Packers News: Dietrich-Smith to start over Saturday

Packers C Evan Dietrich-Smith
Packers C Evan Dietrich-Smith
Packers C Evan Dietrich-Smith

Packers center Jeff Saturday has been benched in favor of Evan Dietrich-Smith.

“We’re at two totally different points in our career,” Saturday said. “His is on the up ramp, mine is on the way out.”

Saturday, 37, has not been playing up to his normal high level this season. Pro Football Focus ranks him 30th among 37 centers who have played at least 25 percent of their team’s offensive snaps.

Dietrich-Smith started four games this season after Bryan Bulaga went on the injured reserve with an injured hip. Left guard T.J. Lang bumped over to right tackle, while Dietrich-Smith filled in at left guard.

Saturday has started all 14 of the Packers’ games this season, but it appears the team is ready to go in another direction in the middle of the offensive line.

Saturday had been dealing with a neck/shoulder injury, and head coach Mike McCarthy says he’ll likely be available to play Sunday against the Titans. However, Jason Wilde of ESPN Milwaukee says Saturday confirmed Friday that Dietrich-Smith will be the team’s new starting center.

Saturday has struggled particularly in the running game this season–ranking dead last in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus. However, in the passing game, Saturday grades out as PFF’s third most-effective center.

Dietrich-Smith figures to be the team’s best option at center for the future. And Sunday against the Titans figures to be Dietrich-Smith’s audition for the starting job in 2013.

From left to right, the Packers’ offensive line will be Marshall Newhouse, T.J. Lang, Dietrich-Smith, Josh Sitton and Don Barclay.

With Alex Green questionable to play on Sunday, it will be interesting to see how the ground game fares against the Titans. This will be Green Bay’s first game with a new offensive line and perhaps either DuJuan Harris or Ryan Grant handling the majority of the team’s carries.


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Marques is a Journalism student, serving as the Sports Editor of UW-Green Bay\'s campus newspaper The Fourth Estate and a Packers writer at Jersey Al\'s Follow Marques on Twitter @MJEversoll.


33 thoughts on “Packers News: Dietrich-Smith to start over Saturday

  1. This sorta came out of nowhere.. I mean, it was clear Saturday was not the same player he once was, but I did not expect to see a change at the most critical spot on the OL right before entering the playoffs.

    I can only assume the training staff was seeing signs that Saturday’s body was breaking down in a hurry and he wouldn’t make it through an extended playoff run at his age. Even with so-so performance all season from Saturday, this is a major change at a critical position this late in the season.

    Hope EDS’ head is screwed on right and he can make all the adjustments. Also hope we don’t see any busted exchanges.

    I’m still not sold on EDS- he didn’t make the roster last season and was only picked back up due to injuries..I hope he proves me wrong.

    1. EDS deserves the opportunity to earn the role. At least we will know soon if he is the future.

      No matter what, in the draft the team needs a guard & center (maybe a tackle)? Hopefully the IR guys return ok and the rookies on Practice squad turn out. It’s frigging time TT spend the draft picks to get the OL solid. Rogers is not going to hold up much longer.

      1. We’ll see how Van Roten pans out.

        As well as Don Barclay has played as a fill in RT, I thought he was signed with the thought of him playing Guard.. He may have played well enough at T that he may never see a snap as a guard.

        All that said, we definitely need a C (i was surprised they let Sampson Genus go, I thought he had potential), and dependent on how the Packers view Barclay, we could use either one more guard (Lang, Sitton, Van Roten + one more guard, looking at Barclay as purely a T) or the Packers could look at Barclay as either a T or a G, in which case they probably don’t need to look at another OG, and could pick up another OT in case Sherrod’s injury has hampered his potential.

        Probably should always prospect for OT talent every year, regardless.

  2. Boy, last years draft really drilled the Packers needs. Center and Middle Linebacker will be real interesting this spring. We’re lucky to have Saturday and he will play a key roll before this season ends. No doubt.

    1. Who do you think shakes out at MLB?

      It may end up being the deepest position on our roster next season, what a turn around.

      Hawk playing better than ever, Bishop is Bishop, DJ Smith proving he’s competent (again), and Brad Jones playing like a solid starter @ ILB down the stretch. Francois proved he can make plays when called upon last year, and Jamari Lattimore was bounced inside this last training camp as well. We haven’t even seen Terrel Manning yet..

      That’s insane.

      1. Oppy, When draft time rolls around we either get an ILB in the first two rounds, or we don’t bother at all.

        As you say, we already have decent players there, so the only reason to draft that position is to get a difference maker.

        1. I don’t think the Packers have any need whatsoever for an ILB this upcoming draft.

          However, the way the Packers draft, if an ILB the Packers have rated highly drops and becomes available at a point where the other available players at other positions are a step below talent wise, they would take him.

          Can’t ever say never in a Packers draft.

  3. Time for EDS to shine for the position. He deserves the chance at center.

    Saturday should be retained as an OL coach – next year. Even if EDS is the answer, it is obvious the Pack needs a guard & center in the draft.

  4. One side effect of moving Evan Deitrich-Smith into the starting center role that must be accounted for is our back-up depth.

    MM sliding EDS to center is indicitive of one of three scenarios:

    his confidence in Van Roten to be able to back up both Guard positions;

    his willingness to “shift gears” at center mid-game and bump EDS out to a gaurd position and slide Saturday back into center should Lang or Sitton be injured;

    or MM is a crazy gambler!

    1. They had 4 games watching film of Evan and Jeff side-by-side. Was probably very apparent after that stretch that Evan could get to the 2nd level and support the run, or at least offer interference, from the center position. Chicago was the first team in a while to come out of a 2-deep shell to challenge the run game. I don’t think it’s too much of a depth gamble with a guard injury. Worse case scenario, you’re letting a 37 year-old center get his legs back for 2 weeks and rest. Great move, calculated risk but one that can offer some reward.

      1. Actually, CSS, the ‘worst case scenario’ is that Rodgers gets carried off on a stretcher after a blitzing linebacker shoots the A gap without being touched, and then the Packers start to look a lot like the Chicago Bears.

        But I do get your point.

  5. This is perfect timing, seriously. EDS gets two weeks to gel before the playoffs, vice-versa with the other 4 lineman. Coaches get three weeks minimum to see EDS at center, to gauge the urgency for the position in the draft, and should Saturday be needed, he gets time to heal up and get his legs back. Love the move, love the timing.

    FYI PatMC: Ted has spent a first rounder on the O-line 2 out of the last 3 years. Not exactly neglecting it imo.

    GBP 4 LIFE

    1. Was just about to point out the 2 O-line picks with first rounders.

      With the first pick next year, I would like to fill the void with a solid starter caliber RB or finally address the need for a true OLB pass rusher and maybe slide Perry to the ground? Just a thought anyway.

      1. Nick perry cant play 3-4 end…Mike Neal is 296 lbs of pure muscle and even he is too small to play end. Perry needs time but Ted needs to draft more OLB’s and stop waiting for Zombo and Walden to blossom. I like Walden btw but not as a starter

      2. Why are people so quick to push Perry out of the OLB position?

        Give the kid the chance to make the transition. He was a huge factor in Clay’s early-season sack fest. Perry’s brute strength had been obvious, but he’s also EXTREMELY quick for a man of his size and once he learns to play from a 2-point stance and diagnose plays from that perspective, he could be truly dangerous and dominant on the strong side edge.

    2. Both were Tackles (Sherrod who has not contributed yet and Baluga) and on IR.

      I didn’t say he was neglecting it but with the injuries, allowing the starting center to leave in FA, and like OPPY said above:

      All that said, we definitely need a C (i was surprised they let Sampson Genus go, I thought he had potential), and dependent on how the Packers view Barclay, we could use either one more guard (Lang, Sitton, Van Roten + one more guard, looking at Barclay as purely a T) or the Packers could look at Barclay as either a T or a G, in which case they probably don’t need to look at another OG, and could pick up another OT in case Sherrod’s injury has hampered his potential.

      I didn’t say it needs to be 1st RND but a second or Third Round on a good guard (or a center)as backup to EDS is needed (IMHO). The inside needs to be beefed up somehow.

      The First Round needs to be an impact player that contributes and we ain’t seeing that from the last two 1st round picks.
      Just saying.

      1. Actually 2 of the OL 1st round are on IR and the other 1st round Perry is also on IR. Depending on how these guys come back next year will determine the needs for TT.

        However, we wonder why the PACK is struggling to put teams away and it is evident that the last three 1st round picks are not contributing.

        I hope EDS locks the Center position down. That will be good to not have Saturday and EDS both on the field at the same time. I appreciate Saturday but he is going downhill.

        1. Look at the last 3 second round picks for the Packers though! Mike Neal, Randall Cobb, and Casey Hayward are all playing key roles that have contributed to a winning season this year. Jerel Worthy has pitched in here and there too.

          1. I’m not saying the picks are bad. I’m just saying the last three 1st round picks are on IR and not contributing. They are two Tackles and a OLB.
            Sherrod and Bulaga hopefully come back next year at full strength and lock down LT and RT. Maybe Andrew Datko (practice squad) pans out at Tackle and Barclay continues growing. Great we are set at tackle for next season.

            At Center I hope EDS locks down the position. If Jeff retires then we still need a backup to EDS.

            Lang is only OK at Left Guard. Maybe one of the tackles (Newhouse or Bulaga) moves to Left Guard.

            Maybe one of the other guards (Van Rotten, Gibbs or Barclay) make the move to LG.

            Right now the kid from wisconsin (Frederick) is more of a guard but plays center. In the second or third round it would be nice to see him selected (or someone similiar).

            1. I think Lang is quite good at LG.
              I really like the kid. Massive, immediate upgrade from Daryn Colledge, and I think Lang has plenty of room to grow.

  6. This move from the coach who gave the thumbs up to the trickery on the punt return…hopefully this move works out:)

  7. I like the move, if it doesn’t work, put jeff back in, the rest will do him good.

    Sounds like we are going to be extra committed to the run game. Jeff graded 3rd out of all centers in the passing game. Was bad at run blocking. Having Chicago bring a S into the box must have helped make this decision. I love it, teams have been daring us to run and now we will, this will open up the middle of the field.

    1. Liked the idea of this since about week 4, but I never thought MM would pull the trigger. Crazy……………like a fox !

      Now when the draft comes around, TT will have a better idea of how acute the neeed to draft a center will be.

  8. maybe the offensive coaching staff had wanted to make this move a few or even several weeks back, then injury bug hit Bulaga and then Lang also, the solid play of Barclay the last several weeks made this center move possible again?

  9. Kudos to Saturday on a great career, but this had to happen. Saturday’s great career ended about two or three seasons ago.

    I agree with the speculation about timing. EDS is a much better run blocker than Saturday. We’re heading into January playoff football. You gotta be able to run.

  10. One more comment on this thread… TT let Wells go before the season and a ton of people were horrified. But the soon-to-be 32yr old Wells (along with his 6 million per year salary) have been inactive due to injury for 9 weeks down in St. Louis.

    I’m not saying that Wells is a bad player, but I AM saying that for THIS YEAR Thompson’s decision seems to have worked out pretty well.

    Next year? Well, Scott will be a soon-to-be 33yr old coming off a broken foot and pulling down $6 million.

    Hello, EDS.

    It’s better to be a step ahead than a step behind.

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