GREEN BAY – Rookie guard Elgton Jenkins is quick to credit the two offensive linemen at his sides, center Corey Linsley and tackle David Bakhtiari, for assisting the successful beginning to his NFL career.
But his linemates insist he hasn’t needed much help.
So which is it? As usual, the truth lies somewhere in between.
Because while Jenkins says he was asking “a hundred questions a day” in the meeting room during training camp, Linsley points out he and Bakhtiari are not bombarded with “1,000 questions at the line of scrimmage,” which helps the game-day operation run smoothly.
However it’s parsed, the Packers’ transition to the rookie at left guard is off on the right foot, and the second-round draft pick from Mississippi State has made a heck of a strong first impression two starts into his NFL career.
“The moment’s not too big for him,” offensive line coach Adam Stenavich said. “As soon as you throw him in there, you know he’s going to be reliable, he’s going to do the right thing. That’s the most important thing with a rookie is making sure he’s not going to (freak) out or do anything crazy.
“Elgton’s on it. I think he’s earned the respect of the guys in the room just because of how he handles himself.”
Jenkins competed all through camp with veteran Lane Taylor to start at left guard, and while the Packers went with the more experienced player to begin the season, Jenkins was rotating in as Head Coach Matt LaFleur declared the competition still open.
The duality ended before the Week 3 contest with Denver when Taylor injured his biceps, went on injured reserve, and Jenkins took over full-time. The change meant no change in his approach, as he made sure to get all his questions answered in the meeting room and not take them to the field, which the veterans appreciated.
Not that they wouldn’t have helped in whatever capacity, because Linsley, Bakhtiari and right tackle Bryan Bulaga all became starters early in their rookie seasons, too. They know exactly what he’s going through. But Jenkins is one of those players who doesn’t need to be told something twice, which is probably why his teammates are downplaying any help they’ve provided.
“One of the biggest things Elgton’s done extremely well that the outside world may not have seen is he’s probably been the most impressive rookie from a mental standpoint that we’ve had here in a while,” Linsley said. “He’s picked up the playbook extremely well.
“He’s very football aware, very football smart. It takes a lot of pressure off myself and obviously Dave. He knows it and he’s confident that he knows it. That helps us out a ton.”
At first, Bakhtiari deadpanned Jenkins was simply functional, “like duct tape,” before more seriously commenting on a bright future and an unknown ceiling for the 6-foot-5, 311-pounder. Jenkins started every game his final two years in college at center but was pegged as a guard when the Packers drafted him, and he looks at home there.
He’s by no means a finished product, and he’ll rattle off all the things he’s working on every day – “punching in pass pro, run blocking staying low, my footwork” – but he came in very NFL-ready. LaFleur commented he’s gone about his business as a pro from Day 1.
Stenavich likened him to a rookie he worked with last year in San Francisco, tackle Mike McGlinchey, who stepped in and played right away as a first-round pick out of Notre Dame and the ninth overall selection in 2018.
“Big program, same deal, played a lot, started four years,” Stenavich said. “They played a lot of football against a lot of great opponents, and they have confidence coming in they can play with anybody.”
When Bakhtiari is taking on Minnesota’s Everson Griffen or Linsley is lined up across from Philadelphia’s Fletcher Cox, the last thing Jenkins wants to be is a distraction, or a weak link the veterans have to worry about.
Thus far, that hasn’t been the case, and coming from the players who know, they don’t believe it will be.
“The biggest thing isn’t necessarily your play level, your talent level,” Linsley said. “It’s the mental preparation and being confident mentally so you don’t miss a step because you’re nervous or because you don’t know exactly what you’re doing.
“I think he’s helped himself out a lot, and that’s a credit to him for sure.”