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Injuries force Packers to use depth of their offensive line

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FILE - Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) is shown during an NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers in Santa Clara, Calif. On Sunday, September 26, 2021. The Green's offensive line Bay Packers are quite different from last year's version, but they still found a way to withstand multiple injuries while still providing effective protection for reigning MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers.  (AP Photo / Tony Avelar)

FILE – Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) is shown during an NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers in Santa Clara, Calif. On Sunday, September 26, 2021. The Green’s offensive line Bay Packers are quite different from last year’s version, but they still found a way to withstand multiple injuries while still providing effective protection for reigning MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers. (AP Photo / Tony Avelar)

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The Green Bay Packers’ offensive line is quite different from last year. But he once again withstands multiple injuries to provide effective protection for reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers.

2020 All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari hasn’t played all season as he recovers from a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Elgton Jenkins changed positions to replace Bakhtiari before getting injured. 2020 All-Pro center Corey Linsley has left for the Los Angeles Chargers.

This new-look line made up of two beginners beginners shows signs of progress. The Packers allowed just one sack in a 30-28 win in San Francisco as they faced a much-loved 49ers assist with Nick Bosa.

“Honestly, that’s just the norm,” said right tackle Billy Turner. “It’s the norm here in Green Bay and it has been that way for a long time.”

Green Bay will likely have to play without Jenkins again on Sunday when the Packers host the Pittsburgh Steelers. Jenkins is listed as questionable as he continues to face an ankle injury.

Although Pittsburgh enjoyed its 75-game streak in the NFL with an end of the sack last week in a 24-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, the Steelers were playing without 2020 All-Pro outside linebacker TJ Watt. due to a groin injury. Watt is expected to play at Green Bay.

“I’ve looked at all of their sacks for the past two years, and I think I’ve had nightmares about it,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said of the Steelers. “They do a great job getting in the pocket, they’re really solid in their scramble lanes and they have game wreckers up front.”

The Packers got used to relying on a variety of row combinations last season when they scored a record 31.8 points per game, even though injuries forced Jenkins and Turner to play multiple positions. But many of the Packers’ starting linemen this season didn’t play a major role a year ago, even though they were part of the squad. While these changes help explain why Green Bay is averaging just 3.4 yards per carry – up from 4.8 last season – the line has done a solid job of protecting passes.

“Things started to mesh together,” said left guard and 2020 sixth-round pick Jon Runyan Jr. “We have a lot of young guys out there, but we’re all feeling really good.”

Turner is the only veteran lineman who started in the same position for each of the Packers’ first three games.

The Packers replaced Linsley with Josh Myers, an Ohio State second-round pick in this year’s draft. Mississippi’s fourth-round pick, rookie Royce Newman, starts at right guard.

“They continue to improve a bit with each game with their fundamentals and put themselves in a position to block some really good players,” offensive line coach Adam Stenavich said of the rookies. “They still have a very long way to go. So they are fine. But I think they can be much, much better.

Green Bay’s biggest concern is the left tackle. Bakhtiari started the season on the Physically Unable to Play roster and is due to miss at least the Packers’ first six games. Jenkins, a Pro Bowl left guard last season, started Green Bay’s first two games on left tackle before getting injured.

Yosh Nijman (pronounced NY-man), an undrafted free agent from Virginia Tech in 2019, made his first career debut in San Francisco. He had a tough first set that included a face mask penalty, but performed well the rest of the night.

“I’m really proud of the way he fought,” Rodgers said after the 49ers game. “I mean, he’s up against one of the top three pass rushers in the game for most of the game, and we gave him some help, because you have to. Bosa is such a stallion. But there were times he had no help, and I thought he was holding on just fine.

Stenavich said Bakhtiari often sat next to Nijman on the bench in San Francisco to chat with him and make sure he kept his cool.

“I just want my teammates to know that they can count on me,” Nijman said.

Green Bay will likely continue to rely on Nijman until Jenkins and Bakhtiari are available.

NOTES: WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling (hamstrings) will not play on Sunday. CB Kevin King (concussion) is questionable. LB Krys Barnes (concussion), DL Jack Heflin (ankle) and S Vernon Scott (hamstrings) are questionable. … RB Aaron Jones says he continues to play with the necklace that honors his late father and includes some of his father’s ashes. The collar came off in the Packers’ Sept. 20 victory over Detroit, but Jones was able to get it back. Jones said equipment staff designed a pocket inside his jersey, so he could put the item in without fear of it falling.