Green Bay Packers rookies Rashan Gary and Darnell Savage Jr. drew a lot of attention at the Packers most recent OTA practices. It wasn’t much of a shock that both Gary and Savage Jr. drew the attention of fans and the rest of the NFL world. Not only are they both extremely athletic, which the Packers are hoping will turn into productive careers, but they are also both recent first-round draft selections. While Gary and Savage were grabbing the headlines, we had our eye on another rookie from the 2019 draft class. We expect offensive lineman Elgton Jenkins to have a long and productive NFL career.
The Green Bay Packers offensive line was in need of some depth heading into this year’s draft. In 2018, the offensive line was hit hard by injuries. In fact, out of the starting five, only center Corey Linsley and David Bakhtiari started all 16 games last season. The position hit the hardest was the guard position. That is where the Elgton Jenkins selection comes in.
While starting left guard Lane Taylor started 15 games last season for the Packers, he wasn’t nearly the player the Packers had been hoping for. Taylor had ankle surgery prior to the 2018 season and struggled to get back to full strength throughout the season. While the Packers are hoping he bounces back this season, it isn’t a guarantee. If Taylor continues his struggles from 2018 into the 2019 season, he might be shown the door.
While Taylor held down the left guard position, the right guard position went through several starters, with all earning the same results. Justin McCray, Lucas Patrick, and veteran Byron Bell all started at right guard last season. Bell, a veteran signed before the 2018 season, saw the most starts, starting nine games for the Packers. Sadly for the Packers, all three struggled in some sort of fashion.
This off-season, it appears that Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst has put an emphasis on improving the guard position. He signed free agent Billy Turner, a veteran who was most recently with the Denver Broncos, to a free-agent deal. Turner is expected to start at right guard this season for the Packers. However, it doesn’t mean that his future will be at that position.
Veteran starting right tackle Bryan Bulaga is entering the last year of his contract. Because of his longtime issue of not staying healthy, many assume this will be his last season in Green Bay. If Gutekunst and the Packers do decide to part ways with Bulaga, Turner might be Bulaga’s replacement. Drafted as a tackle Turner saw time at both guard and tackle last season for the Broncos. He also has experience in the outside zone blocking scheme that Packers head coach Matt LaFleur is implementing this season. If this happens, that leaves Elgton Jenkins with the opportunity to be the Packers starting right guard in 2020.
There is a reason that Gutekunst and the Packers selected Elgton Jenkins in the second round of this year’s draft. Jenkins had a standout career at Mississippi State. There, he started at tackle, guard, and center. The position he found the most success at was center, but that might be because that is where he started the most. Many scouts believe that if Jenkins would have stayed at guard, he would have been just as successful.
It appears that the Packers want Jenkins to concentrate on guard going into his rookie season. Still, his ability to be a backup to Linsley was another possible reason Jenkins was selected. Linsley hasn’t had a true backup since they had JC Tretter, who is now the Cleveland Browns starting center. Some even think that Jenkins has the athletic ability to play at tackle in a pinch.
The outside zone blocking scheme runs best when you have athletic offensive linemen. Elgton Jenkins is big, 6’4″ 310 lbs, but has nimble fit to thrive in the Packers new blocking scheme. Jenkins has all of the tools to thrive for the Packers, but he won’t be asked to contribute immediately. Turner looks to be the starter when the season starts, which will give Jenkins time to sit and learn. But with Bulaga’s injury history, it wouldn’t be shocking to see the Packers forced into shifting Turner to tackle and having to move Jenkins into the starting lineup. If that is the case, we believe he will be up for the task.
Most NFL football fans don’t get excited when their favorite team drafts an offensive lineman high in the NFL draft. Especially one that plays a spot in the interior part of the offensive line. But Packers fans should be excited with the selection of Elgton Jenkins. The offensive line has needed quality depth and Jenkins should be able to provide that. Jenkins has the look of an offensive lineman that should excite Packers fans for many seasons to come.