Every week, we look at a young Green Bay Packer and explain their importance for the upcoming week’s game. This week’s focus: center Corey Linsley.
The Green Bay Packers are a team heavily reliant on their young players, so much so that until this offseason the idea of the team bringing in an outside free agent was borderline impossible.
Though the team was more open to outside additions this particular offseason, the players key to elevating Green Bay to another level are their many youthful contributors.
With this in mind, every week during the 2017 season we’ll be taking a look at a different young player on the team and bringing to light their importance for the upcoming week’s game.
In Week 7, we look at fourth-year center Corey Linsley.
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Offensive linemen consistently get undervalued moreso than any other position group in the NFL. With no major positive statistics to follow and nearly zero actual touching of the ball (at least not if the plays go well), it can be difficult to gear up excitement for them.
When linemen don’t play well though, it becomes more detrimental to offensive success than anything except horrid quarterbacking.
Just look around the league. Whether due to injuries or ineffectiveness, there are few offensive lines league-wide that aren’t standing in the way of their team doing well. For years it has felt as if every possible on-field and rule change advantage has gone towards offenses, yet we are at a place where we have so few reliable blocking units that it is a key factor in the entire league having zero elite teams and so few good ones. Per Pro Football Focus, there aren’t even ten units that average out as average this year.
The most damning thing about that list? This Green Bay line is top 10! A group which has gone through a half-dozen different tackles and guards already this year and somehow managed to sit at 4-1 before they played Minnesota.
Linsley has been one of the only two linemen (RG Jahri Evans is the other) to not miss significant time yet. That doesn’t mean he’s been particularly good, however; in fact, he’s having the worst-graded season of his career (per PFF).
Now, some of that can clearly fall on the endless flux and shuffling occurring around him. Offensive lines are true units which must work in sync as a five-man group to be successful on any given play.
Having players constantly go in and out of the lineup is damaging enough; having them go out for long periods of time, for completely inexperienced younger players, and for replacements who are now playing entirely new positions doesn’t help the continuity or ability of the group at all.
Even with a healthy Aaron Rodgers for most of their six games this year, the group is sitting in a tie for most sacks allowed (23) and has been abysmal at keeping him from getting pressured. Now they go from a player who is often one of the best at playing under pressure to a former 5th-round backup coming off a three interception game in the first extended extended action of his career making his first professional start.
Brett Hundley probably isn’t as bad as he played at times against Minnesota, but he’s still a young, inexperienced backup quarterback who is a massive step down in skill level from this team’s usual starter. Having a week as the starter for all the game planning and preparation should help, but he can’t do it alone, and if his linemen can play their first consistent game of the season it would be a major boon.
That’s going to center on Linsley playing better immediately. Despite injuries yet again knocking them out for significant time against Minnesota, it appears his usual tackle duo will be lining up with him on Sunday. While left guard Lane Taylor may not be able to play because of injury, right guard Evans should be there; at worst, Linsley should have three of his four top linemates out there with him.
New Orleans is comes into this game with an offense that is still elite, and a defense which has played surprisingly well for three weeks now. Green Bay is going to need lots of points from their offense to have any slight hope of winning; to do that, Hundley will need to stay upright and be given a relatively decent amount of time to make his reads and throws.
If his center isn’t able to provide steadiness — especially with just getting the ball into his hands to start the plays — a large-scale blowout on Green Bay’s own home field (and all the obvious negativity and hopelessness that will bring) is all but guaranteed.