The unknowns swirled loud and heavy as the Green Bay Packers turned a new leaf this offseason. Of all the question marks surrounding the Packers, there was one thing that most people assumed.
The offensive line would be fine.
Through five weeks and a roller coaster ride that has plunged into pessimism in the last two weeks, one thing has become apparent: The offensive line is putting the whole offense out of whack.
Jordan Love isn’t blameless in all of this. The first-year starter has been fairly dreadful in back-to-back losses to the Detroit Lions and Las Vegas Raiders. The defense has been alright, but there have been moments that cause more than just head scratching.
Defensive coordinator Joe Barry having anything in the game plan that allowed outside linebacker Preston Smith to line up across from Raiders superstar wide receiver Davante Adams borders on being a war crime. Watching Barry have numerous members of the secondary line up in the end zone only to watch Raiders quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo complete the easiest nine-yard touchdown pass of his life was enough to have some consider shoving forks into their eyes.
All of those facets in Green Bay get blame too, but the offensive line has been the biggest shocker. Love has been under constant duress in the last two weeks.
Right tackle Zach Tom has allowed 10 quarterback pressures in the last two games. Left tackle Rasheed Walker is right behind Tom with eight. Right guard Jon Runyan Jr. has yielded five, while center Josh Myers has allowed four. To put a bow it, left guard Elgton Jenkins allowed three in his return against the Raiders.
Not only are those numbers unsustainable, but they scream disaster for a quarterback starting for the first time in his career with a host of skill-position players who are either rookies or in their second year.
Through all of the mishaps on Monday night in an eye-opening loss to a miserable Raiders team, perhaps none stood out more than Love’s final throw — an interception — that put the game on ice.
Green Bay was trailing 17-13 with 50 seconds left facing a third-and-10 from the Las Vegas 35-yard line. Love took the snap and his first read, given where he looked, was to wide receiver Christian Watson.
Watson initially appeared to be blanketed. But in the blink of an eye, he became wide open on what appeared to be a busted coverage. Watson had a touchdown waiting for him. He waved his arm frantically as a sideline camera angle would later show head coach Matt LaFleur jumping up and down, also pointing at Watson.
Love delivered the ball a few seconds later — too late — and the pass was intercepted.
There was pressure from the left side of the line as soon as Love took the snap. Love’s initial read was Watson, who got wide open, but Love had to adjust his eyesight to look down toward the line to navigate around to avoid a sack. As a result, Love missed Watson when he was open and threw the interception that sealed Green Bay’s fate.
It’s a narrative that’s becoming all too common.
The offensive line was a fairly consistent constant in Green Bay during the Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers eras. While many people occasionally barked that Rodgers didn’t have enough weapons in the last few years of his tenure, there was never a complaint about the offensive line.
General manager Brian Gutekunst likely thought he had the right combination heading into this season. Love doesn’t have a wide receiver like Sterling Sharpe as Favre did in his first year as a starter. He doesn’t have a Greg Jennings like Rodgers had when he took over. However, Love was supposed to have plenty of protection.
Left tackle David Bakhtiari being out for the season hasn’t helped, but there was never any assurance he’d be good to go for a full slate anyways. Jenkins has already missed a couple of games too and the praised Tom’s play, the second-year lineman out of Wake Forest. Instead, he’s experienced average play.
This was always going to be a development year for Green Bay, one where Love and the offense went through growing pains but also showed signs of life. The offensive line submitting one subpar performance after another has thrown a wrench into a lot of those plans. Instead of growth, the Packers have been mediocre on offense.
The line’s inability to hold up in pass protection while also doubling down and being brutal in paving holes in the ground game has left LaFleur and Co. in quite the predicament entering the bye week.
Maybe it’ll get better and they’ll tinker things during the off week. Certainly standing pat isn’t an option or recipe for success.
There is plenty of blame to go around for the problems displayed on offense in Green Bay, but it all starts up front with what was supposed to be a solidified group.