Week One was an absolute catastrophe for the Green Bay Packers. From receivers who couldn’t separate, to Joe Barry’s defense refusing to cover Justin Jefferson the Packers simply couldn’t get anything going. But one thing stands out to me as an even bigger problem. It is the same thing that Matt LaFleur botched in the 49rs playoff game back in January. That is the starting offensive line combination.
In the divisional round many Packers fans will remember that Matt LaFleur decided to start Dennis Kelly at right tackle instead of putting the returning Billy Turner at right and allowing Yosh Nijman to play at left tackle where he was good all season. No one understood the move then and I at least still don’t understand it now. But that debacle may have cost us that game. At the very least it didn’t help us.
But now the Packers have done this again. They opted to start Jake Hanson at right guard and Royce Newman at right tackle. Newman was our right guard last season and he did not play very well in 2021 but he was the weakest link on an otherwise strong offensive line so it was not a huge issue at the time. His biggest problem last year was his inability to handle the speedier rushers. Kind of a bigger problem out on the edge. Then Jake Hanson, a player who was seen as a center only prospect coming out of college, as well as a player with zero career starts was finalized as our starting right guard. Oh did I also mention Hanson only weighs 296 pounds? Kind of a huge deal when you’re playing on the offensive line.
Meanwhile every Packers fan in the preseason, anyone who understood him as a prospect and simply anyone with eyes was wondering why the team didn’t start Zack Tom, the rookie out of Wake Forest who was awesome in college and looked great in preseason.
Then gameday rolled around. We watched as the game started and Aaron Rodgers faced pressure from every direction, including from the Vikings weak interior defensive line. Then Jon Runyan Jr, our left guard, went down with an injury. Zach Tom was the first player off the bench to replace him. Immediately you saw the team run behind Tom and see success. He also stood his ground as a pass protector. So the question remains, why is he not starting?
Hopefully this week the team will get back David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins, thus solidifying every spot on the offensive line except right guard. Maybe then the staff will start Tom at right guard and give Aaron Rodgers the best unit he’s worked with since 2020. But even if not the fact remains Zach Tom needs to be starting over Jake Hanson. If Hanson was such a liability against the Vikings interior D-Line, imagine what he’ll be when we play Tampa Bay? But unfortunately we won’t know till later in the week if this changed at all or not. It is something to keep an eye on and monitor though.