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Packers OL Sean Rhyan has big opportunity in front of him this offseason

Green Bay Packers second-year offensive lineman Sean Rhyan finished the 2023 season in a rotational role at right guard with Jon Runyan Jr. and will now have the opportunity to win that job outright this upcoming summer.

“I’m gonna go into it, I guess, with the same mindset as last year,” said Rhyan said at his locker about the opportunity ahead this offseason. “Because obviously something worked out right, but just a little bit harder. Got a little bit of taste. I wanna help this team get further next year, so just work hard and let the chips fall where they may.”

The 2023 season was an immensely important one for Rhyan. After being a healthy scratch for much of his rookie season in 2022 as a third-round to being suspended the final six games for a PED violation, there’s a world where Rhyan may have been a cut candidate this past summer had his play not improved.

“I think there was a point when it first happened,” said Rhyan of the suspension, “where I didn’t really know what my future held. It was tough, but I looked at it as, I think my character speaks and kind of helped me out because they know.

“I had a slip-up, something happened, they know, they trust me and obviously I came back this year and proved to them that my character was still intact and why they drafted me. For a time there I was a little bit worried, but I learned, we’re ready, future’s the future now.”

The rotation at right guard started in Week 9 against the Los Angeles Rams, and according to Rhyan, there wasn’t any warning that he would be playing in that game. All of sudden, he was told “you’re in.”

For the first five games of that rotation, Rhyan saw maybe two to three series each week, but because of his play, he earned more opportunities. Beginning in Week 15 against Tampa Bay, he and Runyan were basically splitting snaps at a near 50/50 split each week.

“Huge,” said Rhyan on the importance of this past year. “Huge, especially last year, being a high-round draft pick and then not seeing the field really, this was hugely important and I think I did alright.”

Where Rhyan shined was as a run blocker. With his size and strength, he brings a different dynamic to the offensive line with his ability to simply move the defender across from him. Rather than just opening up a running lane by being positioned correctly, Rhyan generates push.

Pass protection is where Rhyan has to improve the most if he wants to be a long-term starter in this league, according to offensive coordinator Adam Stenavich. In just 128 pass-blocking snaps, Rhyan allowed eight pressures. Out of 84 guards, Rhyan ranked 52nd in PFF’s pass-blocking efficiency metric.

“He’s still got a ways to go,” said Stenavich. “I like what I’ve seen from him from a physicality standpoint. He does a good job in the run game at the point of attack. But he still has a ways to go in pass protection would be his biggest thing moving forward.

“If he wants to be a staple guard of this league, you obviously have to excel in this realm. So that’s one thing we are going to focus on with as we move forward just to elevate that part of his game.”

This was only Rhyan’s second NFL season and one where he still didn’t see anywhere close to a full workload—of course there is still improvement needed. But what can’t be overlooked either is the progress he made, going from a healthy scratch as a rookie to playing meaningful snaps in the NFC Divisional Round.

For Rhyan, that all started with being more consistent.

“Consistency,” Rhyan said. “Definitely, that’s the most major one. I almost think last year, when I was first interviewed, consistency was one of the things that I was striving to improve on and I think that’s kind of what led to me getting some playing time this year.

“One way was just willing it,” said Rhyan when asked how he became more consistent. “Being real hard on myself. I’m my biggest critic, so I felt like last year, it was not me and then this year, I’m starting to get back to myself and not overthinking it, but not taking things too lightly either, so just being consistent in everything I do.”

A big contributor to the Packers overall turnaround on offense last season was the play of the offensive line drastically improving. Although Green Bay took an unconventional approach in rotating the right guard and left tackle positions, it’s a move that paid off. Whether you ask LaFleur, Stenavich, or offensive line coach Luke Butkus, that added competition elevated the overall play of the unit.

Returning interior offensive linemen from this past season’s 53-man roster include Rhyan, Josh Myers, Elgton Jenkins and Royce Newman. Additional competition is needed. While Rhyan has earned the right to compete for a starting spot, he still has room for growth and shouldn’t simply be handed the starting right guard job either this summer. Also, injuries happen and more depth is needed.

We often hear about the importance of a young player making a significant jump from their first to second season. Rhyan was able to do that, but now the next step is continuing to progress. And if he can, he has the potential opportunity to play an important role on a team with very high expectations entering 2024.

“That I could still play ball,” said Rhyan when asked what he showed this season. “Still can run block, still can pass block and I’m still Sean Rhyan, so like I said, simple answer.”

Story originally appeared on Packers Wire