The Green Bay Packers’ offensive line problems may have just hit a new low.
The Packers were forced to play the entire second half of Sunday’s 45-30 win over the Chicago Bears without starting right tackle Billy Turner, who dropped out with a knee injury late in the second quarter and did not return for the rest of the night.
Turner had been injured when Packers left tackle Yosh Nijman accidentally blocked a Bears defender into the side of his left knee, causing him to crumble to the turf in pain. While the 30-year-old veteran managed to walk off the field without any help, he was visibly frustrated when he got to the sideline and slammed his helmet on the ground before entering the blue medical tent.
The Packers officially ruled him out before the second-half kickoff and rolled with veteran Dennis Kelly at right tackle for the remainder of the game.
The Packers also suffered a few more losses before the night was over. Fourth-year wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown (concussion) and tight end Dominique Dafney (ankle) were both ruled out after sustaining second-half injuries, while another wideout — Malik Taylor — has been deemed questionable to return with an abdominal injury.
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Losing Turner Would Be Major Blow
The Packers might have a tough time managing their Super Bowl aspirations if they lose Turner for a significant amount of time. They have already lost Elgton Jenkins and second-round rookie Josh Myers to injuries this season and are still in the processing of working back All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari from last year’s ACL tear. Even though the alignment got the job done against the Bears, it is a tough ask for a potentially deep playoff run.
As of right now, the Packers’ starting lineup is mostly comprised of players who have less than two years of playing experience. Kelly is seasoned and Lucas Patrick has numerous quality starts under his belt with the Packers, but Jon Runyan Jr. is only in his second season and neither Nijman nor Royce Newman had played a regular-season snap in the NFL prior to this season. Their depth is also limited to Ben Braden (five career offensive snaps played), Cole Van Lanen (rookie) and Jon Dietzen (rookie).
The good news is that Bakhtiari could be back any week now, or so it would seem. He was activated off the physically unable to perform (PUP) list in Week 10, but he has not practiced with the team since then. While the Packers want to be patient with him and keep him as fresh as possible for the postseason, they might not have the luxury anymore if tests on Turner’s knee reveal he will miss some time.
A true indicator of Bakhtiari’s status should emerge in Week 15. If the Packers let him practice in a limited capacity, he could have a shot at making his season debut against the Baltimore Ravens next Sunday. Even if he is playing on a pitch count, Aaron Rodgers will surely appreciate a reunion with his All-Pro blindside blocker.