When analysts talk about the great duos in the NFL, they’re often referring to a quarterback/receiver combo or a set of shutdown cornerbacks. The most important duo to start the season for the Green Bay Packers might be a matchup of unlikely positions: quarterback Aaron Rodgers and rookie center Josh Myers.
Myers was drafted in the second round out of “The” Ohio State University. He will be replacing a former Buckeye in Corey Linsley, who left in free agency to join the Los Angeles Chargers after being named an All-Pro last year. Those aren’t easy shoes for Myers to fill.
Of course, it’ll help to have the reigning MVP under center. Rodgers showed the ability to mask issues with the offensive line earlier in his career, and he may have to do it again as the Packers start the season with two rookies on the O-line.
It’s a rare scenario for a team with legitimate Super Bowl aspirations this year following back-to-back NFC Championship appearances. While most of the roster is solidified with proven talent, the offensive line will be a tightrope balancing act to start the year.
With David Bakhtiari starting the year on the physically unable to perform list and Linsley gone, Green Bay would normally be scrambling mode. But the Packers seem cool, calm and collected about their offensive line situation.
A lot of pressure will be put on Myers to step up at center. He and Rodgers have worked endlessly during training camp on cadence and timing. It’s easy to forget timing and rhythm between a center and a quarterback when those words are usually applied to a quarterback and his pass-catching options. It’s a critical dance between Rodgers and Myers this year.
Per Rob Demovsky of ESPN, the first snap of training camp between Rodgers and Myers was botched. In past years, a more assertive side of Rodgers may have emerged. That didn’t happen this time.
“It’s funny, I jumped the gun a little bit early on the first play of the first practice,” Myers recalled. “I was just a hair early, and we had a conversation about that and how his cadences can be a little different.”
Myers was likely able to laugh this one off because it was noted that Rodgers didn’t blow up at the rookie. However, near the end of training camp, after Rodgers had in some ways coddled this rookie center, No. 12 got on Myers after he didn’t snap the ball on a free play.
Then, on Aug. 26, during the final practice of training camp, Myers committed one of the ultimate sins: He didn’t snap the ball after Rodgers got the defense to jump across the line. Had Myers snapped it, Rodgers would’ve had one of his trademark free plays.
But when Myers failed to launch the shotgun snap, Rodgers screamed out: “Snap the f—ing ball!”
“I was very gentle and patient early in camp, and there has to be a switch because we’re getting a little closer. It’s important that he feels the urgency in my demeanor moving forward, especially with potentially a young person playing next to him. We need him to play more like a veteran and not like a rookie.”
The flip had been switched.
Rodgers knows what he’s doing. There’s a method to the madness in this connection between the rookie center and 14-year starting quarterback.
It’s a foregone conclusion that the Rodgers-Davante Adams connection will be in perfect harmony this year, as will be the case with Rodgers and Aaron Jones and a list of other weapons. The unknown is Myers.
Green Bay’s offensive line in Week 1 should look like this, from left-to-right:
It’s a far cry from the line that started most of last season and featured two All-Pros and had Jenkins at his more comfortable spot on the inside of the line. And while Myers isn’t the only unknown on the offensive line to start the season for the Packers, he’s the most important of a group that’s filled with question marks.
Any uncertainties about the two rookies should be cleared up shortly as Green Bay will be tested early in the season against the incredibly stout defensive lines of the Saints, San Francisco 49ers, and Pittsburgh Steeles. While so much of the focus has been on the matchups along the outside with Green Bay’s wide receivers, the games could hang in the balance of the head-to-head tilts between the Packers’ offensive line and opposing D-lines.
Green Bay has a lot going in their favor to help with this new-look line.
Matt LaFleur’s offense is designed to get the ball out of the quarterback’s hands quickly. Plenty of bootlegs and play-action schemes are implemented as well to help freeze the defense. Having one of the greatest ever to do it in Rodgers doesn’t hurt either. All those will be stronger points of emphasis for Green Bay to compensate for the lack of experience up front.
Rodgers is taking a different approach with Josh Myers than with Corey Linsley when he was thrown into the gauntlet right at the start of his career. His unique handling of this situation with his rookie center could pay off nicely for Green Bay in the long run.