The Packers’ offensive line was one of the worst in the NFL last season. They ranked 29th in sacks allowed after giving up 53 sacks. Besides getting sacked 53 times, they also allowed opposing defenses to hit Rodgers a total of 102 times which ranked 22nd in the NFL. The line was also plagued by the injury bug. They had different lineman take snaps for them last season and only had their center, Corey Linsley, play every snap. Aaron Rodgers suffered a serious injury in the last two seasons, and the offensive line needs to improve if they want to return to the playoffs after missing them two seasons in a row.
The Packers spent money and draft picks to address this area this offseason. They signed veteran right guard Billy Turner who has been impressive thus far this preseason, and spent their 2nd round draft pick on Mississippi State’s Elgton Jenkins. He had a great college career playing multiple positions and only allowing one sack in 762 snaps at the center position. Jenkins played center, left tackle, left guard, and right tackle during his college career. He was consistent and came into the draft as the number one prospect at the center position. The Packers did not draft him to play center; they drafted him because of the versatility and dominance he showed throughout college. He has been impressive this offseason and has the potential to take the starting spot from left guard Lane Taylor. Even though Elgton Jenkins is extremely talented, here is why he should not start for the Packers week 1:
Continue to Develop:
The first reason is one that can be said about any rookie, he needs more time to develop. Jenkins was a dominant offensive lineman in college, but that does not always translate into the NFL. Look at Greg Robinson of the Cleveland Browns. He was the number two pick for the Rams, but ended up being traded from the Rams and waived by the Detroit Lions. I am not saying that Elgton Jenkins is going to be a bust or anything close to it, but as a young offensive lineman, the more time you have to learn and adjust to the NFL, the greater chance you will have of having a long successful career. He will be a future starter for the Packers, but there is no need to rush him into it.
Backup to Multiple Positions:
As mentioned earlier in the article, the Packers had the injury bug on the offensive line last season. Keeping Elgton Jenkins out of the starting five for the first year allows the Packers to have a talented lineman who can be plugged in at any position on the offensive line. The Packers have mostly utilized Jenkins at the guard spot, but he has experience playing multiple positions on the line. Bryan Bullaga is an elite right tackle in the NFL, but the problem is he is hurt every season. The Packers have been giving him more rest time during training camp and have already practiced Elgton Jenkins at RG and Billy Turner at RT. Obviously the Packers do not want Bulaga to be hurt, but having Jenkins as a piece to plug in is also extremely valuable. With the release of Jason Spriggs, they need their plug and play lineman and Jenkins would be an improvement from last season.
Offensive Line has Already Improved:
Not to repeat myself again, but the Packers offensive line struggled last season. Since they struggled, I understand why fans want to play the 2nd round draft pick, but the line has already improved. The biggest problem last season was injuries and the offensive line is finally healthy. The Packers have been cautious with their veteran tackles Bakhtiari and Bulaga, and adding Billy Turner upgrades the right side of the line. The Packers should see what this line can do with a healthy season before putting in Jenkins when he needs more time to develop.
Replacing Bryan Bulaga:
Bryan Bulaga has been a great tackle for the Packers, but he is getting older and the injuries are piling up. He is entering the final year of his contract and will be an unrestricted free agent in 2020. The Packers have key players hitting the market in Kenny Clark, David Bakhtiari and Blake Martinez, who the Packers might be more inclined to keep. Keeping Lane Taylor as the starting left guard will allow for the Packers to continue to use Jenkins at RG and move Turner over to RT to replace Bulaga. They also could develop Jenkins at the RT position since he does have experience there as well. Elgton Jenkins is still young and the Packers need to think long term since their offensive line can still be solid without Jenkins starting.
Please do not get me wrong, Elgton Jenkins is a talented offensive lineman, but it might not be the time for him to start. He has had a great camp and has not allowed a single pressure in his two PRESEASON games, but he still has a lot to learn. Matt LaFleur has loved him in camp and said he will be in the league for a long time, so the Packers need to develop him to be an impactful offensive lineman to protect their most valuable player, Aaron Rodgers.