Look for Green Bay Packers to Add a “Guy or Two” at OT

Tackle David Bakhtiari (69) blocks tackle Yosh Nijman (73) during Green Bay Packers training camp at Ray Nitschke Field Tuesday, July 30, 2019, in Ashwaubenon, Wis.Gpg Packers Training Camp 073019 Jc0297
Tackle David Bakhtiari (69) blocks tackle Yosh Nijman (73) during Green Bay Packers training camp at Ray Nitschke Field Tuesday, July 30, 2019, in Ashwaubenon, Wis.Gpg Packers Training Camp 073019 Jc0297 /

As the Green Bay Packers battled injuries along the offensive line last season, we all saw how valuable it can be to have reliable depth at one of the game’s most important positions. In fact, if you include the playoffs, the Packers utilized seven different offensive line configurations in 2021.

Now, as should have been expected, this group wasn’t as dominant as they were in 2020. The run game was unable to generate the same number of big plays, and while Aaron Rodgers was oftentimes kept clean, that wasn’t without proper game-planning, leaning on the quick passing game, and help from the tight ends and running backs as additional blockers.

With that said, all things considered, this group held up well, for the most part, and with that many injuries, there of course, was going to be some drop-off in play. But in the end, Green Bay did still win 13 games.

However, as we look ahead to this upcoming season, there are some real question marks around the overall depth of this unit, specifically at tackle for the Green Bay Packers.

Since the season ended, Dennis Kelly has become a free agent, while Billy Turner was released and has since signed with Denver. The good news is that David Bakhtiari will return, but Elgton Jenkins is still sidelined with an ACL injury, and we do not know when he will return. After those two, the only other likely option for playing time is Yosh Nijman.

Royce Newman and Cole Van Lanen have tackle experience from their time in college, but both are going to be at their best inside. As it currently stands, the only true tackles on the roster who are healthy are Bakhtiari and Nijman, which is why offensive coordinator Adam Stenavich told reporters on Tuesday that Green Bay still needs to add a “guy or two” at offensive tackle.

For starters, the Green Bay Packers simply need to bolster their depth at the position, and not only for the 2022 season but beyond as well. Currently, the only offensive tackle under contract in 2023 is Bakhtiari. On top of that, it also wouldn’t be a bad idea to bring in some competition for Nijman at that right tackle spot, either.

Right now, it is presumed that Nijman is going to be the starting right tackle in Week 1, but he hasn’t played that position since his final year at Virginia Tech, and while he was able to hold his own at left tackle last season — with some help — it is telling that the coaching staff chose Turner to play left tackle in the playoff game over Nijman. Matt LaFleur and his coaching staff often tell us that when it comes to the offensive line, it’s about putting the best five on the field– and in the Packers’ biggest game of the season, they didn’t believe that included Nijman.

Both Stenavich and offensive line coach Luke Butkus mentioned that Nijman would have the opportunity to earn the starting right tackle job this season; however, nothing is set in stone by any means. But at this time, the big question is, who would he even be competing against?

In addition to building the depth at a premier position, along with providing needed competition for Nijman, if the Green Bay Packers can find a reliable presence at right tackle — whether it be Nijman, a free agent, or a draft pick — it will give them the option to keep Jenkins at guard when he returns, which in turn, will make the interior all that much better as well.

Although the position looks rather thin at the moment — because it is — the Packers can beef up the depth pretty quickly. Spending one of their seven picks within the first four rounds on the position while also adding an inexpensive Dennis Kelly-like veteran following the draft suddenly changes things quite a bit.

An offensive tackle room made up of Bakhtiari, Nijman, a rookie, and a veteran free agent, plus the eventual return of Jenkins, very quickly becomes a fairly stout unit. So there is certainly a path to fixing this lack of depth issue, but as Stenavich mentioned, it’s going to require Green Bay to venture outside of the organization through either the draft, free agency, or both.