It's Time For the Packers To Think About A New Offensive Line Formation

Elgton Jenkins hasn't been as effective at RT

During the offseason, every indication coming from Green Bay was that their plan was clear: when everyone was healthy, the ideal offensive line would have David Bakhtiari at left tackle and Elgton Jenkins at right tackle. And those were totally fair perspectives and expectations. After all, it's generally a smart approach to use the two best players in the two most valuable positions. However, three games after Elgton Jenkins came back from his knee injury, it might be time to reflect if that is the correct plan and if the current lineup is the best for the Packers - now and moving forward.

Jenkins was a Pro Bowler playing at left guard and was really solid last season at left tackle before his injury, but his performance as a right tackle hasn't been so good — the game against the New England Patriots, where he struggled to stop Matt Judon, was a tipping point. He might be rusty, and everything may be ok in a couple of games. He might not be as comfortable playing on the right side, because his best days were on the left. Anyway, it's fair to give him more time. But it's also fair to analyze other options.

Yosh Nijman has been solid at LT. In his two games as a starter this season while Bakhtiari was still out, he was top 4 in the entire league according to PFF in pass blocking grade. Nijman would also have to go through an adjustment period to play at right tackle, but he had RT reps during training camp and played on the right side of the line during his college senior season at Virginia Tech.

If Nijman is able to be as effective at RT as he has been at LT, the Packers will have the option to move Jenkins back inside and reedit a strong left side duo with Bakhtiari. Jon Runyan would move to right guard - he and Nijman already have familiarity playing side by side, even though it happened on the left.

A line with David Bakhtiari, Elgton Jenkins, Josh Myers, Jon Runyan and Yosh Nijman probably reunites the best five Packers linemen so far - and it opens the door for Zach Tom to be the right tackle of the future if he realizes his potential.

Jenkins' future

One massive implication of moving Elgton Jenkins back to guard or not is his contract status. Drafted in the 2019 second round, Jenkins is in the last year of his rookie deal and has no fifth-year option. That means he will be a free agent and the Packers can't do much about it, unless they apply a transition tag, a franchise tag, or agree to an extension before free agency opens next March.

The difference in value between a tackle and a guard is significant. Trent Williams is the highest paid offensive lineman, with a $ 23 million yearly average. Quenton Nelson, the highest paid guard, has just signed a contract with the Indianapolis Colts for $ 20 million per season. There are five right tackles who receive a higher average per year than the second-highest paid guard, Jacksonville Jaguars' Brandon Scherff. If the Packers are willing to pay Elgton Jenkins tackle money to play guard, it's a reasonable outcome - but maybe not the ideal use of resources.

Another consideration is that Yosh Nijman will be a restricted free agent, so the Packers will probably be forced to use a first or second-round RFA tender to keep him short-term. Zach Tom, Sean Rhyan, and Rasheed Walker were just drafted, and Caleb Jones is an undrafted rookie. The investment in the offensive line has been huge, and maybe it will generate some tough market decisions.

But that's a conversation for the future. For the present, the Packers offensive coaching staff has to find the best possible formation to put on the field - and Elgton Jenkins at RT is not as obvious of a choice as it looked like one month ago.

PHOTO: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

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Wendell Ferreira covers the Green Bay Packers for Zone Coverage and Cheesehead TV. He is a Brazilian journalist with over a decade of experience covering the NFL, soccer, NBA, and MMA. Follow him on twitter at @wendellfp  

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6 points

Comments (38)

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dobber's picture

October 03, 2022 at 11:14 am

Jenkins made a fast turnaround on his ACL--he was in game action at less than 10 months. You have to wonder where he is yet in his confidence, strength, and movement. Matt Judon is a stud off the edge and the Pats use him well. This was no cake walk for 74. TB is really damn good across their front 7, too.

"If Nijman is able to be as effective at RT as he has been at LT, the Packers will have the option to move Jenkins back inside and reedit a strong left side duo with Bakhtiari."

They panned the Nijman to RT move in preseason. Whether that was because he struggled with NFL speed off the edge, or with shifting from left to right, or it was just more important that he stay on the left side, he doesn't seem to be figuring into the RT discussion. Whatever the case, you'd have to have a better option at RT to bump 74 back inside, and I don't think the Packers are going to take a team that they think is a contender and hand it over to a 7th round rookie or UDFA RT unless they're sure that guy is all-that-and-a-bag-of-chips.

"One massive implication of moving Elgton Jenkins back to guard or not is his contract status...The difference in value between a tackle and a guard is significant."

It won't matter--that ship has already sailed. He's already shown he's a viable LT and capable at basically every OL position. Regardless of where the Packers play him from here on out, the flexibility to play anywhere and competence at the most important OL position is going to drive his value on the open market. His agent would be a fool to not push 74 to look for LT money--that, or Jenkins would have to sign off on less.

If the Packers move him back to G, that's fine, but they're still going to have to pay him at or near market (or guarantee more money than they might like at a lower rate) or they'll lose him. My guess is that they extend him before Dec. 1, give him a couple big roster bonuses to keep his hit from impacting the 2022 cap, but then convert them into signing bonuses in the near future.

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Coldworld's picture

October 03, 2022 at 11:25 am

Well put. Fans always forget the almost inevitable lag between fitness and a full return to functionality after an ACL. It is real! It’s almost always a factor for an athlete in any sport. It’s about 6 months after full fitness before the player is typically what they were. I think LaFlrur expressed his appreciation for Jenkins being willing to help the team out as soon as possible.

We need to remember that a couple of games doesn’t change the realities of ACL recovery. I’d still play him at G this year if we could, but I’d rather he was at RT than Newman. Hopefully they can get Nijman ready at right soon.

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Coldworld's picture

October 03, 2022 at 11:25 am

Duplicate

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T7Steve's picture

October 03, 2022 at 12:35 pm

I was worried because last week he didn't practice. Was just on a bike on the side lines. So you know he's still not 100%.

CW do you think Wendell learned from our earlier discussions about who we thought were the best 5? The article is almost exactly a summary of what we thought. HA! We got a lot of lectures and thumbs down at the time, I believe.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

October 03, 2022 at 06:04 pm

Well, let's just say I don't agree with what Wendell wrote, while acknowledging that the coaches should keep the possibilities he proposes in mind, and think of them with an open mind.

Nijman probably is one of the five best OL, but doesn't mean anything. Coaches seem to think he can only play one position at present. And they think Nijman is not the top choice at the only position he can play. IDK if they're right.

If you had Mahomes, AR and Josh Allen on the same team, they would all be one of the best 11 offensive players. But only one can play QB. The other two sit on the bench because they aren't the best candidate for TE, OT, OG, OC, RB, or WR.

If Nijman can make the move, it might be a good idea. Jenkins probably would be 30% better than Newman, but it remains to be seen how much, if any, of a downgrade Nijman turns to be from Jenkins at RT.

Wendell might be correct. We have not seen Nijman play RT so we cannot really have an idea how he'd do there. Also, hate shuffling multiple players around. Moving Jenkins to LG and Runyan, who ain't doing so great this year, to RG, might work or might just make Runyan worse than Newman has been. Improvement at LG with Jenkins there might be offset by downgrades at RG and RT. Still, you and Wendell may end up being right. We might or might not find out.

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Coldworld's picture

October 04, 2022 at 10:38 am

Nijman played RT in college enough to know that he’s able to function there. Some players in various sports find it difficult to lead with the opposite side of their body, but I think his history discounts that.

The reason that a freakish physical specimen went undrafted is that he played through college simply on just being physically out of his opponents league. He was not trained at all. In fact his coaches were allegedly telling scouts that he wasn’t receptive to training when asked why he was so lacking: “The guy hasn’t the slightest clue of how to play his position, especially as a run blocker” as one scout told SI.com.

All his technique has been acquired in Green Bay. All if that has been taught on the left. Applying that to playing on the right is reasonably going to require some time and adjustment. But that’s all it is. It takes reps and muscle memory. I have no doubt that it can be done. It’s just a question of how much opportunity there is in season, when most practices are game prep.

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gpt999's picture

October 03, 2022 at 11:17 am

So, the big question I have is whether Jenkins' "rust" is causing his lower level of play or whether he is just not as good at tackle versus at guard? I get it that the big money is playing tackle. But, from a GB team perspective, is playing him at tackle in the TEAMS' best interest? I realize his contract is coming up and playing tackle now would help cement his pay for possibly the rest of his career. Does that justify keeping him at a position he is struggling at when he could be playing guard where he was all pro? I don't get me wrong - I like Jenkins. But shouldn't it be team first?

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Coldworld's picture

October 03, 2022 at 11:32 am

There is a difference between “rust” and a return from an ACL. He is playing at right tackle because it’s in the teams’ interest, until they have a better alternative. Hopefully Nijman can be freed from backing up Bakh soon.

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PeteK's picture

October 03, 2022 at 05:36 pm

I'll add Myers to the rusty list as he has not held his own so far.

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LLCHESTY's picture

October 03, 2022 at 01:41 pm

"whether he is just not as good at tackle versus at guard?"

That would only be people with very short attention spans. He was very good to excellent at LT last year. People need to remember he's taken more snaps at RT than Nijman has since camp started. Get Nijman as many RT snaps in practice as they can but I don't think they need to make that decision yet.

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Fubared's picture

October 03, 2022 at 03:21 pm

He was awful. I saw an old woman in a walker go around him. Embarrassing. Not the same player thats for sure.

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LambeauPlain's picture

October 03, 2022 at 11:31 am

I hear ML and Steno state all the time they will play "the best 5" on the OL. IMO that group is who Wendell identifies: Dave, Jenks, Myers, JRJ, Yosh.

Jenks had a rough game yesterday. He didn't move very well. Expect that will change with time...for now I think he will help the team more back at LG.

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LLCHESTY's picture

October 03, 2022 at 01:41 pm

Runyan is struggling this year and you want to move him?

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marpag1's picture

October 03, 2022 at 11:37 am

Frankly, I'm more concerned about the D line and their apparent inability to tackle a ball carrier or even to get in his way. They're giving up 5 yards a pop on the ground.

I also think that opponents have been trying to go after Quay Walker, with some success. I'm not saying I'm disappointed with Walker - I'm definitely not - but I do think he's taking some rookie lumps. Probably not a popular opinion, but whatever

Jenkins needs time and a bit of confidence, but I suspect he'll be fine. He was good at left tackle last year.

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murf7777's picture

October 03, 2022 at 11:58 am

I think you’re right about Quay, he has great potential and can and will make big plays for the Packers this year. He is also our best option. That said, he’s a rookie and most rookies, but a few, make quite a few mistakes. He does get washed out at times on run D. On the positive side, I’ve seen him play some really good ball at times and he also uses his long arms at times to shed blockers. He just needs more consistency and read and react quicker. That will come with experience. I’m excited about his future and think he’s going to be a really good pro-bowl type of ILB.

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Coldworld's picture

October 03, 2022 at 12:38 pm

Bellicheck used his TEs and an extra OL extremely adroitly. He is a master at that and I think it gave both LBs issues. Lowry continues to be a total liability in the run game. I don’t know why they played Slaton so little (perhaps he wasn’t better), but I increasingly wish we had Heflin in at times.

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jannes bjornson's picture

October 03, 2022 at 01:54 pm

That is on Barry and his light fronts. Two down-linemen s a recipe to get blasted by Big Bad Bill's road graders.

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Gee's picture

October 03, 2022 at 05:33 pm

I think I hear one of the guards was like 340 and a tackle 350, not sure if I'm right. Still when they have that kind of beef a cross from you, 2 man fronts are going to get destroyed. Add the tight ends, and no wonder the Rbs were untouched into the secondary.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

October 03, 2022 at 06:08 pm

Michael Onwenu, their RG, is listed at 350 pounds.

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dblbogey's picture

October 03, 2022 at 11:49 am

Any lineup that doesn't have Newman in it is an improvement. Jenkins is all world at guard. I'd love to see him back inside. If Yosh can handle left tackle, he can certainly adjust to right tackle. I still like Zach Tom in the very near future.

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THESZOTMAN1's picture

October 03, 2022 at 11:57 am

Just 1 point:
From my VAST experience playing O-Line (on 9th grade team), it is NOT easy to switch positions across the line and perform at the same level.
The Szotman

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BAMABADGER's picture

October 03, 2022 at 12:09 pm

We need to lock up Jenkins (our most valuable OL-man) with an extended contract as soon as possible. He can play tackle, but he came back early after ACL surgery. He will get back to normal as he gains confidence in the rehabbed knee. Have no problem with him moving back to LT and try Yosh at RT.

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bodei1newbie1's picture

October 03, 2022 at 12:21 pm

Wendell Ferreira i agree with you 100%

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LLCHESTY's picture

October 03, 2022 at 01:47 pm

I think moving Runyan at this point could be a big mistake. He is not having a good year and moving him won't help. Maybe the long term answer is Bakhtiari, Tom , Myers, Jenkins and Nijman but first as long as it's not completely broken keep things as is while Tom and Nijman get as many snaps as possible at LG and RT respectively in practice. Nijman should play LT when Bakhtiari is out and RT when Jenkins has a rest day.

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LambeauPlain's picture

October 03, 2022 at 02:10 pm

With Runyon struggling maybe he isn't one of the top 5 now. Is Newman playing better than Runyon? If so, an option would be to move Runyon to the bench and replace him with Jenks, Yosh at RT.

But Newman is not playing all that well either, in my opinion.

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T7Steve's picture

October 03, 2022 at 02:58 pm

Has he gotten any penalties yet? Not sure. That's one of the reasons I've always liked him. No penalties last year, though he admitted that was part luck because he didn't get called for some.

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LLCHESTY's picture

October 03, 2022 at 04:19 pm

PFF has them pretty close with Runyan having a 59 grade and Newman a 62, for what that's worth. Newman has had more struggles in pass pro with a couple really bad weeks but has been better in the run game.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

October 03, 2022 at 06:21 pm

Fans, and I include myself, see when an OL allows a pressure or a sack. Most of us don't notice run blocking. People think Runyan is better than Newman, and they may be right, but I think it is a pick your poison issue almost as much. Runyan was better than Newman last year, I think, but it is a much closer call this year: I just wish that was due solely to Newman getting better, but it is also now a contest due to Runyan's regression.

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HarryHodag's picture

October 03, 2022 at 05:00 pm

Odd...but Nijman did more than ok at right tackle a few times last year.

Isn't all this hand wringing a bit silly, given Jenkins is fresh off a major leg injury and didn't practice all that much up to now? Folks were more than willing to give David Bahktiari a pass with his extended leave, but Jenkins gets criticized returning in a far shorter time?

This is an All-Pro we're talking about here, not a lineman from St. Norbert. It would be fairly easy to move Jenkins back to left guard, Runyan to right and Nijman at right tackle. Or Jenkins to right guard. Newman is a backup.
Really kind of upsetting to see folks willing to bash a guy who has given it his all. He's worth every penny and don't forget it.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

October 03, 2022 at 06:22 pm

I don't remember Nijman playing RT in an NFL game. I do think it is extraordinarily likely that Jenkins improves the quality of his play over the next few months, such that he can once again play any position at an above average to an elite level.

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Coldworld's picture

October 04, 2022 at 10:42 am

Nijman has not played RT in a regular season game. He did do so briefly in preseason.

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stockholder's picture

October 03, 2022 at 06:38 pm

Jenkins just lost a big payday. Hopefully he regains his balance.

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MooPack's picture

October 03, 2022 at 08:04 pm

"A line with David Bakhtiari, Elgton Jenkins, Josh Myers, Jon Runyan and Yosh Nijman probably reunites the best five Packers linemen so far..."

Exactly the offense line I've been saying for months. This is the 5 best combination they should be going with. Nijim played RT at Virginia Tech. I don't believe he suddenly cannot now, regardless what the word is out of the Packers and/or pundits. They had to prepare for Bakh not being able to go soon, so Nijim was the best option. That doesn't mean he cannot play right. It's ridiculous. They grabbed him as UDFA knowing that. In fact LaFleur has been saying it could be an option. Jenkins best position is All-Pro at LG. Newman is off the line and the interior line is +++ better. I don't care if you think Jenkins should be paid like a Tackle. Pay the man regardless. When healthy, he may be the best versatile OL in the NFL. Pay the man. That doesn't mean he should play Tackle. Not if the better option is to play him inside and solidify the line.

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PatrickGB's picture

October 04, 2022 at 08:34 am

Can he play RT. Yes. But Virginia Tech did not face superior talent on defense. He has spent years here focusing on LT. While I agree with you that I would be a great move, I also think that it is a decision to be put off. Unless , of course, there is an injury.

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croatpackfan's picture

October 04, 2022 at 09:15 am

You are right. Virginia Tech did not face superior college DL or OLBs. But, what is very important to know is that Nijman has his muscle memory already prepared for playing RT. Speed and strength of NFL opponents was the reason why Nijman had to have some time on ST and as back up. Without Bakhtiari they prepared him to play LT and he was trained to be swing takle in case of need. I believe that it will be much easier to prepare Nijman to play RT than it is with Elgton Jenkins. He is now in his fourth year and he played, before injury, exclusively on the left side of the OL (LG & LT). That means that he has to battle with his muscle memory to change attack arm and leg when he try to block defenders. The most obvious evidence is his play vs Cheatriots. All pressure and sack came from Judon going around him on his right side. There was no pressure when Judon tried to push him back directly or to use inside line to pressure QB. This tells me that he played as he is on the left side of the OL when Judon came fast to him. It is just so usual move for Jenkins to go with left arm and to open free space right of him for fast OLB or EDGE.

I agree that the best line, as it looks now, is Bakh, Jenks, Myers, RJR/Newman, Nijman. There is only 2 questions - who is better at RG (RJR or Newman) and can they prepare Nijman for playing RT in short week.

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Ritzy's picture

October 03, 2022 at 09:21 pm

Let Jenkins shake off the rust at left guard, where he was a Pro Bowler. Lousy offensive line play has killed the Packers in their last 2 playoff losses. Move Nijman to right tackle immediately and put Runyan or Tom at right guard.

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PatrickGB's picture

October 04, 2022 at 08:26 am

I agree with you about how moving Jenkins back to left guard might help him get acclimated, I am unsure about Yosh at RT. As a UDFA he has been taught ONE position. He may have played other positions in college but not here. The coaching staff had to take his size and skills and focus on one position. While I agree that it would be nice, I also fear that could be too difficult to do in the short run. Maybe next season.

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PatrickGB's picture

October 04, 2022 at 08:18 am

Of course, Jenkins can play all along the line. But putting your best five out there should include putting them where they fit best. I also think that switching from left to right is harder than we think. I believe that it’s just as much of a side issue than, simply, a guard to tackle issue.

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