Two offseasons ago, the Green Bay Packers prioritized running back Aaron Jones over center Corey Linsley. It was an understandable decision, even if it wasn’t a very analytically inclined one, because the Packers didn’t have a logical replacement for Jones. They had let fellow running back Jamaal Williams go, and they had other good players along the offensive line. For example, Elgton Jenkins had previous experience at the position.
But center became a need by that time, and the team decided to select Josh Myers in the second round to play right away. Taking him over Creed Humphrey was a surprise, and two years later, we can call it a clear mistake. Now, Myers has no margin of error in Green Bay.
The Packers’ starting center is not exactly bad. Offensive line coach Luke Butkus said the staff still believes Myers can be a solid starter. The problem is that Myers is still very inconsistent after two seasons – although the first one was cut short because of a knee injury. And consistency is perhaps the most important attribute for an offensive lineman.
That’s why the assistants made it evident during their press conferences this week that the Packers are not guaranteeing anything else for Myers. If his performance level doesn’t grow during training camp and preseason, there is a decent chance another player will snap the ball to Jordan Love in September.
“We got a lot of competition on the right side, whether it’s right guard, right tackle, or even center,” Packers offensive coordinator Adam Stenavich said. “So we’re just gonna go out there and kind of put these guys in different spots. I know right now, Zach’s gonna compete a lot at right guard and right tackle and possibly some at center.”
Zach Tom is the most logical alternative. Last year’s fourth-round pick was a left tackle in his final year at Wake Forest, but he had been a good center previously. In his rookie year, Tom played every other position on the offensive line. But Stenavich affirmed that Tom will have center reps, and there is an opportunity for him to outperform Myers.
If Tom outperforms Myers, it would create a competition between Josh Myers and Yosh Nijman, who battles for the right tackle job. Right now, Zach Tom is presumably one of the best five linemen on the Packers roster. If Nijman is better than Myers, it makes sense to keep him at right tackle and move Tom to center. If Myers is able to establish himself as a consistent piece, Tom and Nijman will compete for the tackle job. Tom can also play right guard if the Packers feel the need to upgrade from Jon Runyan, who is entering the final year of his rookie deal.
And it’s not just Zach Tom who will compete with Josh Myers. Luke Butkus said that Sean Rhyan, last year’s third-rounder, will have center reps too. The fact that the Packers don’t see him as a viable tackle anymore is mildly concerning. But the internal indications are that Green Bay still believes and hopes Rhyan has the ability to be a useful interior offensive lineman — not only as a guard but also maybe as a center. Cross-training is a traditional practice in Green Bay, and it may be particularly important now that the Packers don’t have clear answers beyond David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins.
The third and less probable scenario is Jake Hanson, who is listed as a center by the Packers and was the immediate backup last year. However, his shaky start in 2022 as a right guard while Jenkins was still recovering from his knee injury makes it difficult for Hanson to justify a 53-man roster spot, let alone a starting opportunity.
During the mid and late 2010s, the Packers were very well served at center. For three years, between 2014 and 2016, they had Corey Linsley and J.C. Tretter on the roster at the same time, giving the coaching staff high-level play and depth. While it’s difficult to keep these players, Green Bay’s tradition of moving players around the line is the better way to create flexibility. If Myers doesn’t pan out, Tom and Rhyan could be viable options. Meanwhile, Myers himself could compete for the right guard job if he is replaced at center.
General manager Brian Gutekunst drafted Josh Myers in 2021, hoping he would be a good fit and able to plug a hole right away. But after two disappointing seasons, there is no more margin of error. It’s now or never for Myers, and every step is decisive in his path to be a solid center for the Packers.