We talked about the injury history of both Derek Sherrod and Bryan Bulaga of the Green Bay Packers going into the 2014 season, but we also talked about the center position for the Pack, which will have JC Tretter and rookie Corey Linsley battling for the starting berth.
Recently, playing center for the Packers has not brought along a lengthy shelf life. In fact, the 2014 season will be the fourth consecutive season that the Packers will have a new starting center.
The last time the Packers had a center who started for consecutive seasons was when Scott Wells played. Wells was the primary starter at center from 2006 to 2011. Since Wells left via free agency after the 2011 season, the Packers have had a revolving door at center.
After Wells left, the Packers brought in veteran center Jeff Saturday via free agency. Saturday actually was named to the Pro Bowl after that season, but the coaching staff saw enough issues in his play to bench him in favor of Evan Dietrich-Smith late in the 2012 season.
Dietrich-Smith was the starter last season, but like Wells, he left the team via free agency.
The Packers obviously are looking for someone to take control of the center job and become a player who can snap the ball to quarterback Aaron Rodgers for many years to come.
That someone will most likely be either Tretter or Linsley.
Tretter missed almost all of the 2013 season due to a broken ankle suffered in an early OTA. No. 73 was placed on the PUP list but joined the roster late in the season.
Tretter didn't play a snap, but the coaching staff liked the way the former Cornell star played the center position in practice.
The coaches loved his quickness and how well he had picked up the offense and the blocking assignments of the Packers. The ironic thing is that the 6'4", 307-pound Tretter had never played center at Cornell. He had played tight end, guard and mostly left tackle.
So Tretter will get the first opportunity to replace Dietrich-Smith. But he will be pushed hard by Linsley, the rookie fifth-round draft pick out of Ohio State.
No. 63 Linsley started 26 games for Ohio State the last couple of years at center and was named first-team All-Big Ten in 2013.
While Tretter is quick, The 6'3", 301-pound Linsley is as strong as an ox. The former Buckeye can bench-press over 500 pounds—and he showed that strength at the NFL Scouting Combine with 36 reps in the bench press.
The competition between Tretter and Linsley will be one of the battles I will be watching closely at training camp.
That's why I wanted to get Landry's read on the position. Chris favors Linsley to win the job when it's all said and done:
"I like Linsley. I think he's got maybe a little bit more natural ability than JC. What you would love to have, in my eyes, is to see Linsley develop into that guy, and then Tretter can be your third interior offensive lineman with quality enough to start at center or either guard spot. And maybe one of your best three interior offensive linemen who may earn a starting spot."
That could very well be the scenario that happens for the Packers this season. Plus, there is also the possibility that Don Barclay may move back inside this year, as the coaches feel that he is a better interior offensive lineman.
Barclay's situation will be predicated on the health and performance of both Bulaga and Sherrod. If both can stay healthy and perform up to expectations, Barclay will get some looks inside, just like he did last summer before Bulaga's season-ending knee injury put him back at tackle.
There will be a number of position battles that I will be watching closely this summer during practices at Ray Nitschke Field and also in the preseason games for the Packers. The battle for the starting center spot is very high on that list.
One thing is certain: The starting center for the Packers this year is most likely going to wear a jersey number that ends with a three. The only question is, will it be Tretter (No. 73), or will it be Linsley (No. 63)?
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