Continuing our series looking at the Green Bay Packers’ 90-man roster prior to training camp, we examine the offensive line position and reveal our pre-camp predictions for the team’s 2017 53-man roster. Ten APC contributors submitted full roster predictions, and we will present the consensus predictions drawn from those individual guesses over the next two weeks.
The Packers will return most of the players from the offensive line from the 2016 season, with a few exceptions. The big question is who will replace TJ Lang at right guard after he signed with the Lions. Here are APC’s predictions for the 53-man roster.
David Bakhtiari has been rock solid at the left tackle position over the past several years. The Packers rewarded his great play with a nice contract extension last year and solidified him as the anchor on this offensive line for years to come. Bakhtiari only allowed five sacks last year and had three holding calls all year, which put him up there with the best in the league. Aaron Rodgers can drop back to pass in comfort knowing Bakhtiari has his blind side.
When Lane Taylor took over the starting left guard position when Josh Sitton signed with the Bears, I had some doubts about if he could handle the job full-time. After seeing him get all of last year to prove himself, I can say he has proven me wrong and he is a very good left guard for the Packers. He has good feet, hands and is very powerful in the run game. Taylor comes into this season in a contract year and with another stellar year helping secure the left side of the line, he should be one of the top priorities for the Packers to resign this offseason.
Corey Linsley will be back to lead from the center position. Linsley is the perfect guy to control the communications between the lineman and Aaron Rodgers. He’s smart, athletic and turning into one of the best centers in the league. He does have some small injury concerns as he has missed 10 games in the last two seasons but when he has played, the offensive line seems to play at another level. Like Taylor, Linsley is in a contract year but I don’t see the Packers letting him walk away after the season. It also helps that Aaron Rodgers is comfortable with him snapping the ball and that counts for a lot.
Well, we’ve made it to the big question, who will replace TJ Lang at right guard and the APC writers answer is Jahri Evans. Evans comes over from the New Orleans Saints where he has had a fantastic career so far. He has been to six Pro Bowls and been named as an All-Pro four times. He fits the mold of what the other players on the Packers offensive line in being very disciplined by having only five penalties last year with giving up only three sacks. Evans may be getting up there in age, as he will turn 34 before the start of the regular season, but he should have enough left in the tank to hold onto the right guard position until one of the younger Packers draft picks from the previous couple years gets more seasoning and experience in a backup role.
I’m not sure why but it’s seems like Bryan Bulaga has been around forever and it’s crazy to think that he’s only 28 years old. Bulaga has been manning the right tackle position since 2010 and is coming off what may have been the best in his career in 2016. Also, Bulaga accomplished a first last year as he did not miss a game due to injury. Bulaga might not be the fastest or strongest guy on the line but he’s been around the block enough to use the defenders weaknesses to his advantage and is a perfect role model for the young players on the roster.
During his rookie year, Jason Spriggs got to see some decent action throughout the season and, even though he struggled at times, he settled in to be the top backup at either tackle position. He should continue that role this season as he gets more experience and continues to work hard in the weight room. Spriggs needs to continue his development in 2017 and should be a major piece of the future of the Packers offensive line.
It’s been a tough few years for Don Barclay. He had an ACL tear that made him miss the 2014 season and he has struggled in his return in 2015 and 2016. The bright spot about Barclay is that he can play anywhere. He has started at almost every spot on the line during his career and will come in this year as Corey Linsley’s backup at center. While he’s not the most talented guy on the line his experience dealing with almost any situation in valuable for the Packers. I’m sure some of you are shaking your head at this prediction and I’m right along with you. I think I was the only APC writer to not have Barclay make the 53-man roster but let’s hope giving him another chance works out.
The Packers sixth-round pick in 2016 spent most of the season on the inactive list. Kyle Murphy comes into this year competing for the backup guard positions and will get some work at tackle as well. A year of development should have done a lot to improve his game and he should be ready to take the next step in 2017.
The Packers drafted Kofi Amichia in the sixth-round this year. He fits the mold as a center or guard in the NFL. Amichia is a strong and athletic player but just doesn’t have the experience to make a large contribution this year. He needs to look at how Kyle Murphy handled his rookie year and follow that same plan. Amichia definitely has some good potential and now it’s up to James Campen and the rest of the Packers staff to develop that potential.
MISSING THE CUT
Lucas Patrick, Geoff Gray, Robert Leff, Adam Pankey, Justin McCray, Thomas Evans
Even with the loss of TJ Lang, the Packers should have an excellent line this season. They replaced him with accomplished veteran Jahri Evans to bridge the gap until the younger backups are ready to step in full-time. I think we will see a familiar story this year with a decent running game, few penalties and, most importantly, Aaron Rodgers staying upright to have the time to sling the ball all over the field.