1) Introduction: Corey Linsley seemingly came out of nowhere as a rookie 5th round draft pick to become the Packers starting center in 2014. He was drafted for depth to backup new center J.C. Tretter, but was thrust into the lineup after Tretter was injured during the preseason and never abdicated his position. He went on to be Pro Football Focus’ 5th highest graded center during 2014. He greatly exceeded all expectations set for him coming into the season.
- Age: 23
- Born: 7/27/1991 in Youngstown, OH
- Height: 6’3″
- Weight: 301
- College: Ohio State
- Rookie Year: 2014
- NFL Experience: 1 year
3) Expectations coming into the season: After the Packers let Evan Dietrich-Smith walk in free agency, they turned to converted tackle J.C. Tretter to be their center of the future. Linsley was drafted out of Ohio State in the fifth round for depth and as a developmental project. He was known for his tremendous strength and devastating run blocking, but projected as a weaker pass protector. After Tretter broke a bone in his leg during preseason, Linsley became the starting center by default and many Packers fans were extremely nervous about him protecting Aaron Rodgers, especially against the ferocious Seattle Seahawks pass rush. Seattle’s Bruce Irvin notoriously said he’d “pray for” Linsley before the game. However, the fears and trashtalking were unwarranted because Linsley went on to have a very good season for any center, especially for a rookie. For comparison, his Pro Football Focus grade was 10.0, and the player he replaced, Evan Dietrich-Smith, graded out at -0.2.
4) Player’s highlights/low-lights: Many people thought inserting a rookie center into the lineup would get Aaron Rodgers killed and the entire offense would be destroyed in a bloodbath. Those fears were totally unfounded as Linsley had a solid season, although he did draw Aaron Rodgers’ ire at times with a few poorly timed and poorly aimed snaps. In the season opener against the Seahawks, Irvin’s prayers must have worked because Pro Football Focus gave him a grade of +2.2. He did struggle in weeks 2 and 3 against the Jets and Lions, respectively, and received negative grades with those efforts. He bounced back and had his highest grade of the season at +4.1 during the week 5 blowout against the Vikings. Over the course of the season, he proved to be an upgrade at center over Dietrich-Smith, who graded out as the NFL’s 19th overall center.
5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success: Linsley was a pleasant surprise all season. During the preseason, Tretter looked good, and Linsley was viewed as a short-term injury replacement. However, his season-long play was undoubtedly part of the line’s overall resurgence and best season in a while. He graded out positively in both run blocking (+5.4) and pass protection (+2.5). His pass blocking is still a work in progress, as he was called for three holding penalties and allowed one quarterback sack. The future certainly looks bright for the young center.
6) Player’s contributions in the playoffs: Linsley had an excellent game against the Dallas Cowboys in the Divisional Round, grading out at +2.0, but had a pedestrian performance against the Seahawks in the Championship Game with a grade of 0.0. That was obvious in the red zone and goal line when drives stalled and the Packers left a lot of points in the field.
7) Intangibles: He’s extremely strong and apparently can bench press a Volkswagon. Also, when there was a poor center-quarterback exchange once, Linsley said, “Aaron said it was a little short, so it was a little short.” That’s how you win over your quarterback and team.
Season Report Card (Player Grades):
(A) Level of expectations met during the season.
(B) Contributions to team’s overall success.
(C) Contributions to team during the playoffs.
Overall Grade: B+——————