GREEN BAY – For years, there's always been scuttlebutt in the Packers' locker room about which players on the offensive line are versatile enough to play all five positions.
While some may have possessed the necessary skills to play tackle, guard or center, nobody has been put to the test quite like Elgton Jenkins through the first 10 games of the 2020 season.
The former second-round pick currently leads the Packers with 664 offensive snaps played. Most of that work has come at his primary position of left guard, but he also made a spot start at right tackle in Green Bay's opener in Minnesota and filled in at left tackle in the second half against San Francisco on Nov. 5.
This past Sunday, after center Corey Linsley was forced from the game with a back injury after only 10 plays, the Packers asked Jenkins to slide back to center – a position he hadn't played meaningful snaps at since his senior year at Mississippi State.
"Elgton, I mean the fact that he can anywhere on the offensive line is absolutely incredible," Head Coach Matt LaFleur said. "I've never been around somebody like that who has that ability."
Center wasn't completely foreign to Jenkins at the NFL level. He takes part in the center-quarterback exchange drills in practice and technically snapped a couple times in the final moments of a 34-17 win over the 49ers a few weeks ago, when LaFleur was trying to get all of his offensive linemen into the game.
Yet, Jenkins' 50-snap appearance against the Colts was essential for a Packers offense that doesn't carry a natural center on its 53-man roster other than Linsley.
Jenkins said it wasn't too difficult getting on the same page with making line calls because of the foundation he's built in practice, shadowing Linsley over the past two years.
He also has a vast knowledge bank to lean on from his time at Mississippi State, where Jenkins started 26 games at center, five at left tackle, two at left guard and one at right tackle.
"Around the building, we always say, 'Don't blink,'" said Jenkins on Monday. "I played all positions in college and I play all positions here in the NFL, so just going out there it's really about knowing your assignment, knowing the technique and doing your job."
Getting thrown into the in-game fire hasn't been an issue, either. The Packers went into the game against San Francisco without All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari, which required right tackle Billy Turner to flip sides and veteran Rick Wagner to replace Turner.
Everything started fine until Wagner developed a knee injury that forced him out of the game. At halftime, the coaches asked the 24-year-old Jenkins if he was more comfortable playing left tackle or right.
Jenkins, acknowledging right tackle has been Turner's home base this season, chose to move one spot to his left – accepting the responsibility of protecting Aaron Rodgers' blindside in the second half.
Rodgers wasn't hit one time, let alone sacked, in the second half.
"Elgton could be a solid starter at all five positions, he's that talented. He possesses those abilities," offensive line coach Adam Stenavich said. "I think interior guard and center is his best spot, but he definitely has the flexibility to play tackle, which he has shown and done a good job."
The outcome Sunday wasn't what the Packers desired, a 34-31 overtime loss, but the flexibility of Jenkins and reliability of rookie Jon Runyan as the next-O-linemen-up inside allowed Green Bay to stay in its primary packages.
LaFleur said Monday he doesn't think Linsley's back injury is "going to be anything long term," but the Packers can take comfort in knowing they can rely on Jenkins' versatility to keep the best starting five on the field should injuries hit again this season.
Jenkins echoes a phrase Stenavich likes to use in the offensive line room, that anyone is "one shoestring from being in the game." Or in Jenkins' case, any position on the offensive line.
"I feel like I did well," Jenkins said. "It's a lot of things I can clean up on to help the offense, while I was at center. (I'm) just taking today and this whole week and looking at that game, and certain things I can be better at."