If Bryan Bulaga misses this week’s game at the Giants, the Green Bay Packers might have a different backup plan at right tackle.
Alex Light played the final 71 snaps at right tackle in place of Bulaga at San Francisco. While Bulaga suffered a relatively minor knee injury – a sprained right MCL, according to NFL Network – there’s a chance he’ll be out a week or two. Getting the practice reps this week would obviously help Light get prepared, though coach Matt LaFleur wouldn’t commit to giving Light his first career start.
“We’ve got some other thoughts potentially to make sure that we put our best five out there,” LaFleur said on Wednesday.
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The obvious other thought would be to give the regular starting right guard, Billy Turner, the start at right tackle and put Lucas Patrick in at right guard. That would give the Packers their most experienced quintet. Patrick started two games in 2017 and four games in 2018. Half of those six starts came at right guard. Turner, meanwhile, started four games at right tackle last season for Denver.
Or, to avoid having new starters at two spots, LaFleur could stick with Light. He had his hands full against 49ers rookie Nick Bosa – so has every other offensive tackle this season – until he was given some help in the second half. According to Pro Football Focus, he allowed only two pressure in 47 pass-protecting snaps.
“It’s my job to be ready at all times,” Light told reporters after the game. “Bryan went down, and I had to step in. You know, didn’t get the job done good enough tonight. Got to come in tomorrow and be critical of myself and move on to next week.”
Bulaga’s had an excellent season. He has started all 11 games this season but has failed to finish three of them. In Week 4 against Philadelphia, Bulaga missed the final 51 snaps with a shoulder injury but was back in the lineup 10 days later. Against Kansas City in Week 8, he missed the final two series with a finger injury. On Sunday against San Francisco, it was the right knee – the same knee in which he suffered a torn ACL and missed the second half of the 2017 season.
This injury isn’t nearly as serious. LaFleur could take a cautious approach and keep Bulaga on the sideline at the Giants on Sunday and the Redskins at Lambeau Field the following week. Both teams are 2-9. And then, if healthy, Bulaga could return for the Week 15 home game against Chicago’s Khalil Mack.
However, it’s not quite so simple. Giants outside linebacker Markus Golden has a team-high 7.5 sacks. He rushes against the right tackle almost 90 percent of the time, according to Pro Football Focus. Washington’s perennial Pro Bowler, Ryan Kerrigan, has spent most of his career rushing against the right tackle.
Whoever starts at tackle, the Packers need better play from their line as a whole after being overwhelmed by San Francisco’s front.
“That was probably our worst game up front all season, overall,” LaFleur said. “It wasn’t good enough. I always want to look at myself critically and making sure that we’re doing everything in our power to make sure we’re putting those guys in good position, and I don’t think we did. That’s on me.”