Starters (D): Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang were the starting guards seven months ago. As of today, Lane Taylor and Don Barclay are atop the depth chart. That’s like going from Simon and Garfunkel to the Captain and Tennille. And while Taylor would up doing a decent job replacing Sitton last season, it won’t be as easy filling the void left by Lang’s exit to Detroit. Barclay is best suited to a backup role and there doesn’t appear to be any younger players ready to step up.
Depth (F): If the regular season started today – and thank God it doesn’t – Lucas Patrick would likely be the No. 3 guard. And while the former undrafted free agent from Duke did flash some intriguing potential last summer, having him be one turned ankle away from protecting Aaron Rodgers isn’t what anyone wants to see – especially Rodgers. Another young player to consider at the position is right tackle Kyle Murphy, who has the skill set to slide a few feet to his left. What the former sixth-round draft pick doesn’t have – at least right now – is the experience. He’s been a tackle since his freshman year at the University of Stanford.
Player to watch: Patrick first came to my attention in the preseason opener last August. That’s because the then anonymous rookie was holding his own vs. the Browns. His solid work continued all summer – even with a broken hand that forced him to wear a club. Patrick has a similar skill set to Lang. He possesses decent size, plenty of toughness and just enough athleticism to get the job done. That said, counting on him to replace the All-Pro next season is probably unrealistic.
*Level of need: The O-line did just fine without Sitton, but that was because 80% of the unit was still comprised of Pro Bowl caliber players. The percentage will be down to 60% in 2017, so chances are the loss of Lang will be felt more. How much more will be determined by what Thompson does in the next few months. Whether through free agency or the draft, he needs to find a legit starter at right guard. Otherwise, what has been a strength for years could turn into a weakness.