, which is what his activation off of the PUP list suggests. General manager Brian Gutekunst made it clear last week that at some point Bakhtiari will return to the lineup this year, but LaFleur has pushed back on any and all questions about a timeline all summer.

Maybe Nijman has taken a step that was not under his belt by the playoff run last year. Maybe the team expects Bakhtiari to return to the team sooner rather than later. Whatever their reasoning might be, the Packers seem to be content at left tackle more than they are at left or right guard, which is good news for the offensive line moving forward.