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Why Corey Linsley Is the Packers' Biggest X-Factor in 2014

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Why Corey Linsley Is the Packers' Biggest X-Factor in 2014
USA TODAY Sports

Head coach Mike McCarthy had to feel pretty good about how training camp had gone for the Green Bay Packers before last Friday night's game against the Oakland Raiders.

Yes, there had been some issues—such as the knee injuries that ended the season for offensive lineman Don Barclay, wide receiver Jared Abbrederis and tight end Colt Lyerla—but all in all, the camp had been very productive.

The coaches had been able to use multiple players in various sets in both practices and games, plus no starting players had been lost for the season.

The game on Friday night showed what a great camp it has been for the Packers, as the Pack steamrolled the Raiders 31-21, in a score that doesn't show how resounding that win was.

Then came the bad news. Nose tackle B.J. Raji suffered a torn bicep that will put him out for the season. The Packers were aware of that possibility, as Raji had been injured early in the game and had his arm heavily wrapped.

But the news on Sunday was somewhat shocking when it was reported by ESPN.com's Rob Demovsky that center JC Tretter would "miss 'multiple weeks' because of a knee injury." 

Initially, it appeared the Packers did not think the injury was too serious, as Tretter was cleared to go back on the field and played 45 snaps before leaving the game, per Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Tretter was having a great camp after a bit of a slow start. No. 73 had done well in practice and was very solid in the preseason games overall.

Morry Gash/Associated Press

The offense as a whole looked very good, too, especially with quarterback Aaron Rodgers running things.

Now Rodgers will have to play with yet another new center for a number of weeks now, which will be No. 12's fifth in four years. This is with 10 days to go before the season opener in Seattle versus the Seahawks in the loud and boisterous environment called CenturyLink Field.

The 12th man will be in full force to welcome the 2013 Super Bowl champions.

That will be a tough venue for the Packers to play in, especially because of all the noise. Now the Packers will have to rely on a rookie center as well.

But it doesn't appear the team is too worried. New starting center Corey Linsley has had a solid camp and has also played well in the preseason games. He is now the biggest X-Factor for the Packers as they get ready for the 2014 season.

No. 63 has also played in many loud stadiums on the road in college, like when his Ohio State Buckeyes had to take on the Michigan Wolverines at Michigan Stadium or the Wisconsin Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium.

Most observers think Linsley will do fine. I had a chance to talk with scout Chris Landry about the center position a few weeks back, and this is what Landry said about the situation:

"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."

The bottom line is that Linsley is now the starting center. He looks to be "that guy," as Landry said, at least until October. Linsley needs to continue to play like he has up until this point and keep improving.

Mike McGinnis/Getty Images

One thing you definitely get with Linsley is strength. The former Buckeye can bench-press over 500 pounds, and he showed how strong he was at the NFL Scouting Combine with 36 reps in the bench press.

But more work and film study has to be done, and Linsley knows it, as evidenced by his recent comments to the media, via Packers.com:

In terms of strength and everything, I feel I'm able to match up. It's definitely the mental side of the game that I've been slacking on.

There's no room for nonsense any more and ridiculous mistakes. [Missed assignments] are out of the question. The urgency level is just through the roof.

I've got to get in the film room and I've got to know what defense they're running. That's on me. It's the NFL now. I'm a young man and I've got to do that.

If I know what I'm doing, what do I have to be anxious about?

The words from Linsley certainly sound like a rookie who has confidence. So does McCarthy, who doesn't appear to be too worried based on his comments to the media on Sunday, via Packers.com:

"Corey Linsley took all the snaps today. He's going to do a heck of a job. He's obviously a rookie. I like his makeup. He needs the reps. His confidence will grow each and every day. He'll be ready."

The Packers need Linsley to be ready. If he performs as well as second-year left tackle David Bakhtiari did as a rookie, the team will be quite pleased.

When Tretter comes back, the Packers will have a difficult decision to make at center if Linsley does the job many expect him to do.

Put me in the camp who feels that Linsley will do just fine at center while Tretter is out.

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