It's time for the eighth annual "Best & Worst Case Scenario" series, a feature that goes back to the days of the old RailbirdCentral.com domain.
I attempt to take a look at what is the very best possible season a player is capable of producing, and on the other hand, what would happen if a player fell flat on his face (without assuming they suffer a season-ending injury). These are intended to be extreme scenarios on both sides of the spectrum. More than likely, each player is going to fall somewhere in the middle, but every now and then, they just so happen to come to fruition.
As one final note, I also try to take a look at what these scenarios would be from an individual standpoint and not necessarily what's best (or worst) for the team.
Best-case scenario: Finally, 2014 is the year Sitton becomes generally regarded as the best guard in the NFL. He's a big reason both the passing game and the running game succeed in Green Bay by paving the way for a nearly 1,500-yard rushing season by Eddie Lacy as well as keeping Aaron Rodgers upright—personally giving up zero sacks—during the quarterback's MVP campaign. Being named a first-team All-Pro and a starter in the Pro Bowl for the first time of his career, Sitton earns all the accolades expected of an elite offensive lineman.
Worst-case scenario: Even though he's not perfect by any means, Sitton has a good—not great—season. And for yet another year, Sitton doesn't receive the recognition he probably deserves. There's no Pro Bowl berth, no All-Pro status. The reasons are probably due to the Packers not meeting expectations and having another mediocre year, but Sitton is far from the problem.
Best-case scenario: Now that Lang is settling into his second consecutive year at right guard, he's much more comfortable and doesn't have to think nearly as much in 2013. Things come much more naturally to Lang, and as such, he raises the bar with his level of play. He cuts down on both the penalties and the sacks allowed and is effective in both the passing game and the running game. For his efforts, Lang is named to the Pro Bowl for the first time in his career.
Worst-case scenario: Lang continues to be overshadowed by better players on the Green Bay offensive line, whether it's Sitton or tackles David Bakhtiari or Bryan Bulaga. But it's also not undeserved. Lang is an adequate NFL guard, but his play is not on par with the better Packers offensive linemen. He gives up a few too many sacks, more due to mental errors than anything else. And a few drives stall and punts occur because Lang did not do his job in 2014.
Best-case scenario: Any concern about the Packers going on the fourth starting center in four seasons go out the window as Tretter ably holds down the fort. The majority of his rookie season may have been lost to injury, but even being able to come back with a few weeks left in the season helped his knowledge of the offense immensely and it shows. Tretter seemingly gets better with every training camp practice and displays no ill effects from the broken ankle suffered last year. He starts every game at center and establishes himself as the long-term solution at the position.
Worst-case scenario: Tretter seems overwhelmed by the transition from the Ivy League to the NFL, and small, lingering effects from last year's ankle injury don't help matters. An up-and-down training camp is turned in by Tretter, alternating between mistakes and surprisingly solid play. Midway through the preseason, the Packers decide Corey Linsley's years of experience at center make him the better player, relegating Tretter to backup status. The Packers don't give up on Tretter, but it becomes clear he's behind the likes of Don Barclay and Derek Sherrod in the offensive line pecking order.
Best-case scenario: Linsley may have opened training camp as the backup at center simply because he's the rookie and doesn't have as much knowledge of the Packers offense as Tretter, but it doesn't take long to assert himself as the better player. At nearly every turn, Linsley impresses onlookers with solid play throughout the month of August and especially during preseason action. Before camp is over, the Packers decide to make the switch, inserting Linsley as the starter, because they want to give him as much work with Rodgers and the first-string offensive line as possible. He goes onto start the entire season, being named to the NFL's All-Rookie team.
Worst-case scenario: Linsley fails to unseat Tretter as the starter at center, but worse yet, he isn't versatile enough to back up any other position other than center. Because Linsley shows flashes of being a good player, the Packers don't want to give up on him, but they can't afford to keep a backup on their roster that can't play any other positions. At least players like Don Barclay can fill in at nearly any spot. The Packers surprisingly cut Linsley at the end of training camp, but invite him onto their practice squad if he's not claimed on waivers.
Best-case scenario: There's no way Taylor unseats either Sitton or Lang as a starter at guard, but he becomes a valuable backup on the offensive line and a player the Packers don't want to lose. Taylor makes a big jump from Year 1 to Year 2 in the NFL, and the Packers know if either of the first-stringers go down to injury, Taylor can jump in and the team won't lose a beat. He's actually a better true guard than Barclay.
Worst-case scenario: Taylor made the Packers' roster last year mainly because the second-string offensive line was so poor. Now that the Packers have upgraded the overall talent of the offensive line through the additions of Tretter, Linsley and the full-time return of Derek Sherrod, there's no room left for Taylor. Barclay is the top backup at guard and the loser of the starting center battle necessarily becomes a backup guard too. The Packers reluctantly cut Taylor at the end of training camp.
Best-case scenario: Gerhart can't make headway up the depth chart at center, but it's not because he's not a good player. It's because Tretter and Linsley are actually really good and aren't losing any ground. The only chance Gerhart has of making the 53-man roster is if Tretter or Linsley suffer an injury, but assuming that doesn't happen, the Packers have no choice but to release Gerhart at the end of training camp. He's impressive enough, however, to get picked up by another NFL team.
Worst-case scenario: Gerhart is relegated to third-string offensive line duty and once the Packers decide he's not in the same category as Tretter and Linsley, they release him by the NFL's cutdown date to 75 players. The Packers figure they're better off giving Tretter and Linsley as many reps as possible, and if they're forced to give a third player emergency snaps at center, they might as well give them to a player they know is going to be on the regular-season roster like Barclay or Lang.
Best-case scenario: Tiller uses his massive 6-4, 324 lb. size to his advantage. Because he's so big, he may be a step slow in pass protection, but he seems to maul defenders in the run game. There's unfortunately no room for him on the roster, but the Packers still want to hang onto Tiller following an impressive preseason campaign. He's invited onto the practice squad for a second consecutive season and is just an injury away from a promotion to the 53-man roster.
Worst-case scenario: Because he's in his second year in Green Bay, Tiller has a better understanding of the Packers offense than a year ago, but that's about the only thing going for him. He's too slow, and when the top priority for an offensive lineman in Green Bay is to protect Aaron Rodgers, Tiller can't be trusted to put out on the field against starting-caliber players. He finds himself on the waiver wire in the midst of training camp.
Best-case scenario: A pleasant surprise, McCray shows people why he was an all-conference selection at Central Florida as a college senior. He shows better potential than the other backup guards on the roster such as Taylor and Tiller and eventually surpasses them on the depth chart by the end of training camp. The Packers can't find room to carry McCray on their 53-man roster, but he gets a well-deserved invite to the practice squad where they can continue his development.
Worst-case scenario: McCray is your typical training camp body. He gives a good effort, but his level of talent isn't up to NFL standards. After a couple of games of preseason action in which he consistently grades out poorly, the Packers cut McCray with either Canadian Football League or the Arena League looming as his only other options to play professionally.
Next up in the series is the defensive line.
Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor at Cheesehead TV and its "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email [email protected].
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