Elgton Jenkins returns to practice as Packers OL depth tested

Jul 29, 2023; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Green Bay Packers guard Elgton Jenkins (74) at Ray Nitschke Field. Mandatory Credit: Tork Mason-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 29, 2023; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Green Bay Packers guard Elgton Jenkins (74) at Ray Nitschke Field. Mandatory Credit: Tork Mason-USA TODAY Sports /

The Green Bay Packers offensive line depth has been tested early on this season, but some good news is that Elgton Jenkins was back at practice on Tuesday.

Jenkins exited the Atlanta game in the first half with what was later diagnosed as an MCL sprain. He has since missed the last two games. How much time Jenkins is going to miss was never made clear, but it was promising that he was never placed on IR, which would have required him to miss a minimum of four games.

The team does not have to release its first injury report for the week until Thursday, so it’s not known in what capacity Jenkins practiced–although he was wearing a knee brace. The Packers play the Las Vegas Raiders on Monday night and then have their bye week before facing Denver. It’s too early to know if Jenkins will be available against the Raiders.

"“We’ll have to go through the week, see how the practice goes, see how the knee feels at that time,” Jenkins said Tuesday. “We have to go through the week.”"

The Packers’ offensive line depth was considered a strength heading into the season with what felt like an abundance of options. However, that unit has been tested early on this season.

Along with Jenkins missing about two-and-a-half games, David Bakhtiari was placed on IR last week after missing Green Bay’s Week 2 and 3 matchups. Zach Tom left the New Orleans game late with a knee injury, although he did play against Detroit, while Jon Runyan missed Tuesday’s practice after suffering an ankle injury versus the Lions.

For some perspective, last Thursday, Sean Rhyan was the only interior option the Packers had available off the bench. Yosh Nijman, the team’s fourth tackle option finished the Saints game, and Caleb Jones, who was a healthy scratch during Green Bay’s first two games, was nearly the Packers’ first swing tackle option off the bench had Tom – a game-time decision – not been able to play.

"“The other team doesn’t care,” said offensive line coach Luke Butkus on Monday. “Nobody feels good after that first day of training camp. The position that we play, the position that I coach, you’re going to be banged up.“I respect the hell out of those guys for battling through and fighting. With the left tackle and left guard, that’s part of the game, part of the business. It’s the next man up. We’ve got to have the five best out there on any given week, no matter how good or bad we feel.”"

While all eyes are fixated on Jordan Love and the Packers’ young group of pass catchers, consistent success for the offense begins with the play of the offensive line.

For three games, Green Bay had held up well in pass protection, giving Love time to go through his progressions, make the proper reads, and wait for his receivers to get open. However, against a very good Lions defensive front, the Packers’ offensive line was bullied. Love was pressured on nearly 50 percent of his dropbacks, according to PFF, and when under duress that often, the play call or design doesn’t much matter. Things just aren’t going to end well.

On the ground, meanwhile, the Packers have struggled to get going all season, averaging only 3.3 yards per rush attempt, which ranks 29th in the NFL through four games. This inability to move the ball through the run game has put the offense behind the sticks, making them one-dimensional and greatly affecting the passing game.

With Green Bay in predictable passing situations, the defense is able to pin its ears back from a pass-rush standpoint, and the unit as a whole is able to do the dictating by getting into more favorable matchups. A large contributor to the offense’s overall issues is the inconsistency on first downs.

It goes without saying, but getting Jenkins back will provide a huge boost for the offensive line and the offense as a whole. In his place has been Royce Newman, who has allowed nine pressures, which is the most on the team, despite playing the fewest number of snaps. Out of 76 eligible guards, Newman ranks 67th in overall grade from PFF.

In for Bakhtiari at left tackle has been second-year player Rasheed Walker, who has been able to hold his own, excluding the Detroit game where everyone struggled, although he is no Bakhtiari and is still a relatively inexperienced player. It is unknown at this time what Runyan’s status for this upcoming game is going to be.

"Like I said, it’s part of the game,” added Butkus. “There is no doubt in my mind that we have the right guys in that room, from top to bottom, they all bust their butts. They all work and they all fight. That’s all we can ask for. Do we need to get better? Yes. Every one of those guys has shown that they can do it. We just need to consistently execute, and that’s where I think our struggles are right now.”"