This Green Bay Packers offensive line unit that was the best in football last season by several metrics looks a bit different in 2021.
They are, of course, without David Bakhtiari for the time being, which means Elgton Jenkins has moved to left tackle. Green Bay also has two rookies starting along the interior, and in two weeks, they’ve had two different left guards.
However, despite the movement and having a few new faces through the first two games, the offensive line has held up relatively well even though they’ve taken a few lumps here and there.
By PFF’s metrics ($$), Green Bay is right in the middle in terms of pressures allowed, having given up the 15th most through two weeks–although this early in the season the margin for error is small, with two or three fewer pressures being the difference between ranking 15th and being in the top-10. The Green Bay Packers also rank 10th in run-blocking grade.
Then by ESPN’s pass-block win rate metric, Green Bay ranks fifth, and in run-block win rate, they rank 11th–again, not bad at all, especially with all of the changes that have taken place.
This week, however, they will face a very challenging test in a group of San Francisco 49ers edge rushers made up of Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead, and Dee Ford. Not to mention that with all of the movement and changes that have already taken place along this offensive line unit, there could be more coming.
After two games, the Niners have tallied 52 pressures, which is the third-most in football–they also have five sacks. Armstead is second in total pressures with 15, while Bosa is tied for 15th, and defensive lineman Kentavius Street ranks eighth among his position group.
On top of that, the Green Bay Packers will be dealing with real crowd noise for the first time since 2019, as this will be their first true away game in a sold-out stadium.
“Two years ago, it was tough to operate from an offensive standpoint because it was a pretty chaotic environment, so I anticipate that being much the same,” said Matt LaFleur via Packers.com.
As LaFleur mentions, crowd noise can cause issues for the entire offense, as well as the offensive line, but this is especially true for the two rookies Josh Myers and Royce Newman. However, as Aaron Rodgers told reporters, this is something that the team has been preparing for over the last month:
“We’re going to have to do a good of handling it with our young guys up front,” Rodgers said of the crowd noise and communication via Packers.com. “But that’s what we’ve been working on the last, I’d say month of camp, and the first two weeks of the season is the silent count and being ready to adjust to that, adjust to the noise.”
But it’s not only the stout 49ers’ pass rush and crowd noise that the offensive line will have to contend with; there again may be more movement and changes made to the starting five.
The big news from Wednesday was that Elgton Jenkins missed practice with an ankle injury that he suffered on Monday Night against the Lions. LaFleur told reporters that he would have the week to prepare, and if they’re confident in how Jenkins is feeling, he will play–but as of now, his status is unknown.
We all know how devastating it would be for this offense to not have Jenkins on the field, especially against this San Francisco pass rush. If he is unable to play, Green Bay would likely move Billy Turner to left tackle and start Dennis Kelly at right tackle.
In addition to the uncertainty at left tackle, LaFleur also has to make a decision at left guard. Lucas Patrick was the Week 1 starter, but Jon Runyan started against Detroit after Patrick missed most of the week in concussion protocol–and to Runyan’s credit, he performed quite well.
As LaFleur often says, they will put the best five on the field and will use practice this week to determine if that will be Runyan or Patrick–but yet again, it’s another decision and possible shakeup to the offensive line that will be made.
There’s no sugarcoating it, the Green Bay Packers offensive line will have to play well — and it won’t be easy — if they’re going to have a chance to win, but finding success on the ground can certainly help limit the Niners’ pass rush.
As we saw against Detroit in comparison to the New Orleans game, leaning on the run game and involving Aaron Jones heavily does wonders for this Green Bay Packers offense overall. So for that reason alone, once again, Jones and AJ Dillon should be featured against a 49ers’ defense that is allowing 5.0 yards per carry this season.
Establishing the run and finding success will also help the offensive line by allowing Green Bay to be the aggressors, rather than sitting back in pass-pro, and it will help mitigate the San Francisco pass rush as well.
This matchup between the Green Bay offensive line and 49ers pass rushers will be one of the bigger determining factors in this game. If the Packers can move the ball on the ground and give Aaron Rodgers some time, they’ll always have a fighting chance.
But on the other hand, if they abandon the run and Rodgers is under constant duress, then this game could get out of hand quickly.