The Green Bay Packers might need to start bracing for the possibility of being without Pro Bowl left guard Elgton Jenkins for a few games after a bit of unintentionally friendly fire caused him to exit Week 2’s loss with a knee injury.
Jenkins was slow to get up after running back AJ Dillon collided with the back of his legs on a 3rd-and-2 play late in second quarter of Sunday’s loss to the Atlanta Falcons. Dillon had slipped while trying to make a cut behind Jenkins and inadvertently took him out his left guard while he was trying to set a block for him.
Jenkins went to the sideline to be evaluated after the play and was initially ruled questionable to return with a knee injury, but they downgraded him to out about 30 minutes later just as the third quarter was getting started. After the game, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that it is believed Jenkins “suffered an MCL sprain” in the loss and will need to have an MRI this week to determine the severity of the injury.
If the MRI confirms the injury, Jenkins will likely end up missing at least the next few games for the Packers and could be sidelined longer depending on the severity. The Packers will then have to figure out what to do about their offensive line, which was also playing without All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari on Sunday due to his own knee issue.
The Packers tabbed Royce Newman to step in at left guard for the remainder of their road game with the Falcons, but they have other options to consider in the upcoming week if they determine that Jenkins will need to miss significant time with his injury.
Could Packers Consider Moving Zach Tom Back Inside?
The Packers need to gain clarity of Jenkins’ knee injury before they dive too deep into what a potential re-alignment of their offensive line might look like. Unless Jenkins gets extremely lucky, Rapoport’s intel suggests he will at least miss some time for Green Bay, but the Packers might have different plans if they are patching things for the long term.
One potential solution, though, might be the Packers moving starting right tackle Zach Tom back inside to play left guard. Tom is young, but he has proven to be one of their best linemen behind Bakhtiari and Jenkins — certainly better than Newman — and possesses an inside-outside versatility that the Packers covet in him. Without Jenkins, their philosophy of playing the “best five guys” might force such a change.
Tom’s potential move back inside is also more enticing with Yosh Nijman still on the roster. He was the Packers’ 2022 starter at the right tackle spot and would be a ready-to-go candidate to take Tom’s place if the coaching staff decided to shake things up. It would involve multiple moving parts, but it might be a preferable solution to playing Newman — one of their most inconsistent blockers — near Jordan Love’s blindside.
David Bakhtiari’s Availability Could Vary All Season
The other lingering question about the Packers’ offensive line coming out of the loss to the Falcons is the availability of Bakhtiari, their five-time All-Pro blindside blocker.
Bakhtiari did not practice for a second consecutive week in the lead-up to the Packers’ trip to Atlanta, but there had been optimism that he would still play based on the fact that he did not practice in the previous week, either, and still played a bulk of the snaps against the Chicago Bears. The one key difference was the Packers giving him an injury designation and listing him as questionable in their final injury report.
While LaFleur denied there were any new concerns with Bakhtiari’s knee on Friday when asked about the difference in injury status, he also admitted that Bakhtiari would “probably be questionable all year” due to the “nature of the beast” with his injury.
That’s an easier pill to swallow if Bakhtiari is able to play in the Packers’ home opener against the New Orleans Saints in Week 3, but it is a situation that is worth monitoring in the coming weeks as the Packers re-evaluate their offensive line without Jenkins.