Packers notes: Rookie lineman Elgton Jenkins staying focused at guard

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GREEN BAY - Corey Linsley did not participate in Wednesday’s voluntary organized team activities practice after arriving late because of travel issues.

With Linsley out, the Packers gave some idea of what they think of their center depth chart. Lucas Patrick, a reserve interior lineman the past two seasons, took first-team reps at center. Cole Madison and Anthony Coyle also worked at center in practice.

It was noteworthy that Elgton Jenkins, the second-round pick this spring, was not among offensive linemen working at center. Jenkins, a versatile lineman who started at center his final two college seasons, was regarded as one of the top centers in the draft, but the Packers view him as a guard.

Head coach Matt LaFleur didn’t discount the chance that Jenkins could get some reps at center, but the team is not putting too much on his plate early in the offseason.

“His main area of focus is going to be at the guard position,” LaFleur said.

Jenkins said it’s the first time since his sophomore year at Mississippi State he has had one position to focus on. He said it’s nice to have one position to work on at this time but believes versatility will be an important part of his game long term.

At guard, Jenkins has fewer pre-snap responsibilities to learn as he acclimates to the NFL and a new offense.

Green Bay Packers offensive lineman Elgton Jenkins (74) during practice at Clarke Hinkle Field on Tuesday, May 21, 2019 in Ashwaubenon, Wis.

“At center,” he said, “you’re scanning the whole field because you’re the person who has to get the offense rolling and make sure all the communication is down. At guard, you’re probably looking at one or two things, keys to what’s going to happen.”

Jenkins got some first-team reps Wednesday, but only when right tackle Bryan Bulaga was given rest near the end of practice. Billy Turner, who has been the first-team right guard, slid over to right tackle to replace Bulaga.

The Packers are likely to be careful with Bulaga’s reps this offseason, preserving his body for the regular season.

“Certainly we like him out there,” LaFleur said of Bulaga, “because that’s how you get better, right? You get better through reps. He’s such a pro. He’s picked up everything well, and he’s been playing the game a long time. No concerns about him moving forward.”

Koppenhaver steps away from football

Packers tight end Davis Koppenhaver, an undrafted rookie free agent, has elected to leave the team to pursue a career path outside of football. He was placed on the reserve/retired list Thursday. learned from a source that Koppenhaver leaves the game with no health concerns.

Koppenhaver, 23, was a 2018 Academic All-ACC pick and graduated from Duke with both an undergraduate degree in psychology and a master’s in management studies.

The 6-foot, 4-inch, 240-pound tight end caught 49 career passes for 431 yards and 12 touchdowns for the Blue Devils.

No pads, no problem for offensive line

The Packers are implementing a new run scheme under Matt LaFleur — one predicated on outside zone blocking that allows running backs to just make one cut upfield — and new offensive line coach Adam Stenavich says his group can build a foundation without contact.

“The good thing about that scheme is, you can pretty much run it full speed without pads on, just because it’s not a downhill gap scheme where you’ve got pullers and kicking people out and stuff,” Stenavich said. “You can get a lot of good work without pads. So I think that helps us.”

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Stenavich did allow there are some issues with not having contact, so there is a sharper focus on proper technique and reading where they are supposed to go, as opposed to how they are physically executing the block.

“The biggest thing is just making sure they understand the scheme, what we’re trying to do,” Stenavich said. “Obviously, who to block — just as much technique stuff as we can get down. Footwork, all that stuff. That’s probably the biggest thing when you don’t have pads on.”

Sternberger contract remains in flux

Third-round pick Jace Sternberger is the only Packers draft pick who remains unsigned, but the sides are talking, per a league source.

After the new collective bargaining agreement was struck in 2011, rookie contracts became fairly boilerplate. However, this year, agents for third-round picks have a bit of negotiating room regarding base salaries over the four-year deal. Agents can ask for the CBA-allowed maximum 25% increase in annual base salary, but the teams would prefer to offer a 10% annual base salary increase off the previous year’s rookie pool.

The difference, in the end, is a few hundred thousand dollars, but it has slowed the process of signing third-round picks around the league. According to the salary-tracking website, only 11 of the 38 picks made in the third round have signed.

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