The Green Bay Packers will likely need to break out their backup plan for a key spot in Aaron Rodgers’ protection crew to start the 2020 regular season.
Billy Turner, the Packers’ presumed starter at right tackle, has been listed as doubtful on the team’s final injury report for Sunday’s season opener at the Minnesota Vikings. He continues to work back from a knee injury that he suffered during the Packers’ live scrimmage on Aug. 30 and participated in just one of three practices this week.
Packers head coach Matt LaFleur had confirmed Turner’s doubtful status prior to the release of the official injury report, but he did not say with any certainty how the team would go about replacing him if he were unable to go; however, it is expected they would go with Rick Wagner at right tackle and veteran Lane Taylor at right guard.
The Packers also listed defensive lineman Montravius Adams, who sprained his toe during training camp, as doubtful to play in Week 1. Backup safety/dime linebacker Raven Green (quad) is questionable, while backup pass rusher Randy Ramsey (groin) has been ruled out.
As for Oren Burks, the third-year inside linebacker was given no injury designation after a groin injury limited him in practice earlier this week. He is expected to be the No. 2 starter alongside new defensive signal-caller Christian Kirksey.
The only other Packer mentioned on the injury report was Marcedes Lewis, who took a veteran rest day on Thursday as he did routinely during the 2019 season.
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Can Wagner Get the Job Done?
The Packers were always facing a difficult task in 2020 trying to replace stalwart right tackle Bryan Bulaga, who walked in free agency and signed a hefty contract with the Los Angeles Chargers this past offseason, but they seemed to find an affordable veteran fit in Wagner.
Wagner, a Wisconsin native, had spent three seasons each with the Baltimore Ravens and Detroit Lions as their starting right tackle and came to the Packers with a total of 87 starts on his resume, providing valuable veteran experience to a group that had none behind All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari. The only trouble has been his injuries, which cost him four games in 2019 and have caused him to play fewer than 16 games.
Naturally, it was concerning when Wagner missed a stretch of August’s training camp practices with an injury while competing with Billy Turner for the right tackle job. Even before he went out, Turner seemed to be holding an edge with veteran Lane Taylor a favorable option to slide into his old right guard spot. LaFleur has been insistent upon finding the “best five,” and Wagner seemed the odd man out.
Could Wagner change minds on Sunday if Turner can’t go for the Packers? Will he even get the chance? The Packers have him listed as the backup for Turner on their depth chart, but another permutation might be more appealing to them if they haven’t seen enough from Wagner to be convinced of his consistency.
One alternative could be sliding All-Rookie left guard Elgton Jenkins — who started in six games at tackle in college — to right tackle in place of Turner and moving Taylor back to his old spot at left guard. The Packers could then fill the hole at right guard with Lucas Patrick, their most trusted backup interior lineman who signed a contract extension last season.