The Green Bay Packers fielded one of the best offensive lines in the NFL in 2020. Not only did they possess two All-Pros (LT David Bakhtiari and C Corey Linsley) and one Pro Bowler (LG Elgton Jenkins) but a deep roster of versatile linemen ready to be the next man up when needed. This versatility allowed the Packers to shift their line around as needed to put their best five on the field.
Many teams would kill to have players ably to skillfully play just one position along the offensive line, let alone all five spots. The player that most exemplifies this versatility is left guard (and center and tackle) Elgton Jenkins. In just his second year in the NFL, Jenkins has emerged as a star for the Packers and a steal in the second round. In 2020 he played all over the line, with stops at center, right tackle, and left tackle in addition to his normal spot at left guard. The only question for Jenkins in 2021 is the best spot for him to play?
Jenkins has mainly made his impact at left guard, taking over for the injured Lane Taylor in 2019 and never looking back. Yet due to his success filling in elsewhere, there are other possibilities for the young lineman in 2021.
While he played mainly as a center in college, that spot was manned by the mighty Corey Linsley for most of Jenkins’ NFL career, but now that spot is open. And while David Bakhtiari is rejuvenating from his late-season freak ACL tear, his status for Week 1 is anything but certain. Billy Turner exceeded expectations at right tackle in 2020, and Rick Wagner was a valuable addition when needed at the spot. But with Wagner gone and Turner able to play in almost any spot as well, is Jenkins the answer long-term at right tackle?
In our first taste of Packer football in 2021, Jenkins started at left tackle the first day of OTAs, with Jon Runyan at LG, Josh Meyers at C, Lucas Patrick at RG, and Billy Turner at RT. This is likely the most logical spot for Jenkins, as the tackle depth on the team isn’t deep. But what happens when Bakhtiari returns?
Josh Meyers is the logical choice to be the long-term center for Green Bay; a second-round center from Ohio State to replace Linsley, an Ohio State center. Patrick played center at times as well, though he appears better suited to guard.
Jon Runyan played well when called upon last year and is the favorite to land a guard spot if needed.
Despite right tackle seeming to be a need for a few years now, the Packers have ignored the spot while loading up on interior linemen. Gutekunst drafted three linemen in the sixth round of the 2020 draft: Jon Runyan, Jake Hanson, and Simon Stepaniak. 2021 saw the addition of three more interior linemen: Josh Meyers in the second, Royce Newman in the fourth, and Cole Van Lanen in the sixth.
While some of these names have collegiate experience at tackle, most fit the Packers’ pattern of moving college tackles to guards.
With this in mind, maybe the team does view Jenkins as the future of right tackle. Of those on the team, he currently makes the most sense, and the Packers have an abundance of potential guards should Jenkins move to tackle.
For the record, no one outside the team has a consensus opinion of where to play Jenkins. PackersWire’s Zach Kruse noted that both PFF’s center and guard rankings writers forgot about Jenkins, with both assuming he’d play in the other spot. As training camp carries on and Bakhtiari’s health status is clarified, one of the most exciting position battles will be seeing where Jenkins ultimately makes his bread.
This is an excellent problem to have. A second-round pick able to play five spots at an elite level is an incredible position to be in. Wherever Jenkins ends up, he’ll be an All-Pro contender at that spot.Matt Hendershott is a Packers fan and Miller High Life enthusiast from Northwest Ohio. He has a Master of Arts in Media and Communication from Bowling Green State University. You can follow him on Twitter @MattHendershott.