Development of Green Bay Packers Young Guards have Provided Stability to OL

Sep 20, 2021; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Green Bay Packers guard Jon Runyan (76) during the game against the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 20, 2021; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Green Bay Packers guard Jon Runyan (76) during the game against the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports /

Stability is likely not the word that first comes to mind when thinking of this 2021 Green Bay Packers offensive line. And the reason for that is because of all the movement that has taken place.

Due to numerous injuries, the Packers have trotted out eight different offensive line combinations in their first 14 games, and of their five preferred starters, they are down four of them, with Royce Newman as the only current Week 1 starter still at his original position.

Yet despite not having David Bakhtiari and losing Elgton Jenkins, Josh Myers, and Billy Turner along the way, this Green Bay Packers offensive line continues to hold up quite well.

According to ESPN’s win rate metrics, Green Bay ranks fifth in run-blocking and eighth in pass-blocking. They’ve also given up the 10th fewest quarterback pressures this season, according to PFF ($$).

Now, this success isn’t without some assistance from Matt LaFleur and Aaron Rodgers. The run game, where the offensive line can be the aggressor, is certainly helpful, not to mention that tight end chips, the quick passing game, motion, and play-action are all important as well.

But all things considered, this group has held up very well. Rodgers, for the most part, has the time that he needs, and while the run game isn’t logging as many chunk plays as they did a season ago, the backs have been effective enough.

Of course, this is a credit to LaFleur, Adam Stenavich, and the unit as a whole, but amidst all of the movement and uncertainty, it’s been the Green Bay Packers young guards, Royce Newman and Jon Runyan, who have continued to develop and helped provide that stability.

It was a very up and down start to the season for Newman, which should have been expected since he is a Day 3 rookie. As Stenavich told reporters, Newman was fighting inconsistency like many rookies do, and at one point, he was one of PFF’s lowest graded guards. However, he has really settled in over the last seven games, especially in pass-protection.

According to PFF, since the Arizona game, Newman has allowed two or fewer pressures in five of those seven contests. In fact, in those five games that didn’t include Aaron Donald or Chris Jones lined up across from him, Newman has the second-highest pass-blocking grade from PFF during that span.

"“Just getting experience” has been the key, Newman said via SI. “Just every week, learning IDs and different fronts, how to ID that differently. I feel like I’m getting a lot better at that, just kind of seeing the whole picture, just kind of seeing what can all happen. College, the defenses, scheme-wise, are not crazy like this, so just kind of like just IDing everything and getting better at my landmarks and how I need to block a certain combo.”"

At left guard, Runyan has been incredibly steady for the Green Bay Packers even though he was quickly eliminated from the starting guard competition during training camp. This season, Runyan has allowed just two sacks, 18 pressures, and he ranks 16th among all guards in PFF’s pass-blocking efficiency metric.

Meanwhile, Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon are averaging 5.8 yards per rush on 40 attempts when they run between Runyan and Yosh Nijman.

"“He had some ups and downs in preseason, as we saw. But the one good thing about him is he keeps learning from his mistakes, keeps fixing those things and making new mistakes instead of the same old ones,” offensive line coach Adam Stenavich explained via the Wisconsin State Journal. “That’s what we say in the O-line room: ‘Don’t repeat the mistakes. Make new mistakes and fix the old ones.’ He’s just doing a good job with that.“He just plays hard, he plays with great effort, he uses his fundamentals. He’s not perfect, but he’s getting better with that. If he just keeps rolling, he’s going to do some good things around here.”"

As Bill Huber noted in a recent article, the Green Bay Packers offense is playing at a very high level right now. Over the last four games, Rodgers ranks first in passer rating, yards, touchdowns, and yards per attempt, while the offense as a whole ranks first in total points as well as total offense during that span.

As I often discuss, there’s always more than one reason behind any success or failure but oftentimes in football, either begins with the play of the offensive line. Somehow this group continues to perform well despite a litany of injuries, and one reason behind the offense’s late surge is the continued development of the young guards.