The Green Bay Packers’ offensive line has been a major strength of the team in recent years. The team has had numerous All-Pro and Pro Bowl players protecting Aaron Rodgers and paving the way for the likes of Aaron Jones over the past decade-plus, and a few of those players return for another season in 2023, ready with a full offseason of work at their preferred positions.
However, there is plenty of uncertainty at other positions on the line, with a few fascinating position battles setting up. The versatility of a second-year pro should be a major storyline to watch, as he’s likely to have a shot at starting at multiple spots. However, our contributors see a clear drop-off after the second line on the depth chart, which leads to a nearly-unanimous selection for which linemen are likely to start the season on the 53-man roster.
Specifically, every player we expect to make the team spent most of last year on the 53. That is partially a result of the team not drafting any offensive linemen in 2023, a rarity for this franchise in recent years. With no influx of new talent, APC expects the team to run it back on the offensive line with mostly the same players they had last season, even expecting the same starting five that ended the season to hold down their jobs for 2023.
Just don’t sleep on Zach Tom stealing a starting job.
Here are our predictions for the offensive line as it will stand when the Packers make their final cuts to a 53-man roster.
Starters: David Bakhtiari, Elgton Jenkins, Josh Myers, Jon Runyan, Yosh Nijman
The Packers feature arguably the best left side of the offensive line in the NFL. Once he was finally mostly recovered from his knee injury, David Bakhtiari was back to playing at an All-Pro level down the stretch last season, and after the Packers moved Jenkins back to his familiar left guard spot at midseason, he did the same. The big questions are from center to right tackle, but APC’s predictions largely fell for the incumbent starters at all three positions.
Still, none of these three players’ starting jobs are truly safe, even if their roster spots likely are. In fact, Zach Tom could well win the job at any of these three positions, particularly at center where Myers had a less-than-impressive sophomore campaign. Tom may also give Nijman a run for his money, though the 4th-year veteran looked largely solid once settling in on the right side and earned a second-round tender as a restricted free agent.
Backups: Zach Tom, Royce Newman, Sean Rhyan, Caleb Jones, Rasheed Walker
As for the backups, our contributors see a very familiar group rounding out the depth chart. In this scenario, Tom is the do-it-all backup who would probably be the first option off the bench at all five positions, while Newman would likely be next up at right guard or right tackle. The Packers seem to really like the development that they saw from both Jones and Walker last season. Although neither one saw the field during the regular season, both were on full-pay status for most of 2022 — Walker spending the entire season on the 53 and Jones getting a promotion after just one week on the practice squad, though he spent two months of that time on the non-football injury list.
The wild card is Rhyan, who showed almost no signs that he belonged as an NFL player in training camp after being a third-round draft pick in 2022. He also spent the last six games of his rookie season on suspension for PEDs. The Packers don’t like to give up early on their draft picks, especially players selected early, but they did move on from 2021 third-rounder Amari Rodgers midway through 2022. It would not be absurd to think that they could do so earlier with Rhyan, though he should get every opportunity in training camp to show that he should stick with the team.
Released: Jean Delance, Chuck Filaga, Jake Hanson, DJ Scaife, Kadeem Telfort, Luke Tenuta
With a ten-man group set up and a couple of quality depth pieces in the group, these young linemen seem unlikely to make a real run at the roster. Hanson is perhaps the biggest question mark — his ability to play center and guard could get him a spot once again, especially if Tom earns a starting job at tackle instead of being a do-it-all backup.
Tenuta offers a bit of organizational experience after the team claimed him on waivers around midseason, so don’t count him out, either. And although he spent time with three teams as a rookie last year, he was drafted in round six by the Bills. For comparison, Walker was drafted a round later by the Packers while Jones signed in Green Bay as an undrafted free agent.
The rest of the group will likely be jockeying for a couple of practice squad spots, as the Packers have done an excellent job of developing linemen long-term.
With the offensive line now set, we’ll shift our focus to the defense next week, starting on Monday with the defensive line. Stay tuned!