Thursday, September 4, 2014

Building The 53 - Changes Galore at Center

Unfortunately work got in the way of the rest of my five-part preview of the 2014 Green Bay Packers season getting posted before the Packers open the season on the road against the Seattle Seahawks this evening.  For those that are clamoring for the rest of the series (see table below), I promise to have it all posted before the regular season home opener next weekend when the Packers host the New York Jets, which I will be attending with Gaber, Sug, and UP.

Review of The 53
Initial Review of the Roster
Initial Review of the Practice Squad
Five Most Overpaid
Five Most Underpaid
Initial Rankings of the Roster
In the meantime, I had to write a quick post because Packers general manager Ted Thompson made an interesting move to The 53 yesterday. Thompson placed center JC Tretter on injured reserve - designated for return, which opened up a spot on The 53.  Thompson filled that spot on The 53 with center Garth Gerhart off the practice squad.  That move opened up a spot on the practice squad that Thompson filled with guard Josh Allen.

Since Tretter was placed on injured reserve - designated for return, he cannot practice with the team for six weeks and cannot be placed on The 53 for eight weeks.  Given that the Packers have a bye Week 9, the earliest Tretter can return is Week 10 when the Packers host the Chicago Bears.  Also NFL teams are only allowed to use the injured reserve - designated for return once per season so that ship has already sailed for 2014 before the regular season even started.

In my off-season advice for Thompson I said that he should offer center Even Dietrich-Smith a four-year, $16 million contract with $8 million guaranteed.  As the off-season progressed, I went on record again saying that Thompson was going to regret the decision not to resign EDS.  As it turns out EDS signed a four-year, $14.25 million deal with $7.25 million guaranteed with the Tampa Bay Bucaneers not the Packers.  Clearly I value EDS more than the Bucs, which value EDS more than the Packers.

That means instead of EDS or even Tretter, the Packers are now forced to start rookie center Corey Linsley for at least half the season, which I am sure is not what Thompson had in mind when he drafted Linsley in the 5th round of the 2014 NFL Draft.  Sure you can never predict that injuries would claim backup offensive lineman Don Barclay's entire season and at least half of Tretter's season but let's not forget that Barclay was dinged up last season and that Tretter missed almost his entire rookie season due to injury so seeing them both injured again this year is by no means shocking.  If Linsley struggles this season, instead of playing Gerhart at center, my guess is that right guard T.J. Lang moves to center and the Packers insert Derek Sherrod at right guard.

This post has been a complete downer so far so let's try to find the silver lining in all of this.  The Packers used the injured reserve - designated for return last year on wide receiver Randall Cobb when Cobb was injured by Baltimore Ravens safety Matt Elam.  That worked out pretty well given that Cobb return for the regular season finale on the road against the Chicago Bears.  For those that forgot the outcome of the game, the Packers trailed the Bears 28 to 27 with 46 seconds to play and faced a 4th and 8 from the Bears' 48-yard line. Rodgers and Cobb connected on a 48-yard touchdown pass to seal not only a win but the NFC North crown and most importantly a spot in the playoffs.  Oh and that play also ended the season for the Bears, which is always nice.

Back to Tretter, even if he is able to return Week 10 against the Bears, I have no grand illusions that he is going to be the savior against the Bears this season the way Cobb was last season.  I just hope in EDS and Tretter's absence that the offensive line does not crumble due to their inexperience at center.

One more macro NFL injury thought.  Given the physicality of your average NFL game, the NFL should really consider changing their injury policy.  MLB has a 15-day disabled list, which provides a nice way for MLB teams to deal with in-season injuries.  I am not positive that is the solution for the NFL but there should be an interim injury designation that lets teams open roster spots for healthy players but allows them to do that without having to place players on injured reserve.  For those that do not understand the intricacies of injured reserve in the NFL, when a team places a player on injured reserve that means they lost that player's services for the rest of the season.  Sure there there is injured reserve - designated for return but that can only be used once a season per team.

In terms of my solution, I would allow unlimited two game and four game injured reserve - designated for return.  You can only use the two game or four game designation once a season for each player but can use it on every player on The 53.  The NFL claims to care about concussions so it seems like the two game injured reserve - designated for return would be a great way to encourage teams to hold out players that suffered a concussion.  The pitch for the four-game injured reserve could again be concussions or significant sprains (e.g. high ankle, hamstring, etc.) that necessitate time off but should not claim a player's entire season.  Without those interim designations available, teams are essentially encouraged to rush players at the bottom of The 53 back because they can threaten the specter of placing them on injured reserve.

One final pitch for my two game and four game injured reserve - designated for return.  For the seven games that quarterback Aaron Rodgers missed last season, it was a weekly discussion of will he play or not.  The Packers knew Rodgers wasn't going to play the first few weeks but would not come clean.  Please don't tell me the threat of the other team having to prepare for Rodgers is worth having him on The 53 because most NFL teams are over prepared.  They know the type of gum the 53rd guy on The 53 likes to chew. If the Packers could have placed Rodgers on the four game injured reserve - designated for return they could signed another veteran quarterback for those four weeks and it would have cut down on the rampant speculation on whether Rodgers was going to play.

My expectations for the NFL adopting the injury rules I just outlined are about as high as my expectations for the game tonight, which are very low (see me trying to reserve jinx a Packer win).  No matter the outcome, make sure to check back in this space over the next week as I finish my five-part preview of the 2014 Green Bay Packers with my look at the most overpaid on The 53, the most underpaid on The 53, and my first rankings (1-53) of The 53.

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