Jenkins Makes Lineman Shuffle Seem Simple
GREEN BAY, Wis. – With four touchdown passes and superb accuracy, Aaron Rodgers was the obvious MVP of the Green Bay Packers’ season-opening victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.
Elgton Jenkins, on the other hand, was the unsung MVP.
Jenkins, who played center at Mississippi State and left guard for the Packers during an all-rookie season as a 2019 second-round pick, started at right tackle at Minnesota. Jenkins played 32 snaps before moving back to left guard when fill-in starter Lucas Patrick suffered a shoulder injury.
“I don’t think there’s a position he can’t play on the offensive line, including center,” coach Matt LaFleur said on Monday. “We feel really confident that wherever we need him, we can plug him in. And that’s not always easy, especially for a young player like he is, shoot, he’s only going into his second year. To his credit, he’s a guy that just is unfazed in the face of adversity or in the heat of the battle. He never flinches, and that’s such a credit to him and how he’s prepared himself to be the player he’s become.”
In 44 pass-protecting snaps, Jenkins didn’t allow a single pressure, according to Pro Football Focus and our film review. Plus, he helped power a run game that averaged 5.3 yards per carry before Tim Boyle took a couple knees to end the game.
For a lineman, changing positions midstream is difficult. Even more difficult is switching sides, since that requires the opposite footwork.
Jenkins made it look easy, which certainly didn’t surprise his college line coach. In a Twitter direct message on Monday, he called Jenkins a "unicorn."
“We could tell from the first day he came in here, he’s kind of a natural offensive lineman,” center Corey Linsley said. “I don’t think he’s played any left tackle in practice, but between his rookie year and this year, he’s kind of performed pretty well at every position they’ve played him at. It just kind of comes natural to him. I don’t know what about that, I guess he can speak to that better than I can, but overall it’s just to me he has great instincts, he’s a very intelligent football player. That obviously helps me out a ton between ID’ing defenses and figuring out where to go, I can rely on him knowing what to do and he can help me if he sees something. Overall, I think his instincts and general intuition helps out at least from my point of view.”
In his first four starts at U.S. Bank Stadium, Rodgers was sacked 12 times in three games and suffered a broken collarbone in the fourth. He was barely touched by the Vikings, who registered zero sacks and two quarterback hits. Jenkins, obviously, played a big role in that.
“I felt guys stepped up in a big way across the board,” LaFleur said. “Elgton obviously did a heck of a job going from left guard to right tackle, which is a huge adjustment. All week in practice, he seemed to transition seamlessly to right tackle and, as you can see in the game, he did a good job. Dave (Bakhtiari), obviously, is premier. And we had Lucas step up at left guard. They brought a lot of pressure, some unique, some stuff we’ve seen in the past. All in all, we had a good day upfront and we have to continue to do it.”