21

December

Packers News: Dietrich-Smith to start over Saturday

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 AllGBP.com. Follow Marques on Twitter @MJEversoll.

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