While the Green Bay Packers have some moving parts in the passing game, the starting group is back together on the offensive line.
When the Packers hosted Philadelphia in the third preseason game, left tackle David Bakhtiari (knee), left guard Josh Sitton (ankle) and right guard T.J. Lang (concussion) were on the sideline. That trio was joined by right tackle Bryan Bulaga, who sustained an ankle injury in that game.
All four are back and, with center Corey Linsley, the line that played so well together last season will be in the starting lineup on Sunday at Chicago. They haven’t played in a game together since the preseason opener against New England on Aug. 13, though they worked together at practice on Wednesday and Thursday of this week and all but Lang was on the field for the lone practice of last week.
“The offensive line has experience together coming off of last year. That does carry some value,” coach Mike McCarthy said before Thursday’s practice. “They have been practicing together now for probably two-and-a-half weeks. I’m confident they’ll be ready to go.”
Bakhtiari is confident, as well. Green Bay has one of the top offensive lines in the league, a fact driven home during the second half of last season. Over the final eight games, the Packers rushed for 1,137 yards, averaged 4.7 yards per carry and yielded only nine sacks. Those figures ranked sixth, fifth and second, respectively, during that span.
With the line intact after starting 89 of a possible 90 games together last season, including playoffs, the chemistry remains strong, even though the injuries limited their time together during the preseason and training camp.
“Because we all played together last year, we have that to build off of,” Bakhtiari said on Wednesday. “It’s never OK to miss reps in games but we have that to fall back on, no matter what. You can’t take those away from us. So today felt like riding a bike. It felt like we didn’t miss a beat.”
One of the focal points this week is honing fundamentals that might have slipped during time on the sideline. On Thursday, the Packers used one of their 14 padded practices to help that process. As reporters were sent on their way, a half-line run game drill against the defense was about to start.
“The chemistry’s strong but, just like anybody, you have to sharpen your sword and they have to sharpen their sword,” offensive line coach James Campen said last week. “There’s no question. There’s work to be done.”
Perhaps more importantly, it’s getting back in game shape so there’s gas in the tank for play No. 10 of a drive or play No. 70 of the game.
“I think I’m at the point in my career where health is a bigger priority than getting a feel for something,” Bakhtiari said. “I think I’ve experienced enough to understand what I’m getting myself into. The biggest thing now is getting the conditioning in and making sure I’m ready to go because four quarters is a long football game, especially in our offense. We run a lot of plays and we go really fast.”