GREEN BAY, Wis. – After Sunday’s game, coach Matt LaFleur didn’t believe center Corey Linsley’s knee injury would end his season.
Further examination confirmed that optimistic outlook. Nonetheless, Linsley could miss the end of the regular season with an injured MCL, according to NFL Network.
The injury is the latest setback to the Green Bay Packers’ offensive line, which will line up with its fifth different starting combination on Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles. It had gone the last two weeks with left tackle David Bakhtiari, left guard Elgton Jenkins, Linsley, right guard Lucas Patrick and right tackle Billy Turner. But only barely. Linsley played only 10 snaps last week against the Indianapolis Colts and 21 snaps on Sunday night against the Chicago Bears.
Fortunately, Jenkins and Turner have provided uncommon flexibility. Jenkins has played 572 snaps at left guard, 104 at center, 32 at right tackle and 27 at left tackle. Turner has played 398 snaps at right tackle, 171 at left tackle and 13 at right guard, where he started every game last season.
“You have to tip your hat to Elgton Jenkins. You have to tip your hat to Billy Turner,” Bakhtiari said after Sunday’s game. “Those guys are extremely versatile and can play multiple positions and play multiple positions at a high level.”
Jenkins played center the past two weeks and figures to do so again against the Eagles.
“What’s beautiful about him is that ability” to play multiple spots, LaFleur said on Monday. “I can’t tell you how hard that is midgame when you’ve been repping one position all week and now you’ve got to step in and go to another spot. That is tough, and that’s a credit to him and his ability. Obviously, (line coaches) Adam Stenavich and Luke Butkus do a great job with all those guys, but that guy never flinches. We are fortunate to have somebody of his caliber and everything he brings to our football team.”
Jenkins played center – and everywhere else – at Mississippi State. The breakdown of his 34 starts: 26 at center, five at left tackle, two at left guard and one at right tackle.
“I felt like it went good. A lot of things I can clean up on, a lot of technique that I was rusty on,” Jenkins said after playing center against the Colts. “But I feel like it went good. Around the building, we always say don’t blink. Once my coach said I was going in to play center, I was like, ‘OK, whatever I can do to help the team.’
“I’ll just say (I’m) blessed. God gave me the ability and the talent to do those things, and my coaches from peewee all the way up to college, all the way up to the NFL helped me with technique and other things I need to succeed at every position.”
If Jenkins plays center vs. Philadelphia, rookie Jon Runyan figures to step in again at left guard, like he did the last two weeks. In a funny-low-life-works-out kind of way, Runyan’s first NFL start would come against the team his father, Jon Runyan Sr., started 144 games for from 2000 through 2008.
As for Linsley, he was having a strong season – perfect timing as he plays the final season of a three-year, $25.5 million contract extension signed just before the end of the 2017 season. However, the injuries could hardly have come at a worse time for the 29-year-old’s marketability. After starting all 48 games from 2017 through 2019, including every snap in 2017 and 2018, he might wind up playing only 31 snaps in the final seven regular-season games.
“Any time you’re missing a guy like Corey, you’re not going to be at your best because he is such a valuable piece, not only to our offense, but our football team,” LaFleur said. “We have really good depth, which is critical for us to be able to continue to function at a high level on offense. But he’s a guy that’s very, very valuable to this football team.”