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Packers Training Camp Preview: Offensive Line departures leave interior depth in question

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The Packers lost three of their top four interior linemen over the past 12 months, and have a youth movement behind their starters.

 NFL: Green Bay Packers-Training Camp Mark Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Continuing our series looking at the Green Bay Packers’ 90-man roster prior to training camp, Acme Packing Company examines the tight-end position and reveals the 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 Green Bay Packers have one of the finest pairs of offensive tackles in the NFL, and these two players are the unquestioned leaders on the offensive line. However, they are taking over that leadership role from a pair of veteran guards, both of whom left the team in the past calendar year.

Although Josh Sitton’s release was a shock last September, T.J. Lang’s departure in free agency this spring was much less so. Lang got a big contract from the Detroit Lions, and the Packers went out and found a cheap veteran option to help bridge the gap until one of their young players are ready to start.

Still, there are more questions than answers behind prospective starters Lane Taylor and Jahri Evans, as several first- and second-year players will be jockeying for position on the depth chart at guard and center — along with a spot on the 53-man roster.

Here are the offensive linemen on the Packers’ 90-man roster as training camp approaches.

RETURNING PLAYERS

David Bakhtiari

Year: 5th
Age: 25
How acquired: 4th-round draft pick (109 overall) in 2013

Bakhtiari earned every penny of his new contract in 2016, starting every game and barely missing any snaps. He has become one of the best pass-protecting blindside tackles in the NFL while continuing to improve as a run blocker, and he earned his first Pro Bowl nod last season.

Don Barclay

Year: 6th
Age: 28
How acquired: signed as undrafted free agent in 2012

Barclay continues to be a “glue guy” for the offensive line, and he has played all five positions at one point or another. This year, his likely role is on the interior, certainly backing up starting center Corey Linsley while also likely providing insurance at both guard positions.

Bryan Bulaga

Year: 8th
Age: 28
How acquired: 1st-round draft pick (23 overall) in 2010

Bulaga entered the league very young, at 21 years old, and 2016 was the first time since his rookie year that he did not miss a single game. With Bakhtiari, Bulaga forms one of the best tackle pairings in the NFL — the best in pass protection, according to Pro Football Focus. He remains signed through 2019.

Corey Linsley

Year: 4th
Age: 25
How acquired: 5th-round draft pick (161 overall) in 2014

With JC Tretter’s departure, Linsley remains the team’s long-term plan at center. He missed some significant time early last season with a hamstring issue, but plans to be full strength when camp begins after having surgery on his ankle after last season. He should be in line for a contract extension sometime this season, as he is scheduled to be a free agent next spring.

Kyle Murphy

Year: 2nd
Age: 23 (24 in December)
How acquired: 7th-round draft pick (200 overall) in 2016

Murphy suited up for three games last season while spending the whole season on the active roster. A college left tackle, this year he is working more inside and could be in play as a primary backup (and a potential long-term option) at the guard positions.

Lucas Patrick

Year: 1st
Age: 24 on July 30
How acquired: signed as undrafted free agent in 2016

Patrick spent all of last season on the practice squad, which technically makes him a “first-year player” while not being a rookie. After bulking up and developing over the past year, he will join Murphy and a few others in the battle to back up the guard positions and get consideration as a potential starter in future years.

Jason Spriggs

Year: 2nd
Age: 23
How acquired: 2nd-round draft pick (48 overall) in 2016

The Packers traded up in the second round last year to select Spriggs, who backed up Bakhtiari and Bulaga as a rookie. However, his primary game action came at right guard, where he started two games in relief of an injured T.J. Lang. This year, he has reportedly added 20 pounds of muscle but is likely to stick mostly on the outside.

Lane Taylor

Year: 5th
Age: 27 (28 in November)
How acquired: signed as undrafted free agent in 2013

Taylor made the cut as an undrafted rookie a few years ago and was a steady backup for three years. Then, last season, he was unexpectedly thrust into the starting lineup when the Packers released Josh Sitton on final cut-down day. Taylor played admirably, providing above-average pass blocking at left guard, and helped ease the worries of Packers fans everywhere. This season, he comes in knowing he has a starting job.

NEW ADDITIONS

Kofi Amichia

Year: Rookie
Age: 22
How acquired: 6th-round draft pick (212 overall) in 2017

Amichia was the best athlete among all offensive linemen in this year’s draft class, and he is going to be the Packers’ latest left tackle-to-interior project. Expect him to compete for a roster spot as a backup at guard and possible center.

Jahri Evans

Year: 12th
Age: 33 (34 in August)
How acquired: signed as unrestricted free agent in April 2017

Evans was a surprise signing just before the 2017 NFL Draft, and his arrival eliminated the Packers’ need to find a plug-and-play guard in the draft. Instead, Evans should plug in immediately as the starter at right guard. Although he is not quite the player he was in the early part of this decade (he made six straight Pro Bowls and four straight All-Pro first teams), he should still provide a steady presence until one of the young players is ready to emerge as a starter in 2018 or beyond.

Thomas Evans

Year: Rookie
Age: 23
How acquired: signed as undrafted free agent in 2017

Evans is a workout warrior, setting numerous University of Richmond weight room records. He is likely competing for a practice squad spot, but could surprise and sneak onto the roster.

Geoff Gray

Year: Rookie
Age: 22
How acquired: signed as undrafted free agent in 2017

Gray comes from the University of Manitoba, playing Canadian football until this spring when he showed up for rookie minicamp. Check out our interview with Gray from earlier this offseason here for more on Gray’s background. He will compete at guard and center in camp.

Robert Leff

Year: Rookie
Age: 23
How acquired: signed as undrafted free agent in 2017

Leff was a late addition to the UDFA class, as he first signed with the Atlanta Falcons after the draft but was released early in June. The Packers picked him up a few days later, so the 6’5” tackle has participated in just a few days of OTAs plus minicamp.

Justin McCray

Year: 1st
Age: 25
How acquired: signed as unrestricted free agent in 2017

McCray, the twin brother of former Packers guard Jordan McCray, entered the league in 2014 with the Titans and spent the 2014 season on the practice squad. However, he was out of football after being cut at the end of 2015’s training camp until the Packers signed him this March.

Adam Pankey

Year: Rookie
Age: 23
How acquired: signed as undrafted free agent in 2017

Pankey has a similar career path to Don Barclay, as both players played left tackle at West Virginia and landed with the Packers as UDFAs. Also like Barclay, Pankey will probably compete both at tackle and guard.