GREEN BAY – The Packers have always had a rich history of drafting and developing offensive linemen with many of those prospects thriving as early as their rookie years.
In 2010, right tackle Bryan Bulaga became the youngest player to start a Super Bowl at 21 years, 322 days. A few years later, left tackle David Bakhtiari and center Corey Linsley found immediate success as every-game starters after being thrust into starting roles before the start of the regular season due to injury.
The latest to carry the torch for the Packers is Elgton Jenkins, a rookie second-round pick out of Mississippi State who has started the last eight games at left guard after Lane Taylor was placed on injured reserve with a biceps injury.
Jenkins, praised for his athleticism, strength and intelligence during the pre-draft process, has seen those traits translate to the NFL ranks. It's enabled him to not only make an early impact, but also earn respect of the veterans around him.
"On the field, Elgton is still learning, but he's one of the smartest rookies we've had in a long time," Linsley said.
Jenkins, affectionately known as "Elgatron" to offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, contributed mightily to the 163 rushing yards the Packers produced in Sunday's 24-16 win over Carolina.
His strength at the point of attack has been evident all year, but he's proven to have the requisite quickness to continue his pursuit at the second level as well. As a pass protector, Jenkins has shown good awareness against the stunts and twists opposing defensive coordinators have used to test the young lineman.
Jenkins' play has earned high marks from Pro Football Focus, who has yet to saddle the 6-foot-5, 311-pound guard with a QB hit through his first 536 offensive snaps.
His football IQ was one area offensive line coach Adam Stenavich and the coaching staff were most excited about, particularly after speaking with him during their interview at the NFL Scouting Combine back in February.
With free-agent addition Billy Turner solidifying the right guard spot, the Packers have been pleased with what Jenkins has brought to the interior offensive line.
"He's a really intelligent guy, very football smart," Stenavich said. "He's confident because he can go out there and he knows what to do, and he knows who to block so he can play fast. That's the biggest thing for rookies is figuring out what to do, so when they do it they can do at a high level. He's been able to do that almost from Day 1."
Bakhtiari has worked with Jenkins a lot this season, handing the rookie tips and pointers in games, practice and the locker room. Jenkins feels those sessions with a three-time All-Pro have helped him gain a firmer grasp of the game at this level.
Lambeau Field hosted a Week 10 matchup between the Green Bay Packers and the Carolina Panthers.
Asked about his performance against the Panthers, Jenkins redirected credit to the receivers getting on defensive backs downfield to create explosive gains and the impact of the veteran linemen around him.
"Having those guys in the room to help steer me in the right direction helps me out a lot," Jenkins said. "(It helps) me being able to go in there and be mature enough to get the plays down, get the plan down for the game and get the job done."
Jenkins headed home to Mississippi during the bye week to spend time with family and planned to check out his alma mater's home game against Alabama on Saturday.
As solid as his rookie season has started, Jenkins knows all that matters now is how well he plays over the next six games and potentially in the postseason.
"It feels good," Jenkins said. "Just capitalizing on the opportunities that we have. Can't get the big head on the field. Just have to stay level-headed and finish out the season strong."