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Packers Position Battles: Intriguing competition among offensive line backups emerges

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Jason Spriggs leads the way, but who else will join him as backups on Green Bay's front line?

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

As most of us know, the Packers' top six on the offensive line have been set in stone for quite a while. The starters are David Bahktiari, Josh Sitton, Corey Linsley, TJ Lang, and Bryan Bulaga, with JC Tretter being the jack-of-all trades backup. Where do the Packers go after that though? The Packers had a lot of trouble with depth last year and drafted a couple lineman to help close the gap. However, other than Jason Spriggs, the Packers don't have assurances of who will make the roster among several veteran backups and a handful of rookies.

After the first two preseason games, Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy have had a tough time getting a look at everyone in camp on the offensive line due to injuries. Matt Rotheram, Josh James, and Jacob Flores haven't been able to play due to injuries and local Green Bay product Kyle Steuck got some time in the Oakland game but has not been in camp long enough to get a decent look.

That still leaves quite a few veterans and rookies fighting for a spot on the roster. I see the Packers keeping eight or nine lineman on their active roster and, with six spots already taken (assuming Corey Linsley comes off the PUP list before the season starts), it leaves the remaining players in a tight bind. Spriggs is a certainty to make the squad. He has played well in the preseason and looks to secure a spot on the exterior offensive line. He caught some bad press for the Oakland game but he was beaten by Khalil Mack. Mack has given fits to every offensive lineman he's faced over the last couple years, so it's not surprising that a rookie had trouble with him too. Other than that, he pass- and run-blocked very well and will be a good option on either tackle if an unfortunate circumstance were to happen.

Outside of Spriggs, the Packers have some decisions to make. The Packers have to decide between the injury crew above and those who are getting playing time. Lane Taylor, Don Barclay, Josh Walker, Lucas Patrick and Kyle Murphy have all seen playing time in the first two preseason games.

Taylor has been steady, yet unimpressive. His biggest quality is that he can play either of the guard positions. Barclay struggled mightily in the game against Cleveland, giving up a safety and a couple sacks. However, he played well against Oakland and showed he is able to be versatile while playing any spot on the line. Walker seems to be in a state of flux where he isn't impressive nor has he done anything wrong to keep him from the squad. Patrick is a free agent rookie and has done a good job in the preseason. He's been playing with a club on his hand and played well with his chance at some playing time. He's on the edge of making the squad and will definitely be a candidate for the practice squad. The second 2016 OL draft pick, Kyle Murphy, missed game one but played well against Oakland. He impressed in both the run and pass games and played with a chip on his shoulder. That's exactly what the Packers need in their OL depth. Seeing him against Oakland gives him an advantage going into the last half of the pre-season.

At the end of the day, I'd say that the top seven are as discussed above: Bahktiari, Sitton, Linsley, Lang, Bulaga, Tretter and Spriggs are guaranteed spots. I'd give Murphy the next best shot at making the squad due to his potential and being a recent draft pick. After that, it might be a toss up. As of right now, I'd give the next spot to Taylor with Walker also a possibility. Barclay's play last year and continuing to start slow this year has hurt him. As for the practice squad, Patrick should get the top spot and, based off past performance, Rotheram sticks around. The others are caught in the injury game and can't be really evaluated until they get some playing time. The NFL isn't always a fair business and if you can't play, you can't be evaluated and that will leave you on the outside looking in.

The Packers first cut-down day to 75 is August 30th and they have to be to 53 by September 3rd. It gives the linemen little time to prove themselves but will make an interesting week or so for those fighting for a spot.