Packers won’t know ‘best five’ on OL until the pads come on

By: Paul Bretl 6/13/24

If the hope was to come out of these OTA and minicamp practices with an idea of what the Packers’ starting offensive line is going to look like this summer, well, you’re going to be disappointed. The constant movement and lack of pads made that a very tall task. 

“No, I don’t think so,” said Matt LaFleur after Wednesday’s practice when asked if there is clarity around what the starting line will look like. “I mean there’s been some good work that’s been put in. I think it’s really important to work on the fundamentals, but the fact of the matter is we’re not in pads.

“And I don’t think you’ll really, truly know until we get out there, we get pads on. I thought for the most part our guys up front did a pretty decent job taking care of one another.” 

During Wednesday’s practice alone, there were two different starting offensive line configurations utilized. The first consisted of Rasheed Walker at left tackle, followed by Elgton Jenkins, Josh Myers, Sean Rhyan, and Andre Dillard. Jordan Morgan would then end up taking Rhyan’s place at right guard for some reps.  

Throughout the five OTA and minicamp practices that have been open to the media, in addition to the configurations described above, we’ve seen Morgan at both tackle spots and left guard, along with Dillard at left tackle as well, all of which has resulted in a number of different starting combinations utilized in a very short amount of practice time.

“I think it (the starting offensive line) will kind of unfold when we get into camp and especially when we get into the preseason games,” added LaFleur. “We’ve got two opportunities to practice against somebody else, so I think it will unfold for us in training camp.” 

What we know so far is that Walker has been taking the bulk of the left tackle reps. Myers has been the center, Rhyan has played mostly right guard and Jenkins left guard with Zach Tom sidelined with a pec injury.

The wildcard in all of this seems to be where Morgan will end up. Once that is decided, it seems like the starting offensive line unit will begin to take shape. 

In the meantime, it’s not only Morgan who is learning as an incoming rookie, but the Packers’ coaching staff is also trying to learn where he fits best in conjunction with the other four members of the offensive line unit. Remember, as the Packers search for the “best five,” it’s not necessarily about where Morgan is best but what combination makes the unit as a whole the most cohesive. When it comes to offensive line play, the sum of the parts are greater than any one individual. 

In part, the Packers are moving Morgan around because they believe in the value of cross-training linemen in case injuries strike. But also, in order to properly evaluate where Morgan fits best amongst the group, the Packers need a large enough sample size of him playing each position. 

This is why, throughout the practices, he has been playing musical chairs along the offensive line, which has put a heavy workload on Morgan’s shoulders. Not only is he adjusting to the speed of the NFL game and learning a new playbook, but he’s being asked to play both sides of the line and both guard positions after spending all his time in college at just left tackle. 

“Yeah I think certainly he’s got a long way to go in terms of just mentally,” said LaFleur on Tuesday. “Physically, he has all the tools that you look for and we’re gonna keep pushing him and he’s gotta understand that and I think for rookies, it’s just everybody has a different learning curve in terms of how fast they can acclimate themselves to just how we play at this level, but I think he’s approaching it the right way and we’re gonna continue to push him.” 

Once the Packers get into training camp, the pads come on, and they get a better idea of what that starting offensive line lineup will look like, LaFleur said Morgan will start to get regular reps at one position rather than continuing to juggle a bevy of different roles. 

Admittedly, the Packers have put a lot on Morgan’s plate. But as we’ve seen throughout the years with other draft picks, this isn’t something the Packers do to every incoming rookie. There are a few examples of other early round picks who didn’t start right away while trying to fill just one or maybe two roles. Only the players that they believe can shoulder the workload are asked to do so. 

“There’s nothing he can’t do,” said LaFleur. “For him, it’s just about putting it all together mentally. I think there’s been a lot put on his plate, and I think at times his head is spinning. But you’ve just got to keep chopping and grinding and working through it. There’s gonna be mistakes. I think a big part of this is just being resilient throughout that process and making sure that you don’t lose confidence because certainly he has all the skills to be as good as he wants to be.”