The Green Bay Packers are just four practices into this year’s training camp and already, some realities are starting to take shape.
As is the case with all teams, there are needs coming into a new season. The theme for the Packers in 2014 was fixing some existing issues in the middle. What that refers to is both the middle of the defense and the offensive center positions.
The Packers seemed to have found a solution at center last season with Evan Dietrich-Smith. EDS fared well for most of the season and had the all-important endorsement from his quarterback, Aaron Rodgers. It seemed that EDS would be a priority for the Packers to re-sign after the 2013 season. Instead, the Packers chose to let him go and turned their focus to J.C. Tretter.
Tretter was a fourth round selection in 2013, having played offensive tackle at Cornell. As with any high draft pick, the Packers had high hopes for Tretter until he suffered an ankle injury during the offseason that landed him on the physically unable to perform list until very late in the year.
Having missed all of last season, Tretter is, for all intents and purposes, a rookie this season. He has been with the team for a full season and surely has taken mental reps during practice but nothing is a substitute for reps on the field, with the pads on. Not only is Tretter expected to be the team’s starting center, having had no previous experience in a NFL game, but he will be the Packers fourth starting center in as many seasons.
There was a mix of doubt and optimism surrounding Tretter coming into this offseason and the true telltale sign would be the padded practices. Those began on Monday and immediately, it became evident that Tretter has a lot of work to do. He faced up against nose tackle B.J. Raji during one-on-one drills and was mauled. Whether Raji has a new attitude and excitement about being turned loose at nose tackle again or Tretter just isn’t in regular season form, there is still some cause for concern. During this week’s No Huddle Radio podcast, we joked that perhaps Tretter was asked to go easy on Raji and help boost the big man’s confidence this year. All kidding aside, I wish that were the case.