One of the disappointments about the Green Bay Packers’ 2016 training camp has been the continued absence of center Corey Linsley. As a rookie in 2014, Linsley took over the starting job when JC Tretter went down with a knee injury and proceeded to start every game that season. He remained the starter in 2015, when he started 13 regular-season games plus the team’s two playoff contests.
This offseason, however, Linsley has been unable to practice at all. A hamstring injury kept him out of OTAs and minicamp, and has shelved him on the Physically Unable to Perform list throughout camp. Furthermore, there appears to be no end in sight to Linsley’s absence.
With that, there is a changing of the guard at center, and Mike McCarthy all but made it official on Monday:
McCarthy: JC (Tretter) has earned the starting position at center. Unfortunate what Corey's going through. JC's done an excellent job.— Green Bay Packers (@packers) August 22, 2016
Tretter started three games in Linsley’s place last season as well as one critical game at left tackle - the Packers’ wild-card round win in Washington. If Linsley can indeed return healthy sometime in 2016, that certainly helps solidify the depth at the position. However, the Packers currently appear to have little behind Linsley, with Don Barclay, Matt Rotheram, and recent signee Kyle Steuck as the other options.
Tretter’s performance with the top line has been terrific in two preseason games, however, and the unit saw little drop-off during Linsley’s absences last season. The entire Packers’ line was dominant in the opening drive against the Raiders, which saw Eddie Lacy run the ball nine times for 45 yards and a touchdown. They also did an excellent job on the first series against Cleveland, driving the football halfway across the field.
Like in 2014, the Packers’ offensive line should be a strength if the starters remain healthy. Of course, the big issue will be if the Packers suffer any significant injuries - whether that would be to Tretter or any other player. Tretter’s versatility is one of his greatest strengths, but that would only help the team when he is the sixth lineman rather than a starter.
We will continue to monitor Linsley’s status in the hopes that he does return and can provide the Packers with their expected pair of centers this season. However, at this point it appears likely that Linsley may start the season on the PUP list, which would keep him out for at least the first six games of the year. Let’s just be grateful that Tretter is taking charge of the job in the meantime.