Under head coach Matt LaFleur, the Green Bay Packers have traditionally sought to have the “best five” players start along their offensive line. Because the Packers value versatility, the team usually features offensive linemen who can play multiple positions along the line. This allows them to put the best five out there and to continue to field a solid offensive line if injuries strike without suffering a major drop in the quality of play.
Prior to the start of OTAs, offensive coordinator Adam Stenavich indicated that three positions were up for grabs along the line with left tackle David Bakhtiari and left guard Elgton Jenkins set as starters in their respective positions.
But of the three remaining positions, the biggest battle is looking to be had at center with at least three players having a realistic chance to win the starting job.
The incumbent is Josh Myers, the former second-round pick out of Ohio State. Myers has yet to realize his potential in his first two NFL seasons. Myers won the starting job in training camp as a rookie, but injuries limited him to just six games in his first year with the Packers.
He returned in 2022 and started all 17 games for the Packers but his play was very inconsistent. Myers’ pass blocking was solid, but his run blocking left a lot to be desired. Pro Football Focus graded Myers among the bottom third of qualified NFL centers last season.
The Packers are hoping that Myers can improve his play in this his third NFL campaign but just his second full season after injuries disrupted his progress back in 2021.
But the Packers are also having other players battle for the center spot. Zach Tom will be one candidate who will get reps in the middle of the offensive line. GM Brian Gutekunst admitted last month that prior to drafting Tom, he felt center would be his best position although the former Wake Forest star can play any of the five positions along the offensive line. In fact, as a rookie last year, center was the only position Tom didn’t play snaps at during the regular season.
Tom started 13 games at center as a sophomore in college before being moved to left tackle the following season.
Tom will also be competing for playing time at right guard and right tackle. The only way he starts the season as the starting center is if he is one of the team’s best five offensive linemen and that putting him at center maximizes the talent at other positions.
Another candidate battling for the center job is last year’s third-round pick, Sean Rhyan. The former UCLA star played tackle in college but was expected to move inside in the NFL.
Rhyan’s rookie year was a big disappointment. He seemed slow to pick up the offense and was never in serious competition to earn a starting job last season. He played only one snap all season and that came on special teams. Then the NFL suspended Rhyan for the final six games of the regular season for violating the league’s PED policy.
Now Rhyan is back and looking to complete for playing time. At his OTAs press conference on Tuesday, LaFleur mentioned that Rhyan was a candidate at center.
“At this time of the year, we experiment with a lot of these guys,” LaFleur said. “But absolutely, he’s a viable candidate to be inside. We need more than one guy to snap. We always want to train three or four guys to get that done.”
Rhyan did get reps at center at OTAs and if he can show he can at least be a competent backup at the position, he could help himself earn a roster spot this season.
Last season, Jake Hanson also saw reps at center in training camp and the preseason. He also played guard and even started at that position when injuries struck the offensive line before the season opener in 2022.
The former sixth-round pick out of Oregon will be fighting for a roster spot and his ability to play center as well as guard will be helpful for him in that battle.
The other possible center candidate on the roster at OTAs is undrafted free agent DJ Scaife. The former University of Miami (Florida) star started 52 games in college at either right guard or right tackle but is listed as a center on the Packers present roster. He is considered a long shot to make the final roster.
So, the center position seems open as the Packers continue OTAs. There is still a long way to go between OTAs, training camp and the preseason but making a strong impression early is always a good thing for all these candidates.
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