Players shouldn’t lose their job to injury. But, in the NFL and other professional sports leagues it happens all the time and after the way that Corey Linsley has played for the Green Bay Packers in his first two starts at center in place of the injured J.C. Tretter, it may happen again.
Don’t get me wrong, I think that Tretter is a solid player. The Packers planned all offseason to have him as their starting center and he looked like a starter in the preseason before he went down to injury. Unfortunately for him, Linsley has stepped up in his absence and after just two games, he is showing enough ability and potential to warrant a long look at being the Packers’ starter at center for the foreseeable future.
If that is the direction that the Packers decide to go it will be because of Linsley more so than it will be about Tretter. After all, Linsley has played exceptionally well in two starts for a rookie. He was solid on the road in Seattle and despite the fumbled snap on the first play of the game against the New York Jets (Which was Aaron Rodgers’ fault anyway) his performance has been much better than anticipated.
Against the Jets last Sunday, Linsley more than held his own. He was solid in the run game and surrendered just one pressure in pass protection. In fact in Bob McGinn’s film review of the Packers Week 2 game against New York, he said that Linsley was Green Bay’ second best offensive lineman outside of perennial pro bowler Josh Sitton.
Another issue is that with Tretter slated to miss 6-8 weeks, Linsley will spend at least half the season building a rapport with Rodgers and the rest of the offensive line. Do the Packers really want to throw a new center into the mix halfway through the season, when Linsley is already proving he is more than capable of handling the job on his own.
It’s a harsh reality for Tretter no doubt but in the NFL, getting injured is as bad as being ineffective. If a team can’t count on to be on the field, they can’t count on you at all.
Now if Linsley struggles, then certainly, Tretter will likely be reinserted into the lineup but after facing two of the more difficult defenses on the schedule, it seems unlikely that the rookie fifth-rounder from Ohio State would have a meltdown at this point. Furthermore, if Tretter does come back healthy and is not the starting center, he could fill the role as sixth-lineman in a utility role a la Don Barclay. Tretter could back up center and both guard spots. His presence could even allow T.J. Lang to bump outside to tackle in case of an injury and Tretter could step in at guard.
Depth along the offensive line is critical in the NFL and the Packers don’t have it right now but a return from Tretter could allow them to have that utility lineman head coach Mike McCarthy loves so much.
Nothing in the NFL is set in stone and Linsley will need to keep proving himself week in and week out, but if he continues playing at a high level it is hard to see the Packers making a change at midseason or anytime in the near future.