NFL Nation: Evan Dietrich-Smith

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Buccaneers reporter Pat Yasinskas revises his prediction at the midway point of the season:

Preseason prediction: 8-8

Revised prediction: 4-12

Why the Buccaneers will finish worse: I admit I bought into the hype the Bucs were selling about winning right away because they didn't believe they could ask their fans to be patient much longer. They were aggressive in free agency, signing defensive end Michael Johnson, left tackle Anthony Collins and center Evan Dietrich-Smith and trading for guard Logan Mankins. With players like defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and linebacker Lavonte David already in place, the roster looked good -- on paper -- heading into the season. But this team has struggled in every way imaginable.

The Bucs aren't going to get to .500 or even close. They rank 31st in the league in overall offense and defense, and they're not doing anything particularly well. They have lost some close games and been routed twice. Injuries to quarterback Josh McCown, running back Doug Martin, middle linebacker Mason Foster and safety Dashon Goldson have played a role, and the loss of offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford to a leave of absence after a preseason heart procedure hasn't helped. But this team still has underachieved, and some of those moves made in free agency aren't looking very good.

Coach Lovie Smith keeps saying his team is improving, but that’s happening in very small increments. The Bucs need major improvement before they can win.

They will win a few games and show a little progress down the stretch. But the kind of improvement this team needs is the type that can come only with another offseason to strengthen the roster.

The Film Don't Lie: Buccaneers

October, 14, 2014
Oct 14
A weekly look at what the Tampa Bay Buccaneers must fix:

The list is long, but pass protection might be the top priority as the Bucs head into their bye week.

They need to do a much better job of protecting the quarterback when they return to action against the Minnesota Vikings. The pass protection was horrible in Sunday’s 48-17 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

Quarterback Mike Glennon was sacked five times. He was sacked or under duress on 63 percent of his dropbacks. That’s the highest pressure percentage for any quarterback with at least 40 dropbacks in the past five years.

What’s puzzling about this is that the Bucs used a lot of resources to rebuild their offensive line in the offseason. They let veterans Donald Penn, Davin Joseph and Jeremy Zuttah go. They spent good money on center Evan Dietrich-Smith and left tackle Anthony Collins in free agency. After guard Carl Nicks left the team because of a lingering toe problem, the Bucs traded for Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins.

Right tackle Demar Dotson is the lone holdover from last year’s unit and Patrick Omameh has been the starter at right guard, but no one on the offensive line is playing well.

The Bucs could look to make some lineup changes during the bye. Garrett Gilkey already has been rotating in for Omameh, but there’s not much other depth on the offensive line. Rookies Kadeem Edwards and Kevin Pamphile have been inactive for every game.

The Bucs need to block better up front, but that might not be enough. The Bucs need to ask their tight ends and running backs to be more involved as blockers to make up for the deficiencies on the offensive line.
TAMPA, Fla. -- Both of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' starting wide receivers are listed as questionable for Sunday’s game against Baltimore. But don’t go shuffling your fantasy team just yet.

The signs were encouraging Friday as Vincent Jackson (ribs) and Mike Evans (groin) participated on a limited basis in Friday’s practice. Coach Lovie Smith seemed optimistic Jackson and Evans will be able to play.

Smith wasn’t as optimistic about safety Dashon Goldson (ankle) and linebacker Jonathan Casillas. They both have been ruled out for Sunday. Defensive end Larry English (hamstring) participated on a limited basis and is listed as questionable.

Center Evan Dietrich-Smith also is listed as questionable. Dietrich-Smith was ill Friday, but Smith said he is confident the center will play Sunday. Quarterback Josh McCown (thumb) is listed as doubtful.

Middle linebacker Mason Foster, who missed three games with a shoulder injury but has practiced fully three times this week, is listed as probable.
TAMPA, Fla. -- With the start of the regular season just around the corner, Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith talked about his offensive and defensive lines Friday.

You might be a little surprised with what he had to say. Smith had plenty of praise for an offensive line that has been criticized and has undergone a lot of changes. On the flip side, he had a challenge for a defensive line that many consider one of the team’s strengths.

Let’s start with the offensive line. Right tackle Demar Dotson is the only remaining starter from a line that wasn’t very good a year ago. Center Evan Dietrich-Smith and left tackle Anthony Collins were brought in as free agents. After some early struggles on the interior in the preseason, the Bucs made a big trade this week to bring in six-time Pro Bowler Logan Mankins.

Smith said he’s not concerned about the chemistry of the offensive line even though Mankins has yet to practice with the team.

“It’s been talked an awful lot about “the offensive line, they have to play together’’,’’ Smith said. “I don’t buy that at all. I think you get the best possible guys you can, and you make moves when you have to.’’

“He knows how to get himself ready. He’ll have to change a little bit of terminology but not as much as you would assume. He’ll fit in right away and I don’t think that will be a big issue. Some of our other offensive linemen haven’t played a lot together. But these three preseason games, they’ve come together. Based on the way they played the last time they were together [in the third preseason game], we like where we’re at going into the Carolina game [to open the regular season].’’

The defensive line is supposed to be a strength. The Bucs haven’t gotten some pressure from their starters, but the team plans to use a rotation. Smith said he hasn’t been impressed with the play of some of his backup defensive linemen.

“Very concerned about it,’’ Smith said. “It’s disappointing, the pressure we weren’t able to get. It’s been documented how we want to play football. As we look at it, the challenge for our defensive line this week will be to outplay Carolina’s defensive line. They have an excellent front seven. We need to play better than them up front. That isn’t just four guys. A couple other players have to step up. We’ll normally dress seven defensive linemen. All of them will play and we need production from all of them.’’
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Green Bay Packers spent nearly five months preparing JC Tretter to start at center when the regular-season opens on Sept. 4 at the Seattle Seahawks.

Now they have less than two weeks to prime rookie Corey Linsley for the task.

The news that Tretter sustained a knee injury in Friday's preseason game against the Oakland Raiders and will miss up to six weeks struck a bigger blow than the loss of nose tackle B.J. Raji, who sustained a season-ending torn biceps in the game.

Raji is the bigger, more recognizable name, but Tretter is the greater loss.

Tretter is the reason the Packers opted not to re-sign last year's starting center Evan Dietrich-Smith, who went to Tampa Bay in free agency.

The Packers felt so confident in the second-year pro even though he had never played center that they devoted their entire offseason to getting him ready to help Aaron Rodgers run the no-huddle without so much as looking at another option in practice. Rodgers was going to have his fourth different starting center in as many years anyway. Now it will be a center he might not take a game snap with before the opener given that Rodgers does not typically play in the final exhibition game.

"It can be done," said backup quarterback Matt Flynn, who has worked extensively with Linsley this summer. "It's the 10 other guys around him that are key factors in not letting there be a setback. It's a blow for us, spending that much time with a guy getting him ready, getting him prepared. But the thing about training camp is everyone's getting about the same amount of reps. We've also been getting Corey ready. We hope that there's not going to be a drop off there. And he couldn't have any better people surrounding him, whether it's the two guards [Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang] or Aaron behind him, with the mental part of it."

It will be a crash course. The Packers have just two more practices this week before the preseason finale against Kansas City on Thursday and then have a short week to prepare for the Thursday night opener against the defending champs.

"This will be my millionth center, so it's not anything new to us," said Sitton, who also took some snaps at center on Sunday. "I wouldn't say it's difficult; it's just a process. I told JC this morning, 'Right when I got real comfortable with you, now you're gone.' It sucks. It's unfortunate, but we're used to working with a bunch of guys, so it's something you've got to roll with."

Before Sunday's practice, Linsley had not taken a single rep with the No. 1 offensive line since the time he was drafted in the fifth round out of Ohio State in May.

The physical aspect of the game does not look like a problem for him. For example, Linsley's record in the one-on-one pass-blocking drill in training camp is a respectable 8-2. However, offensive line coach James Campen has had to harp on Linsley about mental mistakes and missed assignments in both practice and preseason games.

"It's definitely the mental side of the game that I've been slacking on and that I need to improve on," Linsley said. "It's just the subtleties -- the outside zone step as opposed to the inside zone step, the differences between the aiming point are very subtle -- but they make a difference. That's what I've got to work on."

W2W4: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

August, 8, 2014
Aug 8
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-0) and Jacksonville Jaguars (0-0) open the preseason Friday night at Everbank Stadium.

Three things to watch:

1. Tampa Bay’s offensive line: This is the biggest area of question for the Bucs. They overhauled the offensive line in the offseason, but some uncertainty remains. The Bucs will use the preseason games to determine who ends up starting at the two guard spots. Jamon Meredith, Patrick Omameh, Oneil Cousins and rookie Kadeem Edwards are candidates to start. Center Evan Dietrich-Smith, left tackle Anthony Collins and right tackle Demar Dotson are set as starters, but the Bucs need two guards to step up and claim jobs.

2. Josh McCown: The veteran quarterback probably will only play about a quarter, but this is his first action as a member of the Buccaneers. McCown was handed the starting job when he signed as a free agent and he has looked solid throughout training camp. McCown looked sharp for Chicago last season when he was filling in for an injured Jay Cutler. If McCown can be as efficient as he was last season, the Bucs will be in good shape.

3. The return of the Tampa 2 defense: That is the defense that was made famous in Tampa Bay by Tony Dungy and Monte Kiffin back in the 1990s. The Bucs got away from the Tampa 2 when Raheem Morris and Greg Schiano were the head coaches. But Lovie Smith, an assistant on Dungy’s original staff, is a big believer in the Tampa 2 and has brought it back to the Bucs.

Buccaneers Camp Report: Day 9

August, 4, 2014
Aug 4
TAMPA, Fla. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Tampa Bay Buccaneers training camp:
  • The Bucs continue to experiment with their defensive linemen. They've been giving defensive end Adrian Clayborn some work at defensive tackle. “He's been taking reps all throughout,'' coach Lovie Smith said. “We want to see what players can do. Sometimes a defensive end is a lot quicker and you can get him inside and get a lot of plays when they get against some of the bigger, slower interior lineman. We're a new staff and we want to give guys a chance to show what they can do at as many positions as possible.''
  • The Buccaneers worked on something they didn't have a chance to do much of last season Monday night. They worked on having a lead late in the game. The offense worked on running out the clock. At the same time, the defense worked on trying to get the ball back.
  • Linebacker Brandon Magee drew the wrath of wide Vincent Jackson. Magee hit running back Mike James after he was clearly out of bounds. Jackson, a captain last year, got in Magee's face and gave him an earful.
  • With Verner and Jenkins out, Danny Gorrer has been getting a lot of first-team work at cornerback. Gorrer also is a candidate for the nickelback job.
  • The play of the day was a pass that Josh McCown drilled to Vincent Jackson in traffic.
  • The Bucs waived wide receiver David Gettis with an injury settlement and signed former University of South Florida safety Mark Joyce.
  • The Bucs are scheduled to practice at 4:30 p.m. ET Tuesday.

Buccaneers Camp Report: Day 8

August, 3, 2014
Aug 3
TAMPA, Fla. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Tampa Bay Buccaneers training camp:
  • The offense was having a pretty strong practice Sunday evening. But that changed when the Bucs worked on goal-line situations at the end of practice. It was the first time the Bucs have worked on those situations and the defense clearly won. Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy had two stuffs and strong safety Mark Barron had a big stop. “Once you get down to the red zone, speaking offensively, you’ve got to get touchdowns,’’ coach Lovie Smith said. “The ball’s on the 2-yard line, you’ve got to get a touchdown every time. For the defense to hold them out, it shifts momentum quite a bit. I saw the defense pick it up. You can hide a little bit, but down on the goal line you can’t hide. You show your true colors down there. I liked some of the things I saw.’’
  • Cornerback Alterraun Verner was one of Tampa Bay’s biggest signings in free agency. But he has yet to practice this camp due to a hamstring injury. “It’s not an ideal situation,’’ Smith said. “You come in new, we want him out there every snap, especially a day like today -- those are the times when the defense really becomes one when you’re down on the goal line with your backs up against the wall like that. We brought Alterraun in to do what he’s been doing for a long time. That’s the reason we signed him to a contract. It’s not an ideal situation. It puts us back a little bit, but that’s a part of it. You have injuries. He’ll be back out there. We still have a little bit of time.’’
  • Smith attended Derrick Brooks’ Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Canton, Ohio, on Saturday night. Smith’s flight arrived back in Tampa at about 4 a.m. Sunday and he came straight to One Buc Place to get ready for Sunday’s work. “We set up our schedule,’’ Smith said. “We knew it would be a quick turnaround. We got plenty of sleep. We slept on the plane all the way back.’’
  • Rookie Robert Herron continues to struggle on punt returns. Herron dropped another punt Sunday. But Smith isn’t overly concerned about that. “He’s a rookie,’’ Smith said. “He’s not our returner that we plan on opening the season with, but you start the process. I’ve seen improvement from him. You hate whenever they drop them, but they do from time to time. He is getting better.’’
  • The Bucs are scheduled to practice at 4:30 p.m. ET on Monday.

Buccaneers Camp Report: Day 7

August, 1, 2014
Aug 1
TAMPA, Fla. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Tampa Bay Buccaneers training camp:
  • Early in camp, the defense clearly was ahead of the offense. That’s not the case anymore. The offense had a good showing at Friday night’s practice at Raymond James Stadium. The first- and second-team offenses each drove for successful field goals in the two-minute drill. “It’s about scoring points, and that’s what the offense was able to do," coach Lovie Smith said. “Somebody can’t look good in that situation. Most games come down to that two-minute drive at the end of the game. (Quarterbacks) Josh [McCown] and Mike [Glennon] both did a great job with us."
  • Many fans had to be pleasantly surprised by their first look at coordinator Jeff Tedford’s offense. It didn’t look nearly as conservative as what the Bucs have run in recent years. The play of the night was a trick play. Running back Mike James took a pitchout and threw a touchdown pass to Vincent Jackson. The deep passing game also looked good, with Chris Owusu catching a long touchdown from Glennon in an 11-on-11 drill.
  • Center Evan Dietrich-Smith missed practice with a foot injury, and his absence was obvious. The one blemish for the offense was that three snaps between center and quarterback were botched. “One time on the ground is too many," Smith said.
  • The practice drew just under 15,000 fans, according team officials. “It’s a fanbase that deserves to see a good football team on the field, and we plan on giving them that," Smith said.
  • The Buccaneers have the day off from practice Saturday. Smith and many team employees will travel to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, to attend the induction ceremony for Derrick Brooks. The team will return to practice Sunday at 4:30 p.m. “All week, I’ve been thinking about Derrrick going in," Smith said. “I can’t wait to get up there tomorrow. A special day for him. You know Derrick Brooks. Who deserves to be in the Hall more than him? It’s a special time for his family, and we can’t wait to get there.’’
GREEN BAY, Wis. – If JC Tretter can handle the likes of defensive tackles B.J. Raji and Josh Boyd in practice, Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy thinks his new starting center will be able to handle anything.

But so far in the first two days of full-pads training camp practices, Raji has proven too much for Tretter to handle.

"If you ever want to get a center ready, B.J. Raji and Josh Boyd are your guys because they definitely present a challenge to covering up a center," McCarthy said after Wednesday's practice.

As pleased as the Packers are with Raji's start – assuming it's not simply a product of Tretter's struggles – it means Tretter still has work to do in order to convince them he can handle the giant task of starting at center on opening night against the Seattle Seahawks.

By now, Tretter's backstory has been told time and again. A fourth-round pick in 2013, he broke his ankle during his first OTA practice as a rookie and never played in a game – preseason, regular season or playoffs – last year. He came off PUP and began practicing last November at center after playing his college career at Cornell as a tackle.

He became the favorite to win the starting job – the fourth different starting center the Packers will field in as many seasons – after Evan Dietrich-Smith signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a free agent.

It has been anything but a seamless transition. Tretter has a 3-2 record in the one-on-one pass-rushing drill so far. That's a small sample but in a drill that favors the offense, that's a mediocre winning percentage. He's 2-2 against Raji and 1-0 against Boyd. Raji also manhandled Tretter in the one-on-one run-blocking drill on Wednesday and also during a team period for a tackle for loss on running back Eddie Lacy.

"He's getting a lot better," Boyd said. "He's got a very strong punch, very strong hands. He's getting a lot stronger with his feet, and he's a real quick guy. He's going to be good; he's just got to keep working at it."

The Packers seem inclined to give Tretter the time.

“He needs every rep,” McCarthy said. “I can’t tell you if there is someone in the locker room that’s prepared himself as much as he has, and he’ll continue to do so. It’s not going to look clean; our team isn’t clean. Let’s be honest with you, we’ve missed blocks, we’ve did some wrong things. That's why you practice. Our fundamentals are critical, and that goes from the player to the group all the way through. But JC needs this work."
Mike Barwis stepped out of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel just off Columbus Circle earlier this week and he couldn’t even make it to the street before being recognized.

The former Michigan strength and conditioning coach had been used to this in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Morgantown, West Virginia, and occasionally in airports before. It was a small part of celebrity for someone involved with college athletics, for a man who has helped paralyzed individuals walk again and who has a distinct personality even in the world of strength training.

Usually, the recognition would come as thanks for training college athletes or for doing a good job with a specific player. The past few weeks, that has changed.

[+] EnlargeSuh
Ezra Shaw/Getty ImagesNdamukong Suh showed off his desire to train during Wednesday night's episode of "American Muscle."
Over the past three years, Barwis has opened his own training center, BarwisMethods in Plymouth, Michigan. He has trained over 30 NFL athletes. He began consulting with the New York Mets. And earlier this month, he had a television show, “American Muscle,” debut on the Discovery Channel.

Strength coach – welcome to the new reality of reality television star.

“Literally came out of the Mandarin, hit the street, walked on the sidewalk and the bellhop, he said, ‘Hey man, your show is absolutely sick,’" Barwis told ESPN earlier this week. “I had to stop for a minute because I’m used to, ‘I really respect you and your coaching and I love your energy.’ I’m not used to ‘your show is really sick.’"

The attention might grow after Wednesday night. After a debut episode featuring Richard Sherman, the second episode features polarizing Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who worked out with Barwis and his crew for a few days during the offseason.

After the show was greenlit, producers Chris and Mike Farah – "Funny or Die" producers who grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan, – hoped Suh could participate because of his national name along with his local ties to Detroit.

Suh’s sister and manager, Ngum, had come down to the facility and helped work everything out for her brother, who is becoming a reality television show veteran. This is his third foray into reality TV after “Splash” and a dating show called “The Choice.”

The difference with this show is there is actual benefit in terms of training and strength for Suh.

During Wednesday night’s episode, Suh was challenged heavily by Tennessee Titans defensive tackle Mike Martin, who trained with Barwis both at Michigan and then during every offseason since leaving school prior to the 2012 NFL draft.

Martin particularly went after Suh during lifts and then during sprints. Part of what Barwis and his crew of people were trying to do was push Suh to his mental limit to see if they could get him to react. By the end, almost everyone involved had a positive impression of Suh.

“His physiological capabilities are extremely impressive,” Barwis said. “He is a different guy. He’s not your average dude. What he can do physically, it’s impressive. To me, the way he does it, as strong as he is, as good of body control [as he has] and making adjustments on the fly.

“To biomechanical assessments and things that we were saying, like move this foot here, place that there, this guy can just do it. He’s a world class athlete. There’s a reason he’s an All-Pro status football player. He is the real deal when it comes to his physical capabilities.”

One of the things Barwis tried to fix was foot placement when Suh was coming off the line. This is detailed in the episode, but he fixed Suh’s mechanics with his toes to help with his speed coming off the line.

And Suh was clearly challenged throughout the episode – but he expected that.

“People like to definitely challenge me,” Suh said during the episode. “They see the way I play and they want to see how they measure up to me.”

Some other highlights from Wednesday night’s episode:

  • One of the other trainers at the facility, known as “Tank Dog,” is a die-hard Packers fan. When Suh showed up, the trainer was wearing a Packers jersey, to which Suh said “Take that weak jersey off.” He also covered Suh's car with a Packers banner and Packers signs.
  • Tank Dog also questioned Suh on his 2011 stomp of Green Bay offensive lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith, but Suh wouldn’t go there. He continually just said “Man, that’s in the woods, man. That’s in the woods, man.”
  • Suh on people judging him: “People are always going to judge you. It’s a matter of do they take the time to make that correct judgment of who you are. There’s things that I’ve done in the season in the past that I can learn from and do better, so I don’t make the same mistakes.”
  • To me, one of the notable things in the episode was toward the end, when Suh was determined to finish a workout even though his sister was telling him he had to go. Suh ignored it and kept going. That also seemed to strike Barwis.

“That’s the kind of guy you want,” Barwis said. “It’s like picking a team and you’re telling me the guy has ridiculous athletic ability, is incredibly bright and likes to train? Sign him up.”
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- It must have been an odd sight if any of his neighbors in Green Bay got a glimpse of what was happening in JC Tretter's garage this spring.

There was the 6-foot-4, 307-pound Packers offensive lineman bent over in a three-point stance snapping a football – to his sister.

But in many ways, it made sense that Tretter would be snapping a ball to whomever, whenever and wherever he could. After all, he was being touted as the leading candidate to become the starter at a position he has never before played.

"It was tough because it's tough to get a ball in your hand with all the rules in the CBA," Tretter said. "Whenever you can get the opportunity, you've got to take advantage of it. You've got to go find a park somewhere or something, and that's frustrating."

[+] EnlargeJC Tretter
Mike McGinnis/Getty ImagesJC Tretter has his sights set on being the Packers' starting center.
A college tackle at Cornell, the fourth-round draft pick in 2013 did not even begin practicing at center until Nov. 19 of last year, when he took part in his first-ever NFL regular-season practice. And now, here he was as the leading candidate to replace Evan Dietrich-Smith, the Packers' starting center from last season who left in free agency to sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Tretter broke his ankle last May on the first day of his first OTA practice as a pro. He missed the rest of the offseason program, all of training camp and began the season on the physically unable to perform list. It was not until late November that he was even allowed to practice. Although he never was active for a game, it was during those late fall practice sessions that the idea of him transitioning to center was born.

That led to an offseason in which Tretter was determined to spend as much time as possible – and as much time as the collective bargaining agreement allowed – at Lambeau Field.

"When I was leaving the facility after our loss in the playoffs, it was, 'I'm going to come back and train like I'm going to be the starter,'" Tretter said. "No matter who they bring in or who they bring back, my goal was to come back ready to be a starting center in this league."

The Packers feel like he has done that. Even after drafting a potential starting center, Ohio State's Corey Linsley in the fifth round, the Packers opened OTAs last week with Tretter in front of quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

"JC's doing a really good job," Packers coach Mike McCarty said. "I think he's been here every single day since the season ended. I don't think there's been a day that I've walked through the locker room from February all the way through that he hasn't been here. I think that is really shown as far as the way he's jumped in there. So far, so good. I've been impressed with what I've seen."

Because the rules of the CBA prevent players from working directly with coaches – or even having a football in their hands at the team facility – before May, Tretter had to get creative. While he spent hours with the team's strength/conditioning and nutrition staff, he had to go elsewhere to get in his snapping work. Shortly after the season, he went back East to work out with former Cornell quarterback Jeff Mathews, who was training for the combine and would eventually sign with the Atlanta Falcons.

"So I got to snap with him, and that was the main goal of going to New Jersey to train with him, was to get a quarterback there to work with," Tretter said. "Then I came out here a couple of months before everybody else came back."

Said offensive line coach James Campen: "The thing with him is he's very smart. He's got good leadership ability, a hustler, works extremely hard. He's got very good balance and he's a big, strong guy. He's a bigger man and his work ethic is outstanding."

The final point, Campen's praise of Tretter's work ethic, takes us back to Tretter's garage, where he was firing shotgun snaps to his sister, Katherine.

"She's good; she has a great cadence," Tretter said. "She was giving me protection adjustments. She was on top of her stuff."
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Green Bay Packers' last starting center was a left tackle in college. So was one of the leading contenders to replace him.

That's what makes rookie Corey Linsley so unusual – and so refreshing – at least for the Packers.

The fifth-round pick from Ohio State is a center prospect who actually played center.

[+] EnlargeCorey Linsley
AP Photo/Jeff HaynesSafe to say that Packers offensive live coach James Campen is eager to work with rookie Corey Linsley. "I love his toughness, what he brings," Campen said.
"It's good to finally draft one that's played the position before," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said after last weekend's draft. "We're all excited about that. I know [offensive line coach] James Campen's real excited."

Before general manager Ted Thompson picked Linsley at No. 161 overall in the draft, the Packers' leading candidate to replace Evan Dietrich-Smith, who signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in free agency, was JC Tretter. A fourth-round pick last season, Tretter started at tackle for two years at Cornell after converting from tight end.

With Linsley, center is just about all he has known.

"I've felt at home at center since I got to Ohio State," Linsley said. "I always knew that was one of my better positions. Obviously, it took a little work for me to excel at the position. I've felt at home at center for a while."

After dabbling at guard and tackle early in his college career, the 6-foot-2, 296-pound native of Youngstown, Ohio, started 26 straight games at center for the Buckeyes over his final two seasons.

"He's a true center," said Linsley's agent, Bill Conaty.

Conaty should know. He spent nine seasons in the NFL as a center with the Buffalo Bills, Dallas Cowboys, Minnesota Vikings and Arizona Cardinals before getting his law degree and becoming an agent.

"He's an extremely smart player, and extremely strong," Conaty said of his client. "He's got great hands. That's one of the biggest things is his hands. He's got good, quick hands."

Linsley was the sixth of 10 centers selected in last weekend's draft, but only one of them – North Carolina's Russell Bodine (a fourth-round pick of the Cincinnati Bengals) – put up more reps on the 225-pound bench press at the scouting combine than Linsley. Bodine did 42 reps, six more than Linsley.

"I love his toughness, what he brings," said Campen, a former NFL center. "He really is what you're looking for from a mental standpoint. He's very physical. He goes after people, is a tempo-setter. He plays a physical brand of football."

Meanwhile, Tretter remains a bit of an unknown. He broke his ankle last May during an OTA practice and never took a single practice rep in training camp. He finally came off the physically unable to perform list on Dec. 10, although he did not play in any games.

In practice, he spent part of his time working at center for the first time in his playing career.

"When he came off of the PUP and was practicing, the majority of it obviously with the [scout] teams," Campen said. "He progressed every single week. That kid is a very headstrong kid, knows all the assignments and he's ready to go and compete. He wants to be the starting center also, just like everyone else does."

Campen and McCarthy will get their first extended look at their new center prospect on Friday morning, when the Packers begin their rookie orientation camp.

"It will be good just to have a natural center come in and play that position, and I view him as a center," McCarthy said. "I know we historically move our guys around, but I think it's important for him to come in and play center."
NFC wrap-ups: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- A wrap-up of the Green Bay Packers' draft. Click here for a full list of Packers draftees.

[+] EnlargeJared Abbrederis
Andrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsReceiver Jared Abbrederis is the first Wisconsin player drafted by the Packers since guard Bill Ferrario (fourth round) in 2001.
Best move: Even though much of the pre-draft focus was on improving the defense -- something general manager Ted Thompson did by taking Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the first round (No. 21 overall) -- he did not ignore the other side of the ball. He wisely added depth to the receiving core with the highly productive Davante Adams of Fresno State in the second round (No. 53) and later local product Jared Abbrederis of Wisconsin in the fifth round (No. 176), and the small-school Jeff Janis from Saginaw Valley State in the seventh (No. 236). He then took a shot with developmental tight end Richard Rodgers of Cal in the third round (No. 98) and brought in competition for the starting center job with Corey Linsley of Ohio State in the fifth round (No. 161).

Riskiest move: Defensive tackle Khyri Thornton. Taking him in the third round (No. 85 overall) seemed too high. Even he didn't think he would be drafted on Day 2. "Khyri was an interesting one, kind of came up later in the process," said Packers director of college scouting Brian Gutekunst. "But he had so much twitch, so much upside, it was something we couldn't pass on. The way he's able to run, a 4.9 guy for a 312-pound man, the kid can run. He's got a lot of upside. We felt fortunate to get him." You could also call Baylor cornerback Demetri Goodson a risk, although it's less of one in the sixth round (No. 197). Goodson will turn 25 years old next month and was out of football for five years. He played three seasons of basketball at Gonzaga before he transferred to Baylor in 2011 and played three years of football.

Most surprising move: For the first time in 10 drafts as the Packers general manager, Thompson did not make a single trade. He picked at his spot all nine times. By the time the draft reached the fifth round, it became clear this was going to be a different draft strategy for Thompson. He had never before made it that far into a draft without making a trade. Perhaps equally surprising was the fact that he picked a player from the University of Wisconsin -- and it wasn't linebacker Chris Borland, a player many thought might interest the Packers. Instead, he took Abbrederis, making him the first UW player drafted by the Packers since guard Bill Ferrario (fourth round) in 2001.

File it away: Next year, when Thompson tells you he doesn't draft for need, remember this: Among his first six picks were a safety (Clinton-Dix), a receiver (Adams), a tight end (Rodgers) and a center (Linsley). Not coincidentally, the Packers had an opening for a starting free safety, lost a receiver (James Jones) and a center (Evan Dietrich-Smith) in free agency, and have not re-signed last year’s starting tight end (Jermichael Finley).

Plan B for the Buccaneers?

April, 30, 2014
Apr 30
Virtually every mock draft I’ve seen recently has the Tampa Bay Buccaneers taking either a wide receiver or a quarterback.

Texas A&M’s Mike Evans is the popular pick among receivers, and his college teammate, quarterback Johnny Manziel, has been frequently tied to the Bucs.

But let’s turn hypothetical here. Let’s say that Evans and Manziel are drafted before Tampa Bay picks at No. 7. Or let’s say the hidden reality is that the Bucs don’t like Evans or Manziel as much as everyone seems to think.

Is there a Plan B in place?

Coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jason Licht are bright guys, and you can bet they have contingency plans ready. Licht has made it abundantly clear that the Bucs would be willing to trade down, which I think is a real possibility.

But let’s stick with our hypothetical here and say the Bucs stay at No. 7 and either can’t or don’t want to draft Manziel or Evans. What direction does Tampa Bay go in that scenario?

This is just a hunch, but I wouldn’t rule out the offensive line. Yeah, the Bucs spent good money to get left tackle Anthony Collins and center Evan Dietrich-Smith. But there still is uncertainty on the offensive line.

The job at right guard is wide open, and it's unclear if guard Carl Nicks can fully recover from a toe injury. Nicks has said there is nerve damage and he might have to play in pain for the rest of his career.

That is why I’m thinking there is a real chance the Bucs select an offensive lineman at No. 7. There aren’t any true guards worthy of that pick. But there are three tackles that could be available, and none of them would be a bad choice.
Greg Robinson, Jake Matthews and Taylor Lewan all could be available when Tampa Bay picks. The consensus is that Robinson is slightly ahead of Matthews and Lewan, but some mocks have all three going in the top 10 picks.

I can see the Bucs taking any one of the three. They could plug that player in at guard for the short term and eventually move him to tackle. That would give Tampa Bay’s offensive line a big boost and firm up one of the few glaring weaknesses.

It’s just a thought, but going with an offensive lineman might not be a bad option for the Bucs.



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