Green Bay Packers: Jon Runyan Looks to Cement Himself as a Starting Guard

Green Bay Packers guard Jon Runyan (76) is shown Saturday, August 15, 2020 during the team's first practice at training camp in Green Bay, Wis.Packers16 11 Hoffman
Green Bay Packers guard Jon Runyan (76) is shown Saturday, August 15, 2020 during the team's first practice at training camp in Green Bay, Wis.Packers16 11 Hoffman /

Depending on whether or not David Bakhtiari is ready to play Week 1, there will be either one or two starting spots open along the Green Bay Packers offensive line–both of which will be at the guard position.

If Bakhtiari can go, then that likely leaves Billy Turner at right tackle, Elgton Jenkins at left guard, and Josh Myers at center, with the right guard position available. If Bakhtiari isn’t ready, then Turner and Jenkins will be the tackles with Myers still at center and both guard positions open.

When it comes to the Green Bay Packers offensive line, one thing that they aren’t lacking is competition with Royce Newman, Lucas Patrick, Cole Van Lanen, Ben Braden, Jon Runyan Jr., and Simon Stepaniak, all competing for playing time. However, it may be the former sixth-round pick Jon Runyan Jr. who is the favorite to emerge for one of those starting guard openings.

Runyan was primarily a left tackle during his time at Michigan, allowing only four sacks along with 34 pressures over 906 career pass-blocking snaps, according to PFF ($$). As a rookie, he made the transition to guard and was a backup for much of the 2020 season.

However, due to the many injuries sustained along the Packers’ offensive line, Runyan appeared in nine games last year, including three where he saw over 30 snaps and two where he saw more than 50. Over his 81 pass-blocking snaps, Runyan didn’t allow a sack, wasn’t called for a penalty and gave up four pressures.

Even with the constant shuffling that occurred along the offensive line last season, including relying heavily on a sixth-round rookie for 161 of those snaps, the Green Bay Packers didn’t miss a beat up front as they were considered by many metrics the best offensive line unit in football last season.

"“I think Jon’s done amazing,” Lucas Patrick said via after a win over Carolina. “Knowing that role is pretty (much) standing on the sidelines for 30, 40, sometimes 50 plays and then having to go in and play hard, it can be tough. Your body is tight but Jon comes in with a very quiet confidence.“Really, we haven’t missed a beat when he’s been in there, which is a credit to him and kind of how he’s approached his rookie year because sometimes it can be overwhelming.”"

As Runyan told reporters, he has focused on continuing to develop his body to better handle the size and athleticism of players that he will be up against at the NFL level. He is also working to refine his technique and fundamentals both as a run-blocker and a pass-blocker. For the former Wolverine, it comes down to “trying to find one more thing I can work on at the next practice out there that’ll get me just a little bit more better and put me in a better place.”

"“I think it’s a testament to him and just how he approaches the game, how he studies,” said offensive line coach Adam Stenavich via Forbes Sports. “There’s a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes that even I’m not involved with. It’s just him studying on his own and getting ready through his own film studies and all that stuff.“With a rookie, you never know No. 1, how they grasp the game of football, and then No. 2 their work ethic and what they’ve done in the past. It’s just a testament to him and how he’s been trained as far as the game of football and is it easy for him to pick things up. For the most part, he’s been able to come in and just keep improving. That’s a huge deal.”"

With Bakhtiari sidelined during OTAs and mini-camp, along with Jenkins missing some time as well, Runyan had plenty of reps with the starters during offseason programs, and he will continue to see more as Green Bay determines who their starting five are going to be. Ultimately it is going to come down to how Runyan and everyone else performs during training camp and the preseason–which is now only a few weeks away.

Although it was a small sample size from a season ago, Jon Runyan Jr. flashed that starting guard potential that he has. If he can continue to develop and make a Year 2 jump that so many successful NFL players have made following their rookie seasons, then he has just as good of a chance as any — if not better — to win a starting job. And not only for 2021 but for years to come.

"“I think you find out a lot about guys when you get in the heat of a battle,” said Matt LaFleur via Forbes Sports. “Certainly this game is not too big for him, and that’s one thing I think you’re always kind of unsure about when you get young guys and you put them into the mix. Do they give the deer-in-headlights look or do they just not flinch and not blink and just go about their business. That’s what he’s been able to do. That’s a credit to him.“Certainly he’s played big-time football before, coming from Michigan, and that’s one of the things you love about him. Certainly he’s been around the game for a really long time with his dad, but he’s just able to transfer what he does in practice onto the game field.”"