Packers: Center or Guard, Where does Elgton Jenkins End Up when Bak Returns?

Oct 28, 2021; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Green Bay Packers guard Elgton Jenkins (74) against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 28, 2021; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Green Bay Packers guard Elgton Jenkins (74) against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

On Wednesday, the Green Bay Packers activated David Bakhtiari off of the PUP list, which places him back on the 53-man roster. Although there is still no guarantee that he plays on Sunday, his return is imminent.

And when that time comes, Matt LaFleur and Co. will have some decisions to make along the rest of the offensive line.

In Bakhtiari’s absence, it has been Elgton Jenkins holding his own at left tackle—when healthy. According to PFF ($$), Jenkins has had 229 snaps at left tackle this year and allowed two sacks and just 10 pressures. He is also PFF’s fifth-highest graded tackle this season.

However, the question now becomes, will Jenkins move back to guard or slide over to center until Josh Myers returns?

Really the answer to this question has less to do with Jenkins and more to do with Royce Neman, Jon Runyan, and Lucas Patrick. Jenkins is a Pro Bowl left guard, and while he has only 297 career snaps at center, he’s shown that he is more than capable of thriving at any position along the offensive line.

If Jenkins goes back to left guard, Patrick will stay at center, and then either Runyan or Newman will be the right guard.

Overall, I would say that Newman has shown that he can be a capable starter, but when he struggles — which seems to happen on a few plays each game — he really struggles. Runyan has certainly been the more steady presence among the two, and their PFF grades reflect that, with Runyan ranked 33rd out of 79 guards while Newman ranks 74th.

However, while Runyan has been the better player of the two, I’m not sure it’s that simple. It’s clear that LaFleur and the coaching staff think highly of Newman — at least to our knowledge, they haven’t considered benching him through the ups and downs — and he is likely going to be a big part of this offense for the foreseeable future.

Newman also did beat out Runyan for the starting guard job coming out of camp, and Runyan does have just 22 career snaps at right guard—which is certainly noteworthy. All of which could be reasons that the team sticks with Newman—but we will see.

What if the Green Bay Packers choose to put Jenkins at center?

In this scenario, I imagine Runyan will stay at left guard, and the Packers will be choosing between Patrick and Newman at right guard. Patrick has been very up and down this season—when he’s been good, he’s been good; but when he’s been bad, he’s been bad.

In 2020, he was much more consistent, allowing three sacks and just 21 pressures while spending a majority of the season at right guard—not bad at all. Patrick would also rank 31st out of 86 eligible guards in run-blocking grade and sixth in ESPN’s pass-block win rate.

Ultimately, this is a good problem to have for the Green Bay Packers—they have several viable options to choose from in constructing their offensive line, not to mention that the overall unit is going to be improved with the return of Bakhtiari.

As LaFleur has often said, his goal is to put the best five offensive linemen on the field, and as we’ve seen, Green Bay won’t be afraid to make changes from week to week based on what they see.

If I had to make a prediction at this point, my best guess is that Runyan stays at left guard, Jenkins takes over at center, and Patrick is moved to right guard. With that said, there really isn’t any lineup that the Packers could put on the field that would surprise me.