Coming into the season, the Packers had some confidence in the depth they’d amassed along the offensive line. The left side, with possible future Hall of Famer David Bakhtiari looking healthy and two-time Pro Bowler Elgton Jenkins still only 27 years old, ranks with the best in the NFL, and the Packers have polished center Josh Myers (who started every game last year) and right guard Jon Runyan Jr. (who has started 35 straight games).
But after two weeks, the Packers are already testing that depth. Bakhtiari’s balky left knee, the subject of three surgeries, kept him out on Sunday in Atlanta and is likely to keep him out again—if not in Week 3, then somewhere along the line this season. And Jenkins now, too, has a knee injury and will miss more than four weeks.
Suddenly, the depth is shaky. Even with solid backups like Yosh Nijman and Royce Newman on hand, the short-term performance of the line probably comes down to 2022 seventh-round pick Rasheed Walker, Bakhtiari’s backup at left tackle, who made his first start on Sunday and is likely to see time elsewhere on the line even if Bakhtiari does play.
“I don’t think it went too bad,” said Walker this week, per The Athletic. “Had some good plays, had some bad plays. At the end of the day, all you can do is watch the film and learn from it and be better the next week.”
Walker Has Been Practicing With Starters
Walker, who beat out Nijman for the Bakhtiari backup job, does have an advantage as we head into Week 3 of the season. Throughout camp and in the early stages of this year’s practices, Bakhtiari has sat out consistently, and Walker has been taking reps with the starters. His familiarity with the team paid off on Sunday, he said.
“It helps practicing with the 1s because I was comfortable out there with the group, I wasn’t uncomfortable,” Walker said from the locker room Monday. “I have been taking reps with the 1s since camp. I am comfortable with the group. Sean Clifford was my quarterback at Penn State in college, so I am good with Sean Clifford. I feel like I am in a good spot.”
Walker registered the fifth-lowest grade of the seven offensive linemen who played for the Packers on Sunday, a 57.4 according to Pro Football Focus. He was very good in pass protection (75.0) and, like much of the rest of the line, weak in blocking for the run (53.7).
Still, coach Matt LaFleur was encouraged.
“I thought ‘Sheed did a, for the most part, did a really nice job,” he said on Monday.
Walker: ‘We Got a Good Team’
Walker said that, despite losing Jenkins and some obvious struggles, especially in the running game—where the Packers tallied just 84 yards—Green Bay emerged from the tough loss to the Falcons generally upbeat.
“Honestly, I don’t feel like everyone was beating each other up that much,” he said. “We knew we fought hard, everybody made some good plays, everybody made some bad plays. We really should have won the game. I don’t think anyone was in really bad spirits because we know we got a good team.”
Asked what he learned about the NFL in his first start, Walker said he got a time-honored lesson.
“Every play matters,” he said. “Every snap counts. Every move matters. That’s what I realized. Everything matters, all the little things matter. All that has to come together.”