2024 is a special year for Rasheed Walker
6 mins read

2024 is a special year for Rasheed Walker

When the Green Bay Packers begin training camp later this month, people will take a close look at the offensive line as the team continues to experiment with its ideal starting five.

Green Bay is good at finding offensive linemen in the draft and prefers to find versatile talent who can play multiple positions, so this is nothing new. Still, the Packers did something they haven’t done since 2010: drafted an offensive lineman in the first round.

All eyes will be on the versatile Jordan Morgan, who fits the classic tackle-to-guard build that Green Bay wants. Still, he’ll get every chance to prove he belongs at tackle. The lineman with the shorter arms has never stopped the Packers from playing the tackle prospect.

But while Morgan will be the center of attention, we can’t forget about Rasheed Walker, who has thrived at left tackle after struggling early on. This is a big year of proof for the former seventh-round pick, who could show this season that he’s the team’s long-term answer to Jordan Love’s blindside. With potential competition at the spot between Walker, Morgan and newly signed Andre Dillard, this season will determine whether Walker is the preferred starter, the primary swing-tackle reliever or something else.

David Bakhtiari started against the Chicago Bears in Week 1 of last season. But when it became clear he would be out for the season, people began to worry about who would guard Love’s blindside in his first year as a starter.

Walker surprisingly got the nod over Yosh Nijman, who had previously filled in for Bakhtiari. Walker had his ups and downs (unusual for last year’s offense) before settling into a reliable starter in the second half of the season.

Overall, he allowed six sacks and 36 pressures. According to PFF, among 50 qualifying tackles, Walker was 35th in pass-blocking efficiency and 41st in run-blocking. He finished the season with a solid 66.3 overall grade.

However, PFF recognized Walker’s development and ranked him No. 1 on their list of offensive linemen expected to break out in 2024. They praised his consistency, with only two below-average games, and his towering 6’6”, 324 lbs.

“Perhaps the most underrated prospect on this list, the seventh-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft earned a spot in the Packers’ starting lineup last season,” PFF’s Sam Monson wrote. “He looked like a tough prospect to work with early in training camp, but he posted a solid 66.3 overall grade and was especially good in pass protection (74.7) in his first year in the starting lineup.

“He’ll be very good next season if he continues to develop. If he improves his run blocking, he could be outstanding.”

Morgan played left tackle in college and is the biggest threat to Walker’s future. The coaching staff has thrown Morgan everywhere along the line but center to establish a top five and ideal long-term starting role for Morgan.

Assuming for now that the Packers prefer to keep Elgton Jenkins at left guard, Josh Myers at center, and Zach Tom at right quarterback (despite our theories), the two most likely positions for Morgan to fight for a starting role are left quarterback or right guard (against Sean Rhyan).

Walker’s best-case scenario is that Morgan finds a home at right guard. But even if the Packers consider Morgan as a quarterback, the team generally favors the veteran. Walker should get a chance to prove he’s the man for the job, even with a shiny new toy hot on his heels.

Former first-round draft pick Andre Dillard also began playing at left quarterback during offseason activity this spring and is firmly established as a favorite there as well, though he appears to have a shorter chance.

Matt LaFleur praised the way Walker took the competition, saying, “There’s only two ways to do it, and I think he chose the right way.”

“I feel elite,” Walker said during OTAs. “The names and labels don’t really dictate how I move. I see the man for who he is. I’m in a good situation. I never worry about who I’m going to fight. It’s about, am I prepared? What do I need to do to prepare? That’s what I focus on.”

Given Walker’s positive development last season and the way Green Bay has handled its rookies, I think he’ll start the season at left quarterback and play there until there are some major changes. A successful season means Walker becomes Green Bay’s latest Day 3 success story, and the left quarterback position is his. If he lets Morgan catch up, he could take over Nijman’s old role as a capable quarterback. A tough year and he could become the forgotten man on the depth chart. The latter seems unlikely, though.

It’s a big year for the 2022 seventh-round draft pick, but he’s proven so far that doesn’t bode well for him.