There aren’t a lot of things going right for the Green Bay Packers right now. The offense has dipped into new lows. On the other side of the ball, it seems their second-year defensive coordinator Joe Barry is still trying to figure things out. The only area the Packers were having success at, special teams just laid an egg against the New York Jets. There are a lot of areas that head coach Matt LaFleur needs to correct before they take on the Washington Commanders. One area that needs immediate help is the Green Bay Packers offensive line.
Time for the Green Bay Packers to Change the Offensive Line
From 2019-2021, assistant coach Adam Stenavich was in charge of the Green Bay Packers offensive line. It was a position in that Stenavich thrived. Under his tutelage, the Green Bay Packers offensive line played exceptionally and was one of the best in the NFL. Stenavich achieved this even after the offensive line was decimated by injury.
So when Nathaniel Hackett, the Packers former offensive coordinator, was named the Denver Broncos head coach, it was an easy choice for LaFleur to promote Stenavich. The job Stenavich did with the offensive line more than earned him the promotion.
But it appears that the Packers need Stenavich to go back to his roots. Under first-year offensive line coach Luke Butkus the Packers offensive line is struggling. As Andy Herman of Pack A Day podcast recently pointed out, it might be time for LaFleur to switch Stenavich’s attention back to the offensive line room full-time.
Unfortunately, the Packers offensive line’s troubles run a lot deeper than who is in charge. If the Packers are truly going to get the best five offensive line on the starting unit, they will need to make some switches.
Move Elgton Jenkins Back to Guard
In 2020, Elgton Jenkins was named first-team All-Pro after playing exceptional as the Packers starting left guard. But in 2021, Jenkins would make the shift to left tackle with starting left tackle David Bakhtiari still recovering from a 2020 season-ending injury.
Jenkins more than held his own at left tackle. He played so well that many speculated that Jenkins might be best off staying at tackle. But midway through the season, Jenkins suffered a season-ending knee injury against the Minnesota Vikings.
But after a long and grueling rehabilitation this off-season, Jenkins made his way back into the starting lineup as the Packers starting right tackle. Unfortunately, Jenkins return hasn’t gone smoothly. Since returning, Jenkins has struggled. He has had troubles in both the passing and ground games. He has also had issues with penalties, something Jenkins never did prior to his injury.
There is still a strong possibility that Jenkins future is still at tackle. But right now, the best place for Jenkins, and the Packers, is inside. Prior to making the switch to tackle, Jenkins thrived as a guard. When the Packers needed to run behind someone, in most cases, it was Jenkins number that was called.
If it’s the switch of positions, or him still just trying to get healthy, Jenkins isn’t playing at the level that the Packers are accustomed to. Switching him from tackle to guard might be the best, for both the Packers and Jenkins.
Left Guard or Right Guard?
Before switching to tackle, Jenkins was a standout at the left guard spot. He teamed up with Bakhtiari to make up one of the best starting left sides in the NFL. Moving Jenkins back to the left side, to team up with the now-healthy Bakhtiari, would seem like the logical move.
But since Jenkins departed the starting left guard spot, Jon Runyan Jr. has done a solid job replacing him. Minus last week against the Jets, Runyan Jr. has done a solid job as the Packers starting left guard. He has played well enough that it might make LaFleur, Stenavich, and Butkus think twice about having Runyan switch sides.
Even with Runyan holding down the fort, moving him to the right side makes the most sense. The current starting right guard, Royce Newman, has been the weak link of the Green Bay Packers offensive line. He played so poorly last week against the Jets, he was replaced by Jake Hanson. Although Newman was forced back into action after Hanson was injured.
With Jenkins back at left guard, it would strengthen the left side. Having at least one dominating side of the offensive line would also help out LaFleur, as the play-caller. LaFleur has failed to establish the run in 2022. By having Jenkins and Baktiari on the left side, it would give LaFleur, along with running backs Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon, a high-end side to run behind.
Moving Jenkins back to guard, no matter if it’s on the left or right side, would also help starting center Josh Myers. Myers, a former second-round pick of Brian Gutekunst’s, has struggled mightily this season. Having Jenkins and Runyan on each side of him might get Myers to play better.
Addressing the Right Tackle Position
If Jenkins is on the move, that will leave a hole at right tackle. The most obvious choice to take over the spot would be Yosh Nijman. When Bakhtiari and Jenkins were lost to injury in 2021, Nijman stepped in and took their place. Nijman, with the help of blocking tight end Marcedes Lewis, played solidly in place of Bakhtiari and Jenkins.
With Bakhtiari still recovering at the start of this season, it was Nijman who once again stepped in on the left side. His solid play gives the Packers a viable backup option to Bakhtiari. While he has played well at left tackle, he hasn’t shown if he can do the same on the right side.
Moving from left to right tackle isn’t as easy as some people might think it is. Every technique and drop is the opposite, something that might make it difficult for Nijman. The adjustment might take time, something the Green Bay Packers offensive line might not have with dealing with a two-game losing streak.
One possibility that isn’t getting a lot of discussion is rookie Zach Tom. Tom, a rookie fourth-round draft choice, spent time at both left and right tackle in training camp. He also spent some time at guard, but with his lean frame and good footwork, it seems that Tom’s best spot would be at tackle. He received reps with both the first and second team units in training camp.
Starting Tom in replace of Jenkins at right tackle would allow Nijman to still be Bakhtiari’s backup. Bakhtiari didn’t play for almost two years, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if he has a setback or two. If Nijman stays as the backup, it would allow him to step in if Bakhtiari falters.
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