In one of the more intriguing decisions of the past couple of weeks, the Green Bay Packers have decided that starting center Jeff Saturday will not be starting this week, ceding that position to Evan Dietrich-Smith, a third year offensive lineman who has started just a handful of games in his young career. The move comes after Saturday was unable to practice during the middle of the week, before returning to practice today. However, coach Mike McCarthy noted that the switch is not as a result of health, rather because they were concerned with performance on the offensive line. There is little question that the line could use help, but the timing of the decision is what makes this move so intriguing.
With just two weeks left in the regular season, the Packers have clinched the NFC North and will host at least one playoff game. That said, there is still much to play for in Green Bay. They still have an outside chance at getting the number one overall seed and home field advantage through the playoffs, as well as jumping either the 49ers, Seahawks or Falcons for a first-round bye. So with that much on the line this week and next, changing their starting center certainly comes at an odd time. Saturday has been serviceable this season, if not great like his Pro-Bowl voting suggests, but Aaron Rodgers has been one of the most sacked quarterbacks in the league this year. The defining game was at the Giants, where Rodgers rarely had enough time to even get a short pass off. So there is justification for the move, and maybe Dietrich-Smith is the solution to this season-long problem, but only time will tell if the Packers are ultimately making the right decision by not waiting until the off-season to make the switch.