Who is the Packers' Backup Center?
The Packers learned last season how bad things can get when a critical player who handles the ball on every play gets hurt. When Aaron Rodgers crumpled to the floor of the Vikings’ stadium, the Packers’ season went with him.
This offseason, the Packers took step to make sure they were better prepared to weather a similar situation. If DeShone Kizer can harness some of his prodigious athletic gifts or if his presence can inspire Brett Hundley to be the quarterback Mike McCarthy has long maintained he can be, the Packers will be much better off behind Rodgers than they were in 2017.
But like last season, the Packers are vulnerable again at a position that handles the ball on every play. That position is center, where the Packers have no clear backup behind Corey Linsley.
For several seasons, the Packers had an incredible run of good fortune at center, sporting two excellent options in Linsley and JC Tretter. While both players had their injury issues, those issues never overlapped and the Packers enjoyed strong play from whomever happened to be doing the snapping.
That run ended in the spring of 2017 when Tretter signed a nice contract with the Cleveland Browns. The Packers did little to replace him, but it didn’t come back to bite them. Linsley stayed healthy all year and led the Packers in snaps played. In fact, Linsley’s great health made center the only position on the offensive line to have the same starter for every game.
But the Packers can’t bully their positional strategy on the hope that Linsley stays healthy. They need depth at center and right now there are no slam dunk options on the roster.
That’s not to say there aren’t options at all. Currently, there are at least four contenders for the job as Linsley’s understudy. Let’s take a look at each of them.
Dillon Day and Austin Davis - The Centers Who Are Actually Centers
Other than Linsley, Dillon Day and Austin Davis are the only players on the Packers’ roster who are actually listed as centers. Both are former undrafted free agents. Both are 6-4 but relatively light for their size. Both have played center virtually exclusively in their college and (for Day, who’s a couple years older than Davis) professional careers. The only significant external difference is Day’s glorious flowing golden locks. (Seriously, look at that flow. His hair looks like it’s the son of Kevin Greene’s hair.)
We mentioned Davis as one of five key members of the Packers’ “middle class” on the podcast a couple weeks ago, but that description easily applies to Day as well. The bottom line on both players is they have experience the Packers could very much use. Having one step up and seize the opportunity would be the best case scenario behind Linsley.
But even that best case is somewhat tenuous. How confident should the Packers be in two undrafted free agents, one of whom is already in his third different NFL city?
Justin McCray - The Center Who Is Really a Guard
Before things got weird on the offensive line last season, Justin McCray was an interior line prospect only. He got regular reps at guard while moonlighting at center. But the Packers’ roster needs bumped McCray outside for much of the season and his brief reps at center were all but forgotten.
Chances are McCray would be getting another shot at center this year but for one thing: he’s the presumptive favorite to start at right guard. With Jahri Evans off getting his first taste at (semi-involuntary) retirement, McCray is getting the first chance to lock down the right guard job. He will probably have to show the Packers why he doesn’t deserve to be the starter there before he gets any serious consideration at another position.
Kofi Amichia - The Center Who Has Never Really Played Center
Kofi Amichia is listed as a guard but he’s been mentioned as an option at center since he was selected late in the 2017 draft. Even some of his college coaches thought eventer was his best path to an NFL career.
Amichia had great testing numbers at USF’s pro day, but the rest of the evidence on his game is more difficult to get excited about. He didn’t get any extended playing time at center through last year’s training camp and preseason schedule, and what we saw at guard wasn’t overly promising. Amichia may be an option at center, but based on the available evidence he’s little more than an option in name only.