Friday, May 17, 2013

Position Review: Offensive Line-Center

Now that the Green Bay Packers have filled out their roster through the draft and free agency, it's a good time to look ahead at the 2013 roster. They have some roster flexibility but usually it's a consistent number of players at each position. There should be at least two players on the 53-man roster listed as C/G and they could keep one more on the practice squad.

Starter Evan Dietrich-Smith. I was hoping to see the Packers draft their center of the future while keeping him around as a stop-gap measure. The future is open to debate, but the present belongs to Dietrich-Smith. I don't view him as a starter, and I don't get the impression that many around the NFL do either. The Packers gave him a low tender offer that required no draft pick compensation if he signed elsewhere, but no other team pursued him as a restricted free agent. 2013 might be the only year he begins the season as the starter, depending on how the next player develops.

Greg Van Roten. I started my positional reviews at center because I noticed the Packers are now listing Van Roten as a guard and center. Van Roten was an undrafted free agent signed in 2012 who impressed the coaches in training camp. He started the season on the practice squad but finished it on the active roster. I thought rookie 4th round pick JC Tretter would wind up on the inside, but he's starting his NFL career at tackle. Van Roten, and his role on the offensive line, should be a player to watch closely next preseason.

Garth Gerhart (brother of Toby Gerhart) and Patrick Lewis. Gerhart went undrafted in 2012 out of Arizona State and spent the season on the Browns' practice squad. He started 35 games in college, but at 6-1 he's a little short for the NFL. Lewis went undrafted out of Texas A&M after an impressive college career. He's almost identical in size to Gerhart, with similar workout times, and both players lack of elite athleticism and size might be the reason they went undrafted. They won't both stick with the team but they give the Packers their best shot of finding the next Scott Wells (late round/undrafted big college player who developed into a starter).

The Packers might have quietly created a battle for the starting job between Dietrich-Smith and Van Roten, while adding a couple of quality, big school backups. The Packers won't send a center again to the Pro Bowl in 2013, but there might be a good competition at the position.

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