In the past 30 years, it has been very rare that the Green Bay Packers have had a below-average offensive line. In fact, in recent years, the Packers’ offensive line has been near the top. From 2007-2017, James Campen guided the Packers’ offensive line. His work earned him the respect of his peers around the league. Next up was Wisconsin’s own Adam Stenavich. Stenavich held the position from 2019-2021. His work as the offensive line coach was so impressive that he earned a promotion to offensive coordinator this off-season.
Next is Luke Butkus who was the assistant to Stenavich and will try to continue the success. But he is already facing a challenge. He will need to possibly prepare the Green Bay Packers offensive line without David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins.
David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins’ Health Will Dictate Green Bay Packers Offensive Line
Head coach Matt LaFleur and Butkus are very much hoping that Bakhtiari and Jenkins return sometime in 2022. Preferably by the opening game. But as Bakhtiari proved last season, there is no such thing as a guarantee when it comes to dealing with an injury. Many believed that he would be back in 2021 after suffering a knee injury late in 2020. While technically he did (he played 27 snaps in just one game), it wasn’t what the Packers were hoping.
Even now, his availability to start 2022 on the field isn’t a guarantee. At least that is what many perceived after LaFleur’s recent comments. If that wasn’t bad enough for LaFleur, Butkus, and the rest of the Green Bay Packers offensive line, there is also the Elgton Jenkins situation.
While playing in place of the injured Bakhtiari, Jenkins suffered a season-ending injury of his own. The Packers are hoping Jenkins’ recovery will be smoother than Bakhtiari’s and that he will be available in 2022. If his recovery is a rocky one, LaFleur and Butkus will face a very daunting challenge.
— Ryan Wood (@ByRyanWood) May 24, 2022
Jenkins is Biggest Piece on the Packers’ Offensive Line
Bakhtiari, before his injury, was one of the best left tackles in the NFL. His ability to protect Aaron Rodgers earned him a four-year $92 million contract in November of 2020. Bakhtiari will continue being one of the biggest pieces for the Green Bay Packers offensive line when he returns. But when it comes to him and Elgton Jenkins, Jenkins is the more important offensive lineman that needs to get healthy.
In 2020, Jenkins earned his first trip to a Pro Bowl in 2020 as a guard. While Jenkins has excelled at guard, it appears that might not be his best position. He has seen time at both left and right tackle. He was playing left tackle for Bakhtiari against the Minnesota Vikings when he suffered his 2021 season-ending knee injury.
Many believe his long-term position is at right tackle, but from what he displayed in place of Bakhtiari, he very well could take over for Bakhtiari as the starting left tackle. But what makes him so vital to the Green Bay Packers offensive line is his ability to play all five positions and all of them at a high level.
This isn’t cutting down Bakhtiari, the Packers need him back. But Elgton Jenkins returning, gives the Packers depth, at guard, tackle, and center. Of course, the Packers are hoping for a quick recovery from Jenkins, but are also hoping that he is the same Jenkins he was before the injury.
The Plan if Both Aren’t Ready to Go
If both are ready to go, many expect to see Bakhtiari at left tackle and Elgton Jenkins at right tackle on September 11th at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. However, that might not happen. If you were a betting person, it would be a good bet that Jenkins will be ready and Bakhtiari won’t.
If that is the case, even with coming back from a season-ending knee injury, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Jenkins start at left tackle. For most players, it would a very difficult task. But a player like Jenkins, who is so gifted, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him excel immediately. With him on the left side, the right tackle spot would be a battle between Yosh Nijman and Sean Rhyan.
A worst-case scenario would be that both standout players aren’t ready to go to start the season. If that is the case, it will be up to LaFleur, Stenavich, and Butkus to get creative. If that becomes reality, then expect Nijman, who started games at left tackle in 2021, to start on the left side with most likely Ryan on the right side.
All three coaches will need to figure out a scheme that will take heat off both tackles. That would mean Marcedes Lewis to the rescue. The best blocking tight end in the NFL, he helped out Nijman a lot when Nijman started at left tackle in 2021. Problem with utilizing Lewis, is there enough of him to help both Nijman and the rookie Rhyan?
Trial by Fire for Butkus
Luke Butkus is hoping that one or both of his standout tackles will be ready to go in week one against the Vikings. But, it just might not be the case.
Fortunately for Butkus, he has people to lean on. The most important being Stenavich. While he is the new offensive coordinator, it would be naive to think he won’t be heavily involved in the day-to-day activities of the Green Bay Packers offensive line. His presence, won’t only help Butkus, but will help the whole Packers offense as well.
It will help if both Bakhtiari and Jenkins are ready to go to start the season. If not, the Packers will have to get creative. Adjusting to injuries isn’t anything new to LaFleur, hopefully, he will be as successful dealing with these injuries as he has been in the past dealing with others.