While the defense was the primary focus of Gute’s recent rapid-fire free agency binge, OL Billy Turner also joined the team mostly in the shadow of the Smith acquisitions. Who is Billy Turner and what does he have to offer the Packers under Matt LaFleur?
Billy Turner started in all 56 games he played while attending North Dakota State University from 2010 through 2013. During the 2013 season he didn’t give up a sack and was named All-Missouri Valley Football Conference. Turner was part of three FCS national championship teams and among the best small school prospects of the 2014 NFL Draft.
Drafted in the third round of the 2014 draft by the Miami Dolphins, Turner was the highest selected player from North Dakota State since 2002. The 6’ 5”, 310 pound turner played in two games in 2014 and 13 at right guard in 2015. When the Dolphins were short at left tackle due to injury and illness in 2016, Turner stepped in to start. However, Turner was released following a game against the Titans in which he allowed several sacks.
A few days following his release, Turner was signed by the Baltimore Ravens, but three days later, he was again released. The very next day, Turner was back in the league with the Denver Broncos. However, he would play in only four games with the Broncos before breaking his hand against the Giants in October 2017, ending his season.
Finally healthy for a full season, Turner played admirably last season. In 16 games, he made 11 starts, including the last seven at left guard. Ranked 33rd among NFL guards by Pro Football Focus, Turner is solid enough to be a starting NFL guard. In 40 games and 24 starts, Turner has been solid in terms of penalties with just four holding and four false start infractions.
Turner has proven to be a versatile player who can play both guard and tackle and is an upgrade at the guard position for the Packers. He should fit in well with Matt LaFleur’s West Coast zone blocking scheme in the run game. In the traditional power blocking scheme, each player has a designated assignment. The zone blocking scheme differs in that players have to be more reactive. The players are assigned to certain “zones” and you block anyone entering that zone.
The addition of Turner should also help solidify the interior of the line in the passing game, giving Aaron Rodgers ample time to throw. As we all know, Rodgers is at his best with time in the pocket to spare. The Packers have been at their best when the offensive line was thriving and strive to return to those days.
Turner alone is certainly no silver bullet method to achieve this, however, he is an important piece of the overall strategy going forward. With that said, was he worth the cost? This is Turner’s biggest payday so far in a career that includes short stints with several different teams and only one solid season. He is joining the team with very little margin for error on his own part. He will be expected to be productive and healthy while the team leverages his versatility on the line.