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Film breakdown: A look at Green Bay’s young OL in the Packers’ preseason opener

Zach Tom, you had my curiosity but now you have my attention.


Whenever both of your team’s offensive tackles are injured, it’s natural to ask who will keep your quarterback standing up in the pocket. For the 2022 Green Bay Packers, it’s not just that Pro Bowlers David Bakhtiari or Elgton Jenkins haven’t returned to full-contract football in mid-August, it’s compounded by the fact that Billy Turner and Dennis Kelly — who started a combined 17 games at tackle in 2021 — are no longer on the squad. Oh, yeah and the quarterback in question is a back-to-back MVP who has threatened retirement the last two offseasons.

Pressure makes diamonds and busts pipes, and, even though Jenkins has been activated off of the physically unable to perform list, there’s going to be a lot of pressure on the Packers’ young offensive linemen early on in the season. How much pressure? Enough that the team held every one of their starters out in their preseason opener against the San Francisco 49ers, other than their entire offensive line and rookie inside linebacker Quay Walker.

While the second-year Cole Van Lanen got some burn early on in camp, most of the Packers’ snaps with “the ones” lately have been made up of two offensive line groups (left to right):

  1. Yosh Nijman, Jon Runyan Jr., Josh Myers, Jake Hanson and Royce Newman
  2. Nijman, Runyan, Myers, Newman and Zach Tom

Since his return, Jenkins has been working individual drills and walkthroughs as a right tackle, which clears up some of the questions we had about what the Packers’ offensive line looks like when they’re fully healthy. Last year, Jenkins started half of the season at left tackle before tearing his ACL. He has previously played every single position on the offensive line, though, he played most of his snaps at guard until 2021.

Will he, and/or Bakhtiari, be healthy enough to play Week 1 against the Minnesota Vikings, though? That is yet to be seen, as neither has participated in full-contract drills yet. Head coach Matt LaFleur refuses to put a timeline on their recoveries, too. Against the New Orleans Saints in joint practices this week, the offensive line combo that features Hanson at right guard and Newman at right tackle once again got the “start,” just as it did against the 49ers.

With all that in mind, let’s take a look at what Hanson, Newman and Tom, the team’s options at right guard and tackle until Jenkins is healthy, did against San Francisco in pass protection. Football evaluations can be something like a Rorschach test, as predispositions are as influential as the stimulus.

A half-slide diagram via our sister site CougCenter, a Washington State community.

Here’s how I like to do it: I want to see a player’s snaps, in different offensive line combinations and positions, split by “slide” and “BOB” protection rules. The most common straight dropback protection in the NFL, by far, is half-slide protection where the center works with two offensive linemen to take the A-, B- and C-gap to one side of the formation while the remaining two offensive linemen are Big On Big (BOB) against the two closest line of scrimmage defenders on the other side of the formation.

Go ahead and give a look at these cutups, which are sorted by protection and player, from the 49ers game before you read our analysis of them.

Slide Protection

RG: Jake Hanson, RT: Royce Newman

RG: Royce Newman, RT: Zach Tom

RG: Sean Rhyan, RT: Zach Tom

BOB Protection

RG: Jake Hanson, RT: Royce Newman

RG: Royce Newman, RT: Zach Tom

RG: Sean Rhyan, RT: Zach Tom

Pass Protection Thoughts

Royce Newman

Newman’s big issue last year was his ability to handle stunts, as he jumped from a very basic spread offense at Ole Miss to becoming a Week 1 NFL starter as a fourth-round rookie. He seems to be handling stunts a little better, at least based on this one half of football, but he’s still not punching stunters with enough force when passing off an assignment, which can hang his teammate out to dry.

At tackle, Newman actually has a pretty good kick step that wouldn’t signal that he’s only played guard at the NFL level. The question there, though, is if his athleticism on the edge is enough to keep pass rushers “running the hoop” around the quarterback, as the rookie Zach Tom showed he could do multiple times in the same game. He also leans his weight forward too much, which is how players were able to win across his face or knock his hands down cleanly with a well-timed club.

Jake Hanson

I get the appeal of Hanson. He’s always looking to find work when his assignment is passed off or simply never comes. I think he’s a center, though, for no fault of his own.

He’s good at getting a body on a body in the quick game, but the deeper the drop, the stiffer he looks in space as a guard. On top of that, he can get moved off of his spot with his length and can overextend to overcompensate for his size.

He’s a useful player, one who would make most NFL rosters because of his positional versatility, but his primary position should probably be center with “in case of emergency” clearance to line up at guard.

Zach Tom

Young and athletic is an accurate way to describe Tom. He flat out missed passing off a stunt once but was bailed out by Hanson, lined up at center, who was looking for work.

With that being said, he looks every bit of the athlete that he tested like at the combine. Tom’s natural feet, which helped him shut down first-round pick Jermaine Johnson in college, are evident on nearly every snap of film. Mind you, the snaps he had next to Newman were when the team finally made their first offensive line switch around the two-minute warning, meaning that San Francisco’s edge rushers knew the Packers were going to try to pass the ball. Still, his light frame can leave him exposed to length and strength.

If I were calling it today, I’d give Tom the first chance to prove me wrong out of the bunch, with Newman as the next one up. If Bakhtiari and Jenkins return to play the bookends, I’d try to get Tom to challenge the right guard spot, not Runyan’s left guard position that Tom has rotated in as of late.

When fully healthy, the squad’s fifth through seventh most-talented linemen are probably Nijman, Tom and Newman, in some order, and I’d start letting them fight at right guard, once Nijman no longer has to play left tackle. Splitting Tom and Newman’s snaps over right tackle, right guard and left guard seems a bit excessive, at least after Friday’s video.