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June 22, 2017

Positional Analysis: Center

This is the eighth of a 14-part series examining each position going into the offseason.

Starter (B): Corey Linsley returned from a hamstring injury just in time to rescue the Packers. The former Buckeye moved off the PUP list and into the starting lineup in week 10 after JC Tretter suffered a sprained knee. The O-line didn’t miss a beat. Linsey played at a near Pro Bowl level, using his great strength to neutralize huge nose tackles and his understanding of angles and positioning to hold his own against quicker athletes. At just over 300 pounds, he still gets rocked back on occasion, but that happens far less frequently now.

Depth (D+): No team was deeper at center than the Packers last season, but that won’t be the case in 2017. With Tretter now in Cleveland, the backup figures to be Don Barclay, who has never taken a snap at the position in a regular season game. On a postiive note, the versatile veteran from West Virginia did show some potential last August. And while he lacks the physical skills to ever be an above-average center, that hasn’t kept former Packer Evan Dietrich-Smith from forging a long career in the National Football League. Look for Jacob Flores to push Barclay in the coming months. The undrafted rookie from Dartmouth did some decent things in training camp before spending the entire ’16 season on the practice squad.

Player to watch: Flores has a chance to surprise if he used the past 12 months to get bigger and stronger. The barely 300-pounder was overpowered too often last summer, but to his credit, he never backed down and he got a little better each day. And while he’s nowhere near as athletic or as talented as the former Ivy League offensive lineman who just left (Tretter), he’s every bit as bright and as scrappy – two things the coaches obviously like in their centers. Flores is a long shot to make the final 53-man roster, but not quite as much of one as you might think.

*Level of need: With both Linsley and Barclay eligible for unrestricted free agency after the upcoming season, it would make sense for Thompson to draft someone who can play center. But this is not a position of great need right now. Linsley is a very good starter, and as much as fans cringe when they see Barclay enter a game at tackle or even guard, he should be a halfway decent backup.


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9 Responses “Positional Analysis: Center”

  1. TJV
    March 29, 2017 at 12:45 pm

    The good news is “Linsey played at a near Pro Bowl level…” according to Michael. That reinforces my point that he was the preferred starter at OC over Tretter. Regarding “letting” Tretter go, although he is much more versatile than Linsley, I think it’s obvious they would have re-signed him if they thought he could start at OG, but few teams can or would pay for two starting OCs.

  2. Nerd
    March 29, 2017 at 2:12 pm

    Tretter was a huge loss, but Ted had to let him go at that price. More worried about backup C than I am about starting G.

  3. Thorny
    March 29, 2017 at 9:44 pm

    Tretter was phenomenal as a starting center. More athletic able to make stuff happen downfield. The only area Linsley was better was strength. A big brawler vs. a finesse tactician.

    We may rue the the day JC got away. If we end up overpaying Linsley the move to let JC go will only be compounded.

    Barclay on the roster for ANY reason is disgraceful. That’s an NFL lineman? Really?

    We are becoming the old Miami dolphins D on our OL. Bunch of no names. Ted’s dollar store shopping may finally show itself this year. I think our playoff streak ending odds are better than 50-50. That will be due to a woeful OL and inept defense.

    Ol Mother Hubbard has left the cupboard bare.

  4. Saguaro
    March 30, 2017 at 5:24 am

    The entire O-line looks to be one injury away from a MINN-style unraveling. No starting right guard. No real backup center. Each passing season Bulaga looks more fragile. A lot of young guys had better be ready to step up. I know that weight, strength, and technique can really develop with these guys in the first few years, but I like to see it actually happen. Right now, it has me worried. Even at center.

  5. Joe in Madison
    March 30, 2017 at 12:00 pm

    I guess I am alone in thinking that the Packers were wise to not resign Tretter. When he played he was a great center BUT he was rarely healthy and IMO it was not clear that had the ability or desire to move to guard. For all of those reasons I thought it was better for both parties to move on – best of luck to him.

    I see the concerns with the interior of the line and if the season were to begin tomorrow, I would share the concern but I will wait until August and see what the Packers bring to camp.

  6. speakeasy
    March 30, 2017 at 4:11 pm

    Yeah, I think Tretter was OK, but don’t recall him grading out better than Linsley (thought I read in a McGinn article that scouts thought Linsley was the better player).

    Tretter was too weak for my liking. I personally like centers who can hold up on big d-lineman and ask any QB where they hate getting a pocket push. Many would probably say right up the gut.

    For all of TTs failures on drafting impact defensive players, he deserves the benefit of the doubt for his success on O-lineman. Bak, Bulaga, Lang, Sitton, Linsley, Tretter, etc.

    Tretter was paid way out of range so they had to let him to walk. He was too weak for guard. Let’s see how Spriggs, Murphy turn out too. Lang didn’t come into his own until the third or fourth year so let’s give it time. Plus, TT has shown a knack for success on picking mid round gems (aforementioned names above).

  7. speakeasy
    March 30, 2017 at 4:13 pm

    BTW, “phenomenal” at center? That’s quite a stretch.

    Plus, he was only available for 35 out of 72 games in his career in GB. No thanks.

  8. Thorny
    March 30, 2017 at 11:14 pm

    I loved JC and I did find him phenomenal.

    Linsley has missed 10 games in 3 seasons. If that average holds get ready for Barclay or some other scrubini.

    Just some context that shouldn’t be lost here. I was upset JC left because we also lost Lang. I wanted one of them retained, if not both. What he left for wasn’t outlandish. Now, if Linsley gets paid a ton to stay because we don’t​ have anyone else which is the classic repeating scenario, here, it will be really bad.

    BTW, PFF is a fun thing to cite, but I don’t put much stock in the people they have doing their grading. I have as much, or more, qualification than their head guy. There are many fans out there that I would trust over that outfit. Look into their history before you get too caught up in the fact SNF is promoting something Collinsworth invested in and making them more than what they are.

  9. TJV
    March 31, 2017 at 9:51 am

    Wanting the Packers to keep either Lang or Tretter makes little sense. One is a great OG whose only negative is injuries; the other can only start at OC. They were not interchangeable. Keeping Tretter would mean great depth at OC but it would also mean paying two players to start at the position when Linsley is extended. McGinn writes that of the Packers 72 games over the last four seasons, Tretter was healthy enough to play in 35. And he notes some scouts wonder if he’s strong enough to hold up physically. http://www.jsonline.com/story/sports/nfl/packers/2017/01/29/mcginn-2016-packers-offensive-player-grades/97137716/

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