2013 Packers Self-Scouting: Guards and Centers

Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE

We continue our Packers training camp previews with a look at the interior offensive line.

While Mike McCarthy's flip of the offensive line means big things at tackle, there isn't a whole lot of change expected at guard personnel wise. Other than shifting their stance, the guards are likely to play off the same tackles they started 2012 with. In addition, the same player who finished last season as the starting center will return there for 2013. That said, the Packers' backup interior linemen could all be different this year.

So where does the roster stand? Let's break it down.

Locks to Start

Josh Sitton, Evan Dietrich-Smith, T.J. Lang

While McCarthy flipped the offensive line, there won't be any change among the starters. Josh Sitton has been the Packers' best lineman since becoming a starter and is expected to continue as such on the left side. While the shift from right to left may worry some, it's important to remember that Sitton didn't always play right guard. He converted from tackle when the Packers drafted him, and he has the athleticism and blocking skills for this position change as well.

After a breakout 2011 campaign, Lang's performance disappointed this past season. That was partially due to swinging out to right tackle after Bryan Bulaga fractured his hip, but it was also due in part to an underreported elbow injury. Now healed, Lang's play is more likely to mirror 2011 than 2012.

Evan Dietrich-Smith isn't anyone's idea of a dominant center, but he's all the Packers have at the moment. Dietrich-Smith played poorly last year while covering Lang's vacated left guard spot, but performed much better at center. A lot is on his plate this year. If Dietrich-Smith falters, there may not be anyone to pick up the slack.

Challengers

None

Sitton and Lang outclass the other guards while Dietrich-Smith is the only center with any experience. Only an injury could send them to the bench.

Out of the Running

Greg Van Roten, J.C. Tretter, Andrew Datko, Garth Gerhart, Patrick Lewis, Lane Taylor

This group is full of uncertainty and inexperience. Perhaps a guy or two may end up starting in the future, but it will only happen in 2013 if a starter has to miss time.

After being selected in the fourth round, there were rumblings that Tretter might compete for the center position. That was unlikely to happen this season as Tretter is a converted tackle, and it's certainly off the table now with him sidelined with a broken ankle.

Van Roten, Gerhart, and Lewis may not be the best remaining interior linemen, but they're the only ones who profile as centers. Because the rest of the group is comprised of guards and converted tackles, at least one of them will be on the final roster. Of the three, Van Roten has the only meaningful experience. The backup center job is his to lose entering camp.

Datko began his NFL career as a dark horse for starting left tackle. Unfortunately, the shoulder injuries he sustained at Florida State ended that quest early. He returns this year as a swingman between tackle and guard. Datko won't be a favorite to win a spot on the roster, but he has more than enough talent to stick if he's finally healthy.

There isn't a whole lot of hype surrounding Taylor, a undrafted rookie out of Oklahoma State. However, Taylor received a $7,000 signing bonus when the Packers signed him, the largest amount of any undrafted free agent this year. The front office obviously likes him, but whether that translates to a backup job is purely speculation at this point.

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Jason Hirschhorn covers the Green Bay Packers for Acme Packing Co. He has previously written for Lombardi Ave, College Hoops Net, LiveBall Sports, and the List Universe. He is also currently a senior writer for Beats Per Minute, an indie-music webzine. Follow him on Twitter: @JBHirschhorn

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