GREEN BAY – Around midseason, when the Packers' scuffling offense was seemingly going nowhere, Elgton Jenkins told any reporter who asked that he was confident the offense would indeed be going places.
He wasn't just putting on a brave face or saying the right thing in front of the media, either. No, the elder statesman on the offensive line could see what the Packers had in quarterback Jordan Love and a young collection of pass catchers around him.
It hadn't shown up in the games yet, but it was just a matter of time.
"It was the talent," Jenkins said a couple of days after the Packers were eliminated from the playoffs. "When you see the talent level that the guys have, then it's experience after that.
"Just knowing that their mindset was where it was supposed to be, by getting better and focusing on the next play, the next rep, and just getting better throughout that week, I knew it was going to come together at some point."
Despite the struggles early on, Jenkins was sold on the combination of ability and mentality the Packers had brought to the offense.
Once he watched them begin the NFL grind, he was even more impressed. He saw "how hungry" and "how eager" they were to learn and improve, the implication being the fifth-year veteran had not always seen that from everyone in previous draft classes.
It took some strides made up front to come together, too. Losing left tackle David Bakhtiari for the season after one game led to a transition to Rasheed Walker on the blind side that took some time. Jenkins himself dealt with an early knee injury that cost him two games and a re-acclimation period to feel like his Pro Bowl self again. Right tackle Zach Tom also played at less than 100% in some early-season games.
As the leader of the group, Jenkins was proud of the line's progress and the chemistry that developed, particularly during the playoff push when Aaron Jones was ripping off 100-yard rushing games weekly while Love was putting up triple-digit passer ratings.
"It was just about the communication and execution," Jenkins said. "We did a lot of that down the stretch to succeed in the run game and the pass game. I feel like moving forward, we have a chance to be mentioned with some of the best O-lines in the league for sure."
And then there was Love, whose growth coincided with that of the entire offensive unit. As the young perimeter weapons found their footing, the O-line gelled, and key players like Jones got healthy, Love's game went to another level as well.
"You always see the poise," Jenkins said of his quarterback. "I feel like everybody in the huddle can say that we're confident in the ability that he's got. So, moving forward, we've got to make sure we keep weapons around him, make sure everybody's doing their job, and we'll get it done.
"I feel like it's very special with us moving forward."
If Jenkins' confidence, while warranted, sounds a bit excessive … well, that's him. The transition from Aaron Rodgers to Love never altered his belief the team could win games, and in the end he was proven right.
That's how he viewed the strong finish, too. Not so much about the Packers proving a whole lot of people wrong, but about proving themselves right.
"Me personally, every year my expectation is to go win," he said. "I don't play football to lose no games. I don't play football to go to the second round and lose. I always have in my mind the expectation of winning the game.
"Last offseason, I wanted to win. This year, I wanted to win, and next year, I'm going to want to win."
So he's not about to temper his thoughts about what the arrow clearly pointing up for this franchise means in his mind.
"We're coming," Jenkins said. "We're coming with a purpose. We want to win it all. Feel like we could have done it this year but next year I'm very optimistic.
"We've got the guys in the building. We've got everything that we need to get it done. We've just got to go do it. We set a good foundation this year. We've just got to go win."