There isn’t really any competition for the Green Bay Packers on the offensive line, except for backup jobs. Those backup jobs are actually the interesting part of this conversion, though.
The Packers offensive line was bad in 2015. The starters, as a whole, regressed from the previous season and the backups, save for J.C. Tretter, were a disaster. This year, the Packers are in much better shape.
By inserting Tretter into the starting lineup at center, the Packers became a more athletic unit. With that announcement, the team’s top five became set, with holdovers David Bakhtiari, Josh Sitton, T.J. Lang and Bryan Bulaga.
Now the question becomes, who will provide that oh-so-valuable depth?
With the likes of Jacob Flores, Lucas Patrick and Kyle Steuck more than long shots to make the roster and five spots already taken, Mike McCarthy and Ted Thompson still have a few capable bodies to choose from to provide the quality depth the team lacked last season.
Not having that depth in 2015 was one of the biggest failures of the regime. If you want to see the Packers’ odds move, just insert Don Barclay in at left tackle again.
Obviously, tackle Jason Spriggs is all but certain to secure a backup spot. Not only has he mostly played well, but he’s also a second-round draft pick and the heir apparent to Bakhtiari.
Getting beat by Khalil Mack during the Oakland game didn’t change our perception of Spriggs as a future starter. Mack was a first-team All Pro at two positions in 2015. He’s going to dominate pretty much everyone, especially a rookie.
Although he hasn’t done anything to stand out, guard Lane Taylor is another good bet to make the roster. Taylor started two games in 2015 and played well enough that the Packers signed him to a two-year deal in the offseason. He can operate at either of the guard positions and while he’s not Josh Sitton, the Packers can clearly operate with him on the field.
Almost unthinkable before the preseason began, Barclay also appears to be playing his way into a roster spot. Although he’s been atrocious as a tackle the past couple years, Barclay now seems to have the versatility the Packers love in their offensive linemen. Barclay has primarily played guard and center throughout training camp. With Corey Linsley being injured, he’s currently the backup center and could obviously fill in at any other position if necessary.
We’re not going to call him a lock, but rookie right tackle Kyle Murphy seems to have played well enough to get a roster spot. As a sixth-round pick, we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. The only thing possibly working against Murphy is his lack of versatility. He’s pretty much a right tackle and that’s it.
If you’re counting, that’s nine guys right there and that’s usually the number the Packers keep.
Things are little more complicated this year though.
Like Barclay, Josh Walker is another guy who looked terrible last season only to show up and look like a new man this year. Walker suffered an MCL sprain against Oakland and likely won’t play the final two weeks of the preseason. That alone costs him a roster spot in our eyes.
The wild card here is last year’s starting center, Corey Linsley. He’s been on the physically unable to perform list with a hamstring injury since training gamp opened. He isn’t expected to be ready for the regular season opener, so the Packers may end up stashing him on the PUP list for the first six games. While he’s there, he wouldn’t take up a roster spot.
That would take care of the offensive line for now, but what happens when Linsley returns?
He’s a former starter, but lacks the versatility of Barclay and Taylor. That’s a question for a later day, though.
For now, we’ve got nine offensive linemen sticking. They are Bakhtiari, Sitton, Tretter, Lang, Bulaga, Spriggs, Barclay, Taylor and Murphy, with Linsley starting the season on the PUP list.