Elgton Jenkins' return a game-changer but forces Packers to make difficult decisions
Elgton Jenkins gives the Packers' O-line a shot in the arm, but the team will have to reconfigure the unit and likely cut some promising prospects in order to accommodate his return.
Over the past seven days, the Green Bay Packers took the field for their first preseason game and hosted the New Orleans Saints for a joint practice. Two-time reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers even revealed a bust of actor Nicolas Cage that he keeps in his locker.
Yet the far bigger news came Sunday when the Packers announced that three players would come off the active/physically unable to perform list and practice for the first time this training camp. Two members of the newly activated trio -- Robert Tonyan and Christian Watson -- join a receiving corps that has gone through a well-documented transition this offseason. Accordingly, they have garnered plenty of attention. However, Elgton Jenkins' return -- less than nine months removed from an ACL tear -- holds far more significance to the offense.
But while Jenkins coming off the PUP list understandably inspires plenty of optimism around Green Bay, his activation also raises questions for which the team currently lacks clear answers.
A problem solved but not a question answered
Jenkins' return provides a solution at literally any position along the offensive line and arguably improves the unit by a magnitude greater than any other addition. But while the fourth-year pro represents the incredibly rare "jack of all trades and master of all," he does force the coaching staff to rethink their approach with three weeks and change left before the regular-season opener against the Minnesota Vikings.
Given the comparative depth at the bookends compared to the interior, Jenkins will most likely begin his 2022 campaign at one of the tackle spots. But whether that takes place on the left or right side could signal how much longer the recovery process will last for David Bakhtiari. Once the All-Pro offensive tackle receives full clearance, he will resume work at his customary spot on the blindside.
However, if Bakhtiari requires four games or more on the reserve/PUP list -- the place he will occupy at the start of the regular season if not activated sooner -- the Packers might prefer to place Jenkins at left tackle in the interim. Jenkins thrived in that role last season and would have garnered serious consideration for an All-Pro nod, so a return to that spot hardly seems out of the question. Alternatively, if Bakhtiari can take the field sooner, Jenkins can instead move straight to right tackle. In either scenario, Yosh Nijman would head to the bench.