Green Bay Packers

Elgton Jenkins' Availability Could Be the Deciding Factor Against the Niners

Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas (USA TODAY Sports)

The Green Bay Packers’ offensive line performed phenomenally against the Detroit Lions on Monday night.

It’s a group led by Elgton Jenkins while David Bakhtiari starts the season on injured reserve. Now Jenkins is questionable after suffering an ankle injury against the Lions, meaning things will drastically change if Jenkins misses Sunday night’s game against the San Francisco 49ers. His availability could be the deciding factor.

If Jenkins were to play Sunday night, even at less than 100%, you’d hear a huge sigh of relief from Appleton to Green Bay and down to Madison. However, if Jenkins is out, it’s hard to envision what that five-man group would look like trying to keep Aaron Rodgers’ jersey clean all night.

It’s not the O-line’s fault. It’s just the reality of the situation. There are only so many losses any position group can withstand, and Green Bay’s offensive line has been through the wringer to start this season.

With Bakhtiari on the shelf, Jenkins is starting at left tackle because he’s by far the best lineman after No. 69. What’s crazy about Jenkins is that he has shown the ability to start at all five positions on the line and flourish at every single one of them. It only made sense to have him start the season protecting Rodgers’ blindside until Bakhtiari returns.

Calling Jenkins a fill-in is a massive disservice considering he’s teetering on the verge of being an All-Pro. His ability to play anywhere is something any coach would salivate over. If he’s out on Sunday, it’s only natural to think that there has to be some tipping point with Green Bay’s offensive line.

With Bakhtiari out, the Vikings were already down one All-Pro. The other All-Pro on the O-line, Corey Linsley, left in the offseason and cashed in with the Los Angeles Chargers. Those two shifts brought plenty of uncertainties for the line right out of the gate.

Matt LaFleur made it even more interesting when he started two rookies in Week 1, with Josh Myers at center and Royce Newman at right guard. Despite Rodgers’ refusal to criticize the group, they did not hold up well against the New Orleans Saints. In Week 2, it was a different story. The group meshed. Yet, there’s a sense that if any one of them goes down, it could spell disaster. It has a hanging-on-by-a-thread feel.

Jon Runyan Jr. just started his first game ever in Week 2. Runyan was phenomenal, but that makes three massively inexperienced offensive linemen with Myers and Newman next to each other in the middle. At some point, the dam breaks if Jenkins misses Sunday night.

San Francisco’s defensive line is one of the best in the business. Joey Bosa has already racked up three sacks in two games, and many other players on the line have also made significant contributions. This is where Jenkins’ availability becomes even more crucial for Green Bay.

So what does Green Bay have going in their favor up front if Jenkins is to miss this primetime matchup?

Well, Rodgers has long been able to mask issues on offense. He’s the reigning MVP for a reason. He can cover up a lot of the problems with his right arm. And secondly, LaFleur’s system is set up to shine in this exact spot. It helps get the ball out of the quarterbacks’ hands quickly, and that will undoubtedly be a point of emphasis if Jenkins is out against San Francisco.

LaFleur and Rodgers aren’t dummies. They will adjust accordingly, given the status of Jenkins on Sunday night. This is where the chess match could be set in motion. But despite the savviness of Rodgers and LaFleur, if Jenkins misses Sunday night, it would be a huge deal — the type of absence that could have Green Bay’s offensive line in for a long night.

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