Offensive Interior Linemen: Here’s the sixth of a series of articles and final for the offense, looking specifically at the NFL combine and the Packers’ drafting tendencies. (read here for the rationale for this series, here for quarterbacks, here for running backs, here for wide receivers, here for tight ends and here for offensive tackles). This article will use the combine numbers from previous players drafted by GM Ted Thompson as a guide for what offensive interior linemen are likely to fit into the Packers’ scheme.
Again, this is merely an attempt to make a best guess based on statistics at which players the Packers might be interested in, game tape naturally trumps combine numbers, so take all of this with a grain of salt. But I believe it will make for some interesting discussion. Also listed below are also two offensive interior linemen in this year’s draft who I think fit the Packers scheme the best, based on their combine numbers.
Statistics of offensive interior linemen drafted by the Packers:
What the Packers are looking for: Offensive interior are considered incredibly safe picks, perhaps even more than offensive tackles; offensive linemen are the most likely to start as rookies of any position and probably command the cheapest contracts of any 1st round pick. I’ve decided to combine offensive guards and centers together since it seems like many of the players that the Packers use have the ability to play any one of three positions.
Thompson has never traditionally been very high on interior offensive linemen, the average draft pick for an offensive interior linemen is in the middle of the 4th round, and it always seems as if a undrafted rookie free agent offensive interior linemen sneaks onto the active roster, with Evan Detrich-Smith getting in last year and Nick McDonald getting in this year (both who were developmental guard-centers that the Packers think highly of).
The highest draft pick in the group is Daryn Colledge, but he was a tackle at Boise State, so it is possible that the Packers drafted him as on offensive tackle and shifted him to guard later. While Colledge always seemed to sneak into the starting lineup, its highly likely that he’s on his way out and its possible that either Marshall Newhouse or TJ Lang could replace him. As for the rest of the offensive interior linemen, really none have stood out other than Josh Sitton, who is a young pro-bowl caliber guard. Junius Coston had a unspectacular career with the Packers, Jason Spitz was a starter at one point but lost his spot to Scott Wells and probably won’t be back next year either, Will Whitticker only lasted one season and Tony Moll was graded as the worst offensive linemen at one point in the entire NFL.
The drills that offensive interior linemen have the lowest relative standard deviation (thus implying highest importance) are height and shuttle. In terms of height, most of the offensive interior linemen mirror their offensive tackle counterparts, this might have to do with the fact that the Packers like versatility on the line, with guards being backup tackles (such as with Daryn Colledge) and tackles potentially playing guard (such as with TJ Lang and Bryan Bulaga during the offseason).
The importance of the shuttle drill makes sense since it measures a players lateral ability and offensive interior linemen often must slide in one direction to take on an incoming defender or when they are asked to lead block on sweep plays. While not entirely relevant today, the Packers are well known for the Packers Sweep (the play made famous from the Lombardi clip “What we’re looking for is a seal here, and a seal here, and to run it … up the alley”) and the Packers do use a zone blocking scheme most of the time, which requires its linemen to be agile at the expense of strength. Furthermore, offensive interior linemen don’t really run vertically down the field all that often (at least not for anything other than a couple of yards) hence 40 yard dash times run by offensive interior linemen are the slowest on average with the highest deviance of all positions.
As for specific skills, the Packers again prefer their offensive interior linemen to be better pass blockers than run blockers, and offensive interior linemen must be nimble enough to take on stunts and twists, and occasionally take on defenders not in their immediate areas.
Comparable offensive tackles in the 2011 draft (analysis taken from NFL.com):
Justin Boren Ohio State/6’3”/309 lbs/5.4 40-yard dash/ 4.75 shuttle
- Strong and violent hands
- Has a good mean streak
- Good combination of speed and strength
- Character concerns (Sort of)
- Not very athletic
- Has trouble with faster defensive tackles
Stephen Schilling Michigan/6’4”/308 lbs/4.62 40-yard dash/8’10” shuttle:
- Very good pass blocker
- Good in the zone blocking scheme
- Good football IQ
- Lacks bulk
- Lacking in run blocking
- Injury prone
Conclusion: of the offensive interior linemen, starter Daryn Colledge is likely to leave via free agency (if it exists), not only because he was unhappy with his tender last year, but also because he was probably the weakest link on the offensive line. Whether or not his replacement is already on the team in either Marshall Newhouse or TJ Lang, depth is going to be an issue as Jason Spitz is likely to not be retained and Nick McDonald/Evan Detrich-Smith are both raw and inexperienced.——————
Thomas Hobbes is a staff writer for Jersey Al’s AllGreenBayPackers.com.