They were on the phone at the final bell of this weekend’s draft looking for more – and they found it by signing three undrafted free agent linemen: Lane Taylor, a guard out of Oklahoma State; Patrick Lewis, a center out of Texas A&M; and one of my favorite darkhorses, Jeremy Vujnovich, a tackle out of Louisiana State.
If nothing else, Thompson is bringing these players in to compete, but we all know how the general manager likes to allow UDFAs the opportunity to land on the team’s full roster. All we have to do is look no further than guys like Sam Shields, Dezman Moses, Jarrett Boykin and T.J. Lang and we all understand that some of the better players who make the Packers’ roster are not part of the draft class.
That’s why we have to look more closely at these offensive linemen signed after the draft.
Here’s a closer look …
Not a whole lot of information is available about Vujnovich, other than the fact that he is a Croatian immigrant’s grandson who worked in the summer as an oyster fisherman, and was projected as a preseason Division III first-team All-American who lived up to his billing while playing on Louisiana College’s acclaimed offensive line. As an offensive tackle, his measurables are 6-5, 290 pounds.
He was also named an All-American Southwest Conference selection this past fall. The Division III standout ran in 4.87 with 35 reps on the bench.
I guess of all the undrafted free agent signings by the Packers, Vujnovich has become my favorite because of the mystery that surrounds him.
Here is a video of the big kid that caught the eye of Thompson (what’s interesting is that this video only has 143 views – could one of those few have been Thompson?):
Taylor was a first-team academic All-Big 12 honoree and an honorable mention All-Big 12 as selected by the coaches and Associated Press in 2011, according to the Oklahoma State website. The 6-3, 328-pounder was a durable starter for the Cowboys.
Here’s what Dane Brugler over at cbs.com had to say: “After spending a lot of time in the weight room, he has done a nice job putting on weight and maxing out his frame, adding over 30 pounds since his freshman season. Taylor isn’t the most mobile blocker, but he stays coordinated in his stance and works well in small areas. With the Cowboys having to replace three starting offensive linemen from last season, Taylor’s leadership and experience will be key for Oklahoma State’s offensive success in 2012.”
Taylor paid dividends for Oklahoma State, as he did not allow a sack in more than 850 snaps of action in 2012.
Here’s more analysis from the Cowboys’ website:
Started every game at right guard … Played just 20 snaps in the season-opening 84-0 win over Savannah State … Did not allowed a sack and just four quarterback pressures … Had 1.5 knock-down blocks at Oklahoma … Grade sheets show his best games of the season came against Savannah State and Texas Tech … Was recognized as OSU’s most physical lineman against Kansas and Texas Tech.
Though only one play, here is a video of Lane Taylor:
This undrafted center out of Texas A&M will come into the Packers camp and is expected to compete right away for the position. Packers officials have said that Evan Dietrich-Smith is penciled in as the starter, but the signing of Lewis is an indication that the Packers want competition at the position.
According to the Aggies’ website, Lewis, at 6-2, 312 pounds, made the transition to center his senior season and “was flawless in his snaps in his first season.”
As a junior coming out, Lewis, according to the school’s website, “Earned honorable mention All-Big 12 honors in his first season at center, after two seasons at offensive guard … cornerstone of the Aggies’ offensive front that allowed just nine sacks in 13 games and set school records for total, passing and scoring offense … offense front paved the way for an offense that averaged 490.2 yards of total offense, 291.1 passing yards and 39.1 points per game … helped the Aggies rush for 199.2 yard per game, which ranked No. 24 nationally … Aggies were one of the few team nationally to rank in the top 25 in all four major offense statistical categories.”
Again, here is a player who is versatile, having played more than one position along the offensive line – the type of player that appeals to both Thompson and Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy.
Having spent the season snapping the football to Johnny Manziel, Lewis is “the fuse” to Manziel’s “explosion,” according to a story that appeared in The Advocate out of Baton Rouge, La.
Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin said A&M’s up-tempo offense might not be quite as proficient without Lewis.
“We can’t do anything until the center gets the ball,’’ Sumlin said. “If we’re all running to the ball and we have no center there, it makes no sense.’’
But the transition to center was difficult for Lewis, according to the article.
“What I liked about guard is, I could see the field more, and it was easier to concentrate on blocking assignments,” Lewis said. “At center, making a smooth snap then going to blocking assignments is a little harder.
“I worked on it, though, and I’ve grown to love the position.’’
Here’s a video of Patrick Lewis …