Defensive Line Woes
All eyes are on the offensive and defensive lines in Green Bay right now. After signing a one-year $4 million contract during the offseason, Packers nose-tackle B.J. Raji suffered a torn bicep in Green Bay’s 31-21 preseason victory over the Oakland Raiders. Initially signing the contract in order to prove to the Packers that he still had what it took to be a force on the defensive line, Raji was poised to have a spectacular season having solid outings in the first two preseason games before suffering the injury. Currently on the roster are two players healthy enough to take over at nose tackle (Josh Boyd, and undrafted free agent rookie Mike Pennel).
Who Mike McCarthy and the Packers plan to go with is hard to say, but there are also some viable options in free agency that could help them out. Johnny Jolly has experience at the position and in the defensive system that would be an intriguing option for the Packers to pursue. Ryan Pickett would also be a free agent worth taking a look at, as he is also familiar with the system. Raji doesn’t have much of a history with injuries, missing only two games in the middle of the 2012 season and two games during his rookie year in 2009. Whatever the Packers decide to do with the nose tackle position, it’s going to be awfully hard to fill the void left by the injury to Raji.
Perhaps Boyd or Pennel will step up to the challenge this season.
Offensive Line Woes
Equally, if not more concerning than losing B.J. Raji on the defensive side of the ball, the Packers offensive line took a major hit when starting center JC Tretter was diagnosed with a ‘slight-fracture’ in his knee (according to a league source) and will miss ‘multiple weeks’. Unlike the Raji injury, Tretter’s injury won’t sideline him for an entire season, and that is good news. Tretter is in his second year and had taken every rep with the starters during OTA’s, minicamp and the first three preseason games. Now with Tretter out, the Packers must prepare rookie fifth-round pick Corey Linsley to take over at center against the Seahawks in week one. When asked about the opportunity to start at center, Linsley said: “The urgency level is just through the roof, I’ve been working hard, but it’s a different animal out there with the ones. I’ve got to fill in at the highest level. There’s no room for nonsense anymore and ridiculous mistakes. Missed assignments are out of the question anymore, and the urgency level is hyped and I’m prepared for it.”
What concerns me about the situation at center is that all centers benefit by having reps with their quarterback. Since head coach Mike McCarthy plans to rest his starters during the fourth preseason game against the Chiefs, that means that Corey Linsley will head into the regular season schedule having had no previous reps with Aaron Rodgers. Surely this will put some kinks into their no-huddle offense. I will be watching this very closely to see how they handle it.
It’s difficult to predict how the injuries sustained to these two positions will affect the rest of the line, but I am anxious to see how the coaching staff approaches the openings on both lines, and I believe that whatever player they decide to put in each position will be the best one for the job at the time. We will know more once the first game of the regular season is in the books.