Assuming the Packers are OK with David Bakhtiari’s contract and balky left knee, the team appears set at four of the five positions on the offensive line. Elgton Jenkins is a Pro Bowl-caliber left guard, Josh Myers has been an adequate starter at center for the past two seasons, and the coaches appear comfortable with steady Jon Runyan at right guard. That leaves right tackle as the biggest question mark heading into an offseason with very little cap space and plenty of questions.
Four players took snaps at right tackle last season, and none stuck a claim to the position for 2023. As it stands today, and things could certainly change following the draft, here are the top candidates to protect the QB’s frontside come September:
The former Indiana star lost 30 pounds after going undrafted and proved to be a pleasant surprise last summer. Tape suggested Jones didn’t have the quickness to block NFL edge rushers, but he didn’t embarrass himself against Rashan Gary and Preston Smith on the practice field and more than held his own against backups in the preseason. GM Brian Gutekunst thought enough of Jones to promote him from the active roster when another team showed interest before Week 2. The 23-year-old didn’t play a snap as a rookie but figures to be in the mix for the starting job at right tackle in 2023. The biggest – pardon the pun – obstacle Jones will have to overcome is his size. There’s a reason there have been so few 6-foot-9 offensive tackles in the history of the league. Very few human beings that height have the athleticism to play the position. Such a long frame creates natural leverage issues. When Jones struggled in college, it was often due to limited knee bend that caused him to labor to cut off edge speed and adjust to moving targets in space. That wasn’t much a problem last summer, but there’s a big difference blocking skilled defensive players in August as compared to November.
It’s hard to shake last impressions, so Nijman will have a lot to overcome if he’s to retain the starting job at right tackle. When we last saw the former undrafted free agent from Virginia Tech, he was getting abused by Lions rookie defensive end Aiden Hutchinson. Things got so bad that Nijman was benched after only 24 snaps. Prior to that game, the 27-year-old had been adequate after moving from left tackle in Week 7, although he never looked totally comfortable. That’s not a surprise. Former All-Pro guard Josh Sitton once compared switching sides of the line to “trying to wipe your ass with the opposite hand.” Still, it’s fair to wonder if Nijman has what it takes to be a long-term starter, even if he settles in at right tackle. He possesses ideal measurables for the position (6-foot-7, 314 pounds, and 34-inch arm length) but doesn’t always play to those numbers. He struggled at times to handle power in pass protection and didn’t generate consistent movement in the run game. Gutekunst will likely place a second-round tender worth $4.3 million on Nijman in the next few. That’s not huge money, but it’s enough to make him the clear frontrunner at right tackle heading into offseason workouts.
Claimed off waivers from Indy last October, the massive Tenuta (6-8, 319) spent the final 10 games of the season on the active roster but played only seven snaps. He was a teammate of Nijman’s at Virginia Tech in 2018 and left the school as the better prospect. Tenuta moves surprisingly well for such a large man, and that makes his an effective run blocker, especially on the move. Pass protection will ultimately determine his fate in the NFL. Like the vast majority of young offensive linemen over 6-foot-6, the 23-year-old will need to improve his technique in order to hold up against elite rushers. He was often susceptible to quick, inside counters in college. Tenuta started at least 10 games at both tackle positions as a Hokie but probably lacks the feet to line up on the left side at this level. Being primarily a one-position player won’t help him when it comes to choosing a final 53. Tenuta probably won’t be prepared to take on the likes of Hutchinson in 2023, but it wouldn’t be a shock to see him stick on the practice squad if he shows progress in training camp.
The impressive rookie ended the season at right tackle after replacing Nijman early in the Week 18 game against the Lions. While Tom also struggled with Hutchinson, he was at least able to slow down the No. 2 overall pick in the 2022 draft. There’s not a position the 23-year-old can’t play, but he’s much better suited for left tackle or center. At barely over 300 pounds, Tom lacks the size most teams prefer at right tackle. Still, it’s hard to imagine he won’t be one of the top five offensive linemen, so the coaches are going to want to find a place for him. What gives the former Wake Forest standout a chance to succeed at a spot usually occupied by much bigger players is good technique and above-average athleticism. Tom is able to get positioning and secure good fits in the run game to seal lanes, and he plays on his feet with good balance in pass protection. The latter skill enabled him to surrender only one sack and 11 pressures in 296 dropbacks last season. The guess here is that Tom won’t be the No. 1 option at right tackle heading into training camp, but it would come as no surprise if he leapfrogs a player or two on the depth chart and winds up starting on opening day.
Despite seeing limited reps in practice, Walker was so impressive in the final preseason game that he earned a spot on the 53-man roster. Granted, it was against backups, but the former Penn State standout flashed the physical skills that made him a potential Day 2 draft pick prior to suffering a torn meniscus midway through his junior year. Walker looks the part of an NFL right tackle. He’s blessed with an impressive combination of size (6-5, 324), athleticism, and strength. What dropped him to the seventh round last April – besides the knee injury – was a lack of consistency. He could shut down a high-quality edge rusher one week and then look surprisingly vulnerable against a much less talented player seven days later. But when Walker is at his best, he’s capable of moving defenders in the run game and providing rock-solid pass protection. Of the four returning players who figure to battle for the job at right tackle, he’s the one with the highest ceiling and the lowest floor. That’s why there’s a pretty good chance he’ll either be starting by 2024 or out of the league.
There’s also a chance the starting right tackle in 2023 isn’t on the roster yet. With the 15th pick in round 1, Gutekunst could be interested in Ohio State’s Paris Johnson Jr. or Georgia’s Broderick Jones, a pair of big-time prospects from big-time programs. The Packers haven’t drafted an O-lineman in the first round since Obama’s first term, so they’re overdue.
[yop_poll id=” 85″]
9 thoughts on “Plenty of Candidates At Right Tackle”
If the Packers use the draft for the Right Tackle position, I think it would make more sense to use a second round pick on Ohio State RT Dawand Jones than to use a first round pick on Paris Johnson Jr. or Broderick Jones.
I don’t understand using a high pick on an O-lineman this year. It seems pretty likely that the position group is mostly set and that there is some impressive depth.
I think the Packers could definitely use more help along the OL. The group is nothing special from center to right tackle. Another stud would make a huge difference.
If I had to choose where to spend the Packers #1 pick between the 2 lines, DL would make a lot more sense. When Gute loads up at a position the way he has at RT, it usually means he *doesn’t* intend to use draft capital at that position. At least not on day 1 or day 2.
The Eagles are a great example of what a dominant line can mean for an offense. I’d have no problem with Gutekunst drafting a tackle at 15. Rodgers didn’t need two stud tackles when he was in his prime, but whoever is playing QB next season is going to need excellent protection. Rodgers doesn’t move very well at almost 40, and the last thing a young QB like Love needs is constant pressure in his face.
I can see Gutekunst selecting an OT in the first round, if he stays with the 15th pick. I think he may prefer to use a second day pick on a TE and may find a S he likes a lot in the second day. And he tends to like WR’s outside the first round. An edge rusher fits a first round pick well also.
Selecting an OT not only gives him a likely starter at RT, but possibly an heir at LT. It also allows Tom to compete with Myers at C. One pick could improve two positions.
Admittedly, selecting an edge rusher also mets an immediate need and is a possible heir to P. Smith.
To be fair wasn’t Nijman dealing with a shoulder injury against the Lions?
I’m anxious to see how Caleb Jones looks with a year of experience under his belt. If he cleans up his technique, he has a chance to be a good player. I watched a lot of his games at Indiana, and there were flashes of greatness even when he was way too heavy.
these guys are marginal at best. It is clearly an area of need.
We are kidding ourselves to think otherwise