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Is Sean Rhyan ready to start for the Green Bay Packers?

The 2024 NFL season will be critical for Green Bay Packers safety Sean Rhyan. The former UCLA star will enter his third professional season. He has yet to start an NFL game in his first two games. This will be his best and perhaps last chance to prove he can be the Packers’ starting right guard, but is he up to the task?

Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst selected Rhyan in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft with the 92nd overall choice. The 6’5″, 321 pounder played tackle in college, but the Packers moved him to guard.

Rhyan’s rookie season didn’t go as planned. At training camp, it quickly became apparent that he needed more time to adjust to the professional game and the position change. Rhyan never seemed to compete for a starting position along the offensive line.

Once the season started, he continued to fight. He only played one play in a single game; special team standout in the Packers’ Week 9 road loss to the Lions.

His struggles were further compounded when the NFL suspended him for the final six games of the season for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs.

So, Rhyan entered the 2023 season with something to prove. He looked better in training camp and worked hard. During the preseason, he got some looks at center and as a guard.

He started the season as a backup behind Elgton Jenkins and Jon Runyan and was buried on the depth chart. During the team’s first seven games, Rhyan was inactive for one and did not play in three more games. He took the field for a total of seven snaps on special teams.

When Runyan suffered an injury that limited him a bit, Rhyan began taking the field to spell him. He and Runyan alternated series for the remainder of the season. While Runyan started every game, Rhyan saw more snaps on offense as the season progressed.

Head coach Matt LaFleur was encouraged by the progress Rhyan made as he got more playing time. “He did his job,” LaFleur said in late November. “He’s a great player and when he gets in there, it’s hard to leave his spot, and he’s done a good job in both the running game and the passing game. It’s very encouraging for what he was able to accomplish.

Offensive line coach Luke Butkus appreciated Rhyan’s hard work. “Sean worked his butt off,” Butkus said. “It’s nice to see your hard work pay off in any profession. He really studied, mentally and physically, he did a good job for us, and it was rewarding for him to get out on the field for a few snaps here and there. They play well.

By the end of the season, Rhyan played in 12 of the Packers’ 17 regular season games and was on the field for a total of 183 snaps on offense. He also appeared in both of the Packers’ playoff games, playing a total of 46 more plays on offense.

Rhyan performed better as a run blocker than in pass protection according to Pro Football Focus. He still needs to improve his technique in pass protection, as offensive coordinator Adam Stenavich noted.

“He’s still got a ways to go,” Stenavich said shortly after the Packers’ playoff loss to San Francisco. “I like what I’ve seen from him from a physical standpoint. He does a good job in the running game at the point of attack. But he still has a ways to go in pass protection, which would be his main focus moving forward. If he wants to be a must-have goalkeeper in this league, he obviously has to excel in this area. So that’s something we’re going to focus on as we move forward, just to elevate that part of his game.”

This offseason opened a window of opportunity for Rhyan. Runyan’s contract expired and he signed with the New York Giants. That leaves Rhyan at the top of the team’s depth chart at right guard as the team opened OTAs.

The question is whether Rhyan will be able to seize this opportunity and become a full-time starter for the first time in his career. The coaching staff has always said they want the five best offensive linemen on the field as starters. Now it’s up to Rhyan to prove he should be one of those five.