How can Packers guard Elgton Jenkins improve on a stellar rookie season? He has a plan
How do you top statistical perfection?
This is Elgton Jenkins’ charge in 2020.
As a rookie, Jenkins didn’t allow a single sack in 694 pass-blocking snaps charted by the analytical service Pro Football Focus. Less than zero does not exist, not in football. So Jenkins is looking to put more of an emphasis on any goose eggs he puts up.
“Something I was proud of was not giving up any sacks, but at the same time in pass protection I can be more dominant,” Jenkins told PackersNews.com. “It was sometimes seen on film where I’d be clamping somebody up and instead of me just throwing him back, I’ll hold him up. So just being more dominant, just going and taking the life out of people.”
Even though he left his rookie season feeling he could be more physically dominant, Jenkins’ 2019 was pretty strong all around. He was one of just five guards in the league to not allow a sack, and the quarterback was hit just one time by Jenkins’ assignment.
Jenkins received a 69.2 overall grade from PFF, placing him in the top 10 in the NFL at left guard and the third-highest graded rookie offensive lineman. Such distinctions helped him make the service’s All-Rookie team. Jenkins also made the Pro Football Writers Association All-Rookie team.
All of this came after Jenkins lost a training camp competition with Lane Taylor but took over after two weeks when Taylor tore a biceps leading into Week 3 against Denver.
“He stepped in there really early when Lane went down and it was like we didn’t miss a beat,” Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst said. “He’s got a rare ability as far as his size, his athleticism and his power. He’s going to be a really good player.”
To get there, Jenkins said improvement had to come through a focus on becoming a powerful force in both the pass and run games. It’s why Jenkins set out to gain three to four pounds of muscle, as well as using the unique virtual learning experience this offseason to ask more questions of the coaches.
“It’s really just refreshing on the things we did good last year and then just learning with the playbook and schemes, knowing where defenses are going to be, knowing where they’re going to go, how fast they’re going to move to that certain play,” Jenkins said. “That’s the things I can work on with being more detailed in the playbook.”
The 24-year-old offensive lineman has remained safe at home in Mississippi during the cancellation of on-field work at Lambeau Field due to the coronavirus pandemic, and he’s said the Packers’ offensive coaches have done a good job with installing the offense over virtual Zoom meetings. Getting physical work in — actually practicing what he envisions that dominance feeling like — has been just as important.
So, the 6-foot-5, 311-pound guard has been working out with fellow NFL players Gabe Jackson (Las Vegas), Deion Calhoun (Miami) and Daryl Williams (Buffalo), and friends who play in college.
“I got around guys who were five, six years in the league and got technique and things that they do and things they did to stay in the league,” Jenkins said. “And our coaches had a good plan for us. They had demonstrations of certain techniques and things we need to use in certain situations, (so) going to the field and working on that with guys that have been in the league and also with college players that I keep in touch with.
“Having those guys available to hold bags and get cones up. It’s basically been the same thing, just not being around the guys that you’d normally be around doing those things.”
Jenkins said he isn’t concerned about the Packers' offensive line coming in too rusty due to the lack of work together largely because he remains sandwiched between All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari and center Corey Linsley, and the group — aside from free-agent acquisition Rick Wagner — has a full year of experience to draw on.
“I feel like we’re going to be way better and more effective than we were last year,” Jenkins said. “It was all our first time in the playbook and we still got things done in the run game and the pass. So, going on year two, everybody being more familiar with the playbook, then we can be more effective.”
With training camp still expected to open July 28 at Lambeau Field, and the work he’s put in during this very unique offseason, Jenkins believes even better play is on his horizon.
“He was a really good player for us this year and has a chance to be, if he really puts his mind to it, he has a chance to be one of the guys like we’ve had here in the past — the Josh Sittons, T.J. Langs, Marco Riveras, Mike Wahles,” Gutekunst said. “We’ve had a long history of really good inside players, and Elgton has a chance to be one of those.”
Contact Jim Owczarski at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat at @JimOwczarski or Facebook at facebook.com/JOwczarski.