Green Bay Packers: LaFleur to Remain Flexible with OL in Bak’s Absence

Dec 13, 2020; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur looks at his play sheet during the first quarter against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 13, 2020; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur looks at his play sheet during the first quarter against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports /

Matt LaFleur mentions to the media that the Green Bay Packers’ offensive line configuration could change week to week with David Bakhtiari out.

On Friday, Matt LaFleur confirmed what had already been reported, and that is that the Green Bay Packers will have to finish out the regular season and make their playoff push without All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari after he tore his ACL in practice on Thursday.

So now the big question is, who is going to start at left tackle, and what will the rest of the offensive line look like?

Well, if we go off of what the Packers did earlier this season during Weeks 7 through 9 when Bakhtiari missed time, Billy Turner will take his place at left tackle. This creates the least amount of movement along the offensive line as it keeps Elgton Jenkins and Corey Linsley at their natural positions; Lucas Patrick would play right guard where he’s seen plenty of action, and the same goes for Rick Wagner at right tackle.

During this previous stretch without Bakhtiari, Turner filled in admirably, allowing only one sack and four pressures over two and a half games. As a unit, the offensive line allowed just one sack, 15 pressures, and the offense averaged over 30 points per game.

However, when trying to decipher who Matt LaFleur is going to start along the offensive line and where may not be so simple. And when talking with the media on Friday, he also mentioned that just because we see one lineup against Chicago doesn’t mean that it won’t change in the playoffs, saying “it’s something that could change on a weekly basis.”

Dating back to training camp over the summer, LaFleur has made it very clear since then that his goal is to put the best five offensive linemen on the field, and he’s done an excellent job at that. But given the depth of this unit along with the versatility, who those five are and where they play may change from week to week depending on who the Green Bay Packers are playing.

While injuries have dictated some of the movement, we’ve also seen LaFleur switch things up on his own. Rick Wagner started off the season at right tackle while Turner was out injured, and he allowed no sacks and only two pressures during the first two games. Upon Turner’s return, putting him back at right guard where he played all of 2019 seemed like the move that was going to be made, but instead, Wagner was benched, and Turner took his spot at right tackle.

More recently, after being pushed around by Carolina, Lucas Patrick was benched, and Turner was moved to right guard, with Wagner becoming the new right tackle. We’ve also seen rookie Jon Runyan Jr. play both guard positions, and Elgton Jenkins as played both tackle positions as well. There have been countless other moves that have been made this season, once again, some because of injuries, but others because LaFleur was trying to find the best five against that particular opponent.

When it comes to offensive line play, continuity among the five can be a very important factor. But if we’ve learned anything this season, it’s that it doesn’t mean nearly as much to this 2020 Green Bay Packers team. Jenkins has taken at least one snap at every position; Turner has played both tackle spots and right guard, Patrick and Runyan have played both guard positions, while Wagner has taken snaps at each tackle position.

On top of that, Turner has missed some time this season due to an injury, as has Linsley, Bakhtiari, and Wagner. What may look hectic and like a lack of continuity to one team is normal to this one. And it’s because of this that LaFleur is willing to make changes on a week to week basis. The ability to mix and match like this at the NFL level is not normal, not even close, and LaFleur is going to use it to his advantage.

Next. 3 X-Factors in Pivotal Week 17 Matchup. dark

There’s no question that losing Bakhtiari is a huge blow to this offense, but with the versatility of the offensive line and LaFleur’s flexibility as a Head Coach, it certainly is a loss that the Green Bay Packers can overcome. As LaFleur mentioned, the goal doesn’t change; they just might not accomplish it in the traditional sense.

"“Our standards, our expectations — they don’t change. We’re very fortunate to have a lot of depth at that position and the versatility of guys that can play multiple spots. We’ll lean on that, we’ll rally around each other and we’re going to make the best of it.”"

Quote and stats via Packer Report and Pro Football Focus ($)