The last 13 months have been a roller coaster for Green Bay Packers offensive lineman Elgton Jenkins. Once a solid starting left tackle, he went through knee rehabilitation after suffering a torn ACL last November. Since then, Jenkins missed the entire offseason, preseason, and the first regular season game because of his knee injury. In September, he came back as Green Bay’s starting right tackle, but things weren’t great. He became one of the weak links of a transitional unit.
Starting in Week 7 against the Washington Commanders, Jenkins was back to his original spot as the left guard — a position in which he earned a Pro Bowl season invite two years ago. It took some time, but Jenkins has been solid for the last month. He’s become a strength for the team, an integral part of the passing offense for a squad that needs to be explosive in the final two games against the Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions. Moreover, Jenkins signed a four-year extension with the Packers last week.
In his first eight games of the season, Jenkins gave up 16 pressures in five games as a right tackle and three as a left guard. In the last five games, though, Jenkins hadn’t allowed a single pressure in 178 consecutive pass-blocking snaps. Obviously, he isn’t the only one, but he certainly is a factor for the team going up from 20.1 points per game in that eight-game stretch to 25.6 in the last five. And that improvement happened even with starting left tackle David Bakhtiari out and replaced by rookie Zach Tom.
PFF’s grades have highlighted how well Jenkins has played. In Week 13 against the Chicago Bears, the left guard was Green Bay’s highest-graded (83.5) offensive player, the only one with a grade over 75. Against the Los Angeles Rams after the bye week, Jenkins was again among the highest-graded offensive players. This time, he was third (80.1), behind rookie wide receiver Romeo Doubs and running back A.J. Dillon.
It won’t be easy for the Packers’ offense to keep up with the strong and versatile Vikings and Lions’ offenses. However, to do so and keep their playoff hopes alive, the pass protection will need to be solid. And Jenkins is a big part of this equation.
Present and future
Jenkins’ future in Green Bay was an interesting consideration until last week. In the offseason, I thought the best path for the Packers was to re-sign him as soon as possible. The season didn’t start well for him as a right tackle, and the coaching staff was forced to play him at left guard. Going to the interior of the line might have had a significant impact on his market value, and he agreed to a four-year, $68 million extension. It is a guard contract, even though there are incentives if he moves to a full-time tackle job and plays at a high level.
For the future, Green Bay still needs to see if they want to keep him at left guard or if he deserves another shot at right tackle with much more time removed from the knee injury. For example, Jenkins could be useful at right tackle next week if Yosh Nijman isn’t recovered from his shoulder injury. Royce Newman replaced Nijman in the Miami game and didn’t play well.
“I don’t think there’s a position up front he can’t play,” head coach Matt LaFleur said after the agreement. “It obviously took him a little bit for him [to get] going I would say this year, which is to be expected, but he’s gotten better and better and better. I think you’ve seen that as of late. Each and every week, he seems to get a little bit better.”
Jenkins has been one of Brian Gutekunst’s most valuable picks and is now helping the Packers with a late-season run. His flexibility is a weapon, and the Packers might need it in the next two weeks.