State of the Packers: C/G

With Scott Wells and Josh Sitton coming off of productive seasons and entrenched at center and right guard, respectively, the big training camp battle will pit good friends Daryn Colledge vs. Jason Spitz.

Our State of the Packers series continues with the guards and centers.

Roster

Starters: C Scott Wells, LG Daryn Colledge, RG Josh Sitton. Veteran backups: C/G Evan Dietrich-Smith, C/G Jason Spitz, G/T Allen Barbre, G/T T.J. Lang. Rookies: G/T Marshall Newhouse (fifth round), G/C Nick McDonald (drafted).

The big picture

With center belonging to Scott Wells and right guard belonging to Josh Sitton, a healthy Jason Spitz will move to left guard to challenge incumbent starter Daryn Colledge.

Colledge is Public Enemy No. 1 among many fans after a 2009 season in which he performed poorly while filling in at left tackle and then struggled to regain his footing after returning to left guard. At left guard, he allowed (by our unofficial tally) four sacks, and one of his three accepted penalties in the regular season was for holding. His holding penalty in overtime against Arizona led to the strip-sack that ended the Packers' season. He's answered the bell when challenged in the past, and a full training camp in which he can focus solely on left guard for the first time in his career will help. Spitz started four games (two at center, two at left guard) before his season was derailed by a back injury — this after playing every snap in 2008. He allowed two sacks and was flagged once for holding. Colledge and Spitz are best friends. The winner of their battle will start. The loser could be looking for a new team if the young guys develop quickly enough.


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Wells always has seemed like the kind of center who was good enough to start but never good enough that you wouldn't be constantly looking for an upgrade. So, last offseason, the Packers tried to upgrade by shifting Spitz from right guard to center. Spitz won the starting job — though he certainly didn't outplay Wells by a wide margin. An injury to Chad Clifton in Week 2 meant a shuffled line that put Wells back in the lineup. When Spitz went down with a back injury, the starting job was Wells' for good. He responded with arguably his best season. His lack of bulk will always be an issue, but he had winning performances against standout defensive tackles Pat Williams of Minnesota, Jay Ratliff of Dallas and Shaun Rogers of Cleveland. His four accepted penalties all were holds, and he allowed three sacks.

While the Packers haven't gotten nearly enough from their three second-round picks in the 2008 draft, third-rounder Jermichael Finley and fourth-round Sitton are solid starters. Sitton was arguably the Packers' best lineman last season, with his physical, no-nonsense style a welcome addition to a relatively passive group of blockers. He allowed four sacks, and one of his three penalties was for holding. If he can lift his pass blocking another notch, he'll become one of the NFL's top guards.

T.J. Lang is a darkhorse contender at left guard, though coach Mike McCarthy said Lang would take "seven out of 10" snaps at right tackle during training camp. Barbre, who bombed after being handed the starting job at right tackle last year, is a guy looking for a role. That's not what you want to hear about a fourth-year player. He's a long shot to make the roster.

Dietrich-Smith impressed as the only undrafted rookie to make the roster last season. He played in 13 games, mostly on special teams. His versatility will provide depth this season, though center is his best spot. Wells' contract expires after the 2011 season. There's no reason to believe Dietrich-Smith couldn't be his successor in 2012.

The coaches aren't sure where fifth-round pick Marshall Newhouse fits in. He's the wild card in the battle at left guard, but his ability to play right tackle could make him a valuable utilityman and developmental prospect. Undrafted Nick McDonald, an All-American left tackle at Division II Grand Valley State, is an intriguing developmental prospect who the Packers would love to hide on the practice squad.


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.


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