The Green Bay Packers entered this offseason with two marquee free agents – running back Aaron Jones and center Corey Linsley – and with the shrinking salary cap putting them in a bind, the likelihood of even one returning held an outside chance. With the miracles that cap guru Russ Ball was able to work, Jones was secured for another four years, putting the writing on the wall for Linsley to search elsewhere for a place to play in 2021 – which leaves a need to be addressed in the Green Bay OL moving forward.
The departure of Linsley is going to create a gaping hole in the middle of GB’s offensive line, and while the draft certainly can help address that area of the offense, their current in-house options can help with that as well.
Lucas Patrick and Elgton Jenkins profile as the next men up to become the next starting center, and both options have been members of the OL unit, to the point where QB Aaron Rodgers would be comfortable taking snaps from either. A full training camp handling snaps and working on ironing out the intricacies of the position certainly is what would help, and Green Bay thankfully has that luxury.
Jenkins may have an inside track to holding down this spot, simply because he ended up sliding over to take Linsley’s spot when he was forced to miss some sporadic time this past season. While everyone is very aware of the kind of versatile lineman that Jenkins is, his position flexibility could make him the best fit for this role, while also not being the best option for this spot.
Jenkins’ ability to rotate between all five positions and perform their duties at above-average clips may make HC Matt LaFleur want to keep him out of being the team’s center, which would then likely give Patrick the role. Jenkins can slide out to a tackle spot with LT David Bakhtiari’s ACL tear recovery holding him back to start the year, and Jenkins could pair up with Billy Turner then.
Patrick is an interior guy, and he understands the finite elements that go into being a solid interior member of an OL, so moving him to center would be a smart move. If this is the direction that GB decides to go, then Jon Runyan Jr., who stepped in admirably in his rookie campaign, would become one of the starting guards, while a cheap veteran or rookie draft pick would fill one of the other spots.
A sophomore jump from either center Jake Hanson or guard Simon Stepaniak would be a welcomed surprise for the Packers, as both were non-factors in their first seasons in the league. Taken late in the 2020 draft, contributions from either were not highly expected, but with a chance to jump up to be an established member of the two-deep depth chart, either Hanson or Stepaniak could seize a huge opportunity.
While Green Bay’s reputation to add to their offensive line seems to repeat every single draft (regardless of general manager), their current allotment of in-house options leaves them in a decently-solid place, even after Linsley’s departure for the Los Angeles Chargers. The usage of both Jenkins and Patrick will bring structure to this unit during training camp, which will help provide a look at how strong this offense as a whole will look this season.뿓뿓뿓
Mike Johrendt has been an avid fan of the Packers ever since he can remember. He is now a writer at PackersTalk and you can follow him on Twitter at @MJohrendt23