Billy Turner's versatility gives Packers options on the right side of offensive line
GREEN BAY – As far as Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst and coach Matt LaFleur are concerned, Billy Turner has proved he can start at right tackle.
The team’s starting right guard last year, Turner was thrown into a three-way competition for the two spots on the right side with veteran tackle Rick Wagner and guard Lane Taylor during the offseason.
Though no decision has been made on the starting lineup, according to the two men, Turner playing tackle may be more likely after Wagner left practice with a left arm injury Thursday.
Turner gained experience playing both guard and tackle during his time spent with Miami and Denver, but when the Packers signed him to a four-year, $28.5 million deal, they did it with right guard in mind. They needed to replace aging veteran Byron Bell and pegged Turner as the starter right away.
After starting all 18 games at right guard, Turner was told in the offseason, when tackle Bryan Bulaga left in free agency for the Los Angeles Chargers, to be ready to play right tackle. So, he prepared for it during the virtual meetings in the offseason and then began playing two positions in training camp.
The Packers have spent the first week of practice making sure he was capable of playing tackle in LaFleur’s offense.
“Billy, before we signed him, in Denver he played right tackle and right guard, I think, and he proved to me there that he can do that,” Gutekunst said on a video call. “So, we’re really glad that we have Billy, we think he can start multiple places on our line and as we move forward we’ll see how that shakes out.
“But I think we’ve touched on this a lot with a lot of our players, whether it’s drafting them or signing them, the versatility part is really important to us.”
Wagner was signed to a two-year, $11 million deal after six seasons as a full-time starter with Detroit and Baltimore, the last three with the rival Lions, who cut him March 13. Knowing Wagner was 30 years old and out on the street, the Packers made Turner a fallback option in case he didn’t pan out.
The return of Taylor allowed for LaFleur to work Turner at two positions and create a competition on the right side of the line at both the guard and tackle spots. It was assumed Turner would start at one of the two spots.
Regardless of where he lines up, Turner still needs to show his pass blocking has improved after a rough year. But if he and Taylor start the opener against Minnesota, they would offer an impressive blocking combination in the run game.
“We’ve got a lot of confidence in Billy and he’s started at tackle before in his career,” LaFleur said. “But like we said before, it’s a competitive situation. We’re just trying to find the best five to go out there to help us execute at the highest level.”
LaFleur did not address Wagner’s injury, so if he’s out for any extended period, Turner’s hold on right tackle would be permanent. The only other backup tackles who are practicing are Alex Light, Cody Conway and John Leglue, none of whom has extensive NFL experience.
Second-year pro Yosh Nijman, signed off the practice squad last year, is on the physically unable to perform list due to an elbow injury he suffered in practice last year.
Light might be best suited for left
LaFleur said he believes Light can be a good player if he cleans up a few things.
Undersized for a tackle, Light was overwhelmed at times when he had to play last year – mostly for Bulaga at right tackle. He gave up two sacks and a pressure in a start against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 12.
Listed at 6-5, 309 pounds, Light has worked at getting stronger, but it may turn out he’s suited only for the left tackle spot where his quick feet and agility fit the position. LaFleur still thinks there’s talent there.
“I think we have a lot of confidence in Alex,” he said. “He’s still a young player and I think he’s shown the ability to go in there, and he’s flashed. It’s more or less with him, he’s just got to be consistent down in and down out.
“And you can’t have bad plays in this league. It’s just continuing to work with him and work on that consistency
Love directs scoring 2-minute drill
First-round draft pick Jordan Love was given a chance to operate in an end-of-half or game scenario Thursday inside Lambeau Field for the first time. With 63 seconds on the clock, the objective was to get into field goal range and win the game. After a “sack” by undrafted free agent rookie linebacker Delontae Scott on first down, the rookie quarterback from Utah State marched the offense to a 48-yard field goal by Mason Crosby.
“We’ve been doing 2-minute drills just about every practice at the end, just incorporating those, been practicing them in the walk-throughs, practicing calling the plays and the no-huddle tempo for the 2-minute, but that was my first kind of live go at it,” Love said. “It was pretty good. We were able to get into field-goal range and kick the field goal, so I definitely felt comfortable in there.”
Beginning at his own 25-yard line, Love connected with receivers Reggie Begelton and Darrius Shepherd – including a disputed sideline completion to Shepherd that the offensive coaches gave to the offense as one Packers staffer signaled a bobble and incomplete. Love had found Shepherd on another pass during the drive in which the second-year receiver took a hit in the secondary but held on. To get the ball off, Love had to step into the pocket to evade the rush of former college teammate Tipa Galeai.
“I thought it looked like he did a pretty nice job, you know, in a tough circumstance,” LaFleur said. “Certainly we know that we never want to take a sack in a 2-minute. The odds of you converting are very, very slim if you do get sacked. There’s probably a couple others in there that I could have called, but I just wanted to kind of let those guys get some more plays and go through those situations. There’s a lot of good teaching that comes up the further on you get into a 2-minute drive.”
Smith, Adams miss practice; Amos excused
Outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith missed his third consecutive practice, though he did put on a jersey and observe from the sidelines. Wide receiver Davante Adams, who tweaked his right foot in practice Wednesday, joined Smith as an observer Thursday.
“Again, with ‘Z’ and Davante, it’s nothing serious,” LaFleur said. “They’ll be back here in a matter of time.”
Safety Adrian Amos had an excused absence. Defensive tackle Montravius Adams (toe) was also not on the field.
Center Corey Linsley and left tackle David Bakhtiari did not participate some portions of practice. Linsley did not participate in Tuesday’s session while Bakhtiari exited Wednesday’s early with a left foot issue.