Green Bay Packers: Runyan or Newman? What Happens When Bak Returns?

GREEN BAY, WISCONSIN - OCTOBER 03: Royce Newman #70 of the Green Bay Packers is introduced prior to a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Lambeau Field on October 03, 2021 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
GREEN BAY, WISCONSIN - OCTOBER 03: Royce Newman #70 of the Green Bay Packers is introduced prior to a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Lambeau Field on October 03, 2021 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images) /

David Bakhtiari has been back at practice for about two weeks now, and Sunday in Kansas City is when he could make his 2021 debut. The Green Bay Packers have until November 10th to activate him from the PUP list.

But whether Bakhtiari suits up for the first time in Kansas City or if it’s back home the following week against Seattle, when that time comes, the Packers have some decisions to make along the offensive line.

With Bakhtiari back in the mix, Elgton Jenkins likely moves back to left guard, where he has spent most of his career. Lucas Patrick will remain at center until Josh Myers is healthy, and we know Billy Turner will be the right tackle. The decision for Green Bay comes down to starting either Royce Newman or Jon Runyan at right guard.

Despite dealing with numerous injuries and movement along the offensive line, the Green Bay Packers rank third in pass-block win rate and eighth in run-block win rate, according to ESPN. Both Runyan and Newman have certainly taken their lumps as young players, but they’ve provided stability as well.

According to PFF ($$), Runyan has been on the field for 266 pass-blocking snaps this season and has allowed two sacks and 13 pressures at left guard. As a run-blocker, by grade, Runyan ranks 51st out of 80 eligible guards.

Runyan was in the mix for one of the starting guard openings during training camp but was inconsistent in practice and in the preseason games. But when the lights have been on and it’s mattered most, he’s taken his game to a new level.

"“He may have been disappointed in how he played in camp and knew that, ‘If I get another opportunity, I’m not going to let it slip away,’” OL coach Adam Stenavich said via Sports Illustrated. “He’s just playing more fundamentally sound than he was in camp. I think every game you play as a young guy, you can always see it: They just get a little bit better and a little bit better and a little bit better until they become a more polished player, and I think Jon’s doing that.“He’s definitely improving every time he goes out there. He’s very conscious about his fundamentals and putting himself in the right position to succeed. He always plays with great effort and he’s got good athleticism. So, once you put yourself and your body in the right position, you definitely have a chance to block anybody.”"

For Newman, he has been on the field for 307 pass-blocking snaps and allowed four sacks along with 12 total pressures. His run-blocking grade ranks 79th out of 80 eligible guards, and take it as you wish, but his overall grade is the seventh-worst among all guards this season.

But again, that doesn’t tell the entire story either–Newman has handled difficult blocks well, fires off the ball, he looks for help, and once engaged, is often in control.

"“First of all, he’s (Newman) obviously really talented,” said Matt LaFleur last month. He’s still got a lot to learn and he’s still got a lot more potential in front of him. But I think his approach is the right way. He played at a big-time school, which I definitely think helps his ability in terms of past competition being in the SEC.“We think really highly of Royce.”"

So who do the Green Bay Packers start at right guard? Jon Runyan or Royce Newman?

Although I would say Runyan has been more steady, my guess is that Newman continues to get the start at right guard. For starters, there is the continuity. While there has been a lot of shuffling along the offensive line this season, Newman and Turner on the right side have provided stability. Runyan also has only 22 career snaps at right guard, compared to 586 at left guard–that’s not everything, but it is something.

Newman won the job coming out of training camp, and through various press conferences, it’s easy to see that Matt LaFleur and this Green Bay Packers team really like what they have in the rookie–the quote above is just one of several examples.

For Runyan, that would mean taking on the backup role once again, giving Green Bay one of the best backup guards in the game–which is quite the luxury to have. Not to mention that when Myers returns, Patrick will be an option off the bench as well–the depth of this unit is truly amazing.

If there is one thing that we’ve learned about LaFleur during his tenure as head coach, it’s that he isn’t afraid to mix things up along the offensive line or roll with a lineup that no one expects—who knows, maybe Jenkins goes to center. And if Newman — or anyone — struggles, LaFleur will make a change. But based on what we’ve seen and heard so far, I think Newman will be the one to stay on the field.