Offensive line unavailability has become one of the Packers’ recent themes, with David Bakhtiari‘s lengthy recovery effort from his December 2020 ACL tear headlining this. But Green Bay was without its top young blocker for much of last season as well.
Elgton Jenkins went down with a torn left ACL in late November of last year, and the Packers are not certain to have the versatile Pro Bowler to start this season. Jenkins is a candidate to begin the 2022 campaign on the reserve/PUP list, Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com notes, with his roster projection leaving the fourth-year lineman off the team’s initial 53.
The former second-round pick beginning the season on the Packers’ PUP would shelve him for the team’s first six games. The NFC North champions are annually cautious with injuries, but they have seen O-line trouble become a persistent issue. The Packers regularly trotted out second-stringer-laden blocker configurations last season, and Aaron Rodgers‘ top two protectors were largely not part of those. Bakhtiari and Jenkins have not played in a game together since Week 16 of the 2020 season.
Bakhtiari’s primary fill-in on the left side last season, Jenkins would be in line to play alongside him at left guard or at right tackle this season. The Packers can upgrade at most of their O-line positions by slotting in Jenkins, who is entering a contract year. Jenkins made the Pro Bowl as a guard in 2020 and represents an essential piece up front for the Super Bowl-contending team.
Matt LaFleur did not guarantee Bakhtiari, who missed Green Bay’s offseason program after being sidelined for 17 of the 2021 team’s 18 games, would be ready to go to start training camp. While the Packers have that as a goal, the team’s O-line health troubles will remain a central issue until Jenkins joins the All-Pro left tackle up front.
Having let Corey Linsley defect to the Chargers last year and having released Billy Turner in March, the Packers have just one notable veteran contract on their O-line (Bakhtiari’s $23MM-per-year pact). It would seem Jenkins has an opportunity to join Bakhtiari as a long-term cornerstone for the Packers up front. Missing a chunk of the season due to a 2021 injury would hinder Jenkins here, but a return to health during this upcoming slate would position him to be one of 2023’s top free agents.