Detroit Lions, NFC North positional previews: Offensive Line

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 30: Frank Ragnow #77 of the Detroit Lions at AT&T Stadium on September 30, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 30: Frank Ragnow #77 of the Detroit Lions at AT&T Stadium on September 30, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

Green Bay Packers

Key returning players: David Bakhtiari, Corey Linsley, Bryan Bulaga, Lane Taylor, Jason Spriggs, Lucas Patrick, Justin Mcray

New additions: Elgton Jenkins (R), Billy Turner

Key losses: Byron Bell

Led by All-Pro David Bakhtiari at left tackle, the Green Bay Packers have an experienced group up front that has helped their offense deliver some impressive performances over the last few years. A new coaching staff will look to continue that trend, while coaxing some improved results out of a group of expensive veterans as well in 2019.

According to Pro Football Focus’ (PFF) player grading system, Bakhtiari ranked number one among 80 qualifying tackles in 2018. When he’s not crushing the competition in beer-chugging contests, he’s the principal bodyguard for quarterback Aaron Rodgers, and a key team leader. He is signed through 2020, and will be in line for a massive contract extension next year.

Bryan Bulaga returns to start on the right side, though he is in the last year of his contract. He has also been slowed by multiple injuries in recent years, missing 13 games over the last two seasons. He’s a rock when healthy, but the Packers could look for a youth infusion next season at right tackle. Former second rounder Jason Spriggs has struggled in four years, and is likely not the long term answer at the position.

Center Corey Linsley is as steady as they come, playing every offensive snap last year, the third time he has accomplished that feat in his five seasons. He’s just another premier offensive lineman produced by Ohio State University. Playing next to him will likely be two veterans in Lane Taylor and Billy Turner. Taylor struggled in 2018, particularly in his run blocking. Ditto for Turner with the Denver Broncos last season, though the Packers signed him to a four-year $28 million contract to be a starter at some spot on the line.

Should one of them falter again, Green Bay could look to rookie Elgton Jenkins, selected in the second round in April. Jenkins was a versatile stud at Mississippi State, playing all over the line in his time as a Bulldog.

Jenkins is an average athlete and may struggle initially in helping spring running back Aaron Jones for long runs deep down the field. But he is stout at the point of attack and seems more than likely to become a starter sooner rather than later. Linemen selected in the early rounds seem to have a way of doing that.

As offensive coordinator with the Tennessee Titans last season, new head coach Matt LaFleur oversaw an offensive line that helped accumulate the seventh most rushing yards, but struggled with pass protection to the tune of 47 sacks allowed. That was just six less than the Packers allowed in 2018.

If LaFleur is to get the most out of Rodgers while he’s in his prime, the line will need to get typically strong performances from their top veterans, and probably some contributions from some young players as well.