Jenkins' ability to play both defensive end and tackle, much like Kampman's, helps his stock among the Packers. It's not as high as Kampman, who made the Pro Bowl the last two seasons, but it's right up there.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy summed it up best the other day when a reporter asked him if Jenkins is an end first, then a tackle.
"Depends on what down it is," quipped the coach.
Jenkins, who made the team as an undrafted free agent in 2004, was dogged by the media and fans last season because his numbers were down. In his first full season as a starting defensive end, Jenkins only had one sack and finished with 49 tackles in 16 games with 15 starts. Not what you would expect from a guy who signed a $15.5 million contract during the offseason last year. Truth is, Jenkins played with nagging ankle and knee injuries, which may have affected his production. How much? Who knows, but the injuries probably had something to do with his numbers.
Despite a subpar year last year, Jenkins will be more valuable to the Packers this year than ever before. He should be worth every penny of the four-year extension he signed last year.
With Corey Williams in Cleveland and Justin Harrell, Johnny Jolly and Gbaja-Biamila coming off surgeries in the last six months, look for the Packers to utilize Jenkins at defensive end and defensive tackle often in training camp. When the regular season begins, he'll probably be used on nearly every snap, unless Jolly or Harrell or Colin Cole make big steps in improvement.
Though Jenkins has played mainly at tackle during offseason practices, it doesn't mean he is finished as a starter at defensive end, according to McCarthy.
"Our D-line as a whole has excellent flexibility," McCarthy said. "Cullen is one of those players with the ability to play inside or outside based on situations. It's definitely been a strength of his. But it's not a matter of he's going to go in there and stay in there. He'll play inside and outside."
Jenkins has proved to be effective against the run on early downs, so it makes sense that the Packers plan to continue with him as the starter opposite Kampman. Using Jenkins in the middle also makes sense because he is a little quicker and flat-out better, at this time, than all of the linemen playing next to Pickett.
Who knows? Maybe the Packers trade for a veteran defensive end, like Miami's Jason Taylor, and move Jenkins inside on a more permanent basis. If Jeremy Thompson can be the pass rusher that the Packers hope he can be and beats out KGB, just think about having Thompson and Taylor rushing from the outside with Jenkins and Kampman plowing up the middle. A pleasant football thought, eh?
If you're one of those who are not in Jenkins' corner because of his numbers last year, think it over a little bit. Jenkins' versatility makes him valuable and can help the defensive line be better in 2008.