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Packers Bench Saturday, Dietrich-Smith Likely to Start at Center

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Packers Bench Saturday, Dietrich-Smith Likely to Start at Center

Performance, not health, appears to be the reason why the Green Bay Packers are making a change at center.

Jeff Saturday confirmed Friday that he was being benched in favor of Evan Dietrich-Smith, and it's not because of injuries to his neck and shoulder that has kept the 37-year-old out of practice for most of this week.

Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said during his Friday press conference that Saturday would be ready to play Sunday against the Tennessee Titans, but that Dietrich-Smith would probably start. In the locker room, Saturday confirmed the decision was a benching, or as he put it, "a passing of the torch."

Saturday, signed this offseason to a two-year, $7.75 million deal, had started all 14 games for the Packers. But his performance as the anchor of the offensive line was questioned all season, and with two games left, McCarthy decided to pull the trigger.

According to Pro Football Focus, Saturday graded out as the No. 30 overall center through 15 weeks. He allowed three sacks, one quarterback hit and five hurries, but his run-blocking grade was the worst in the NFL.

Saturday was limited during Friday's practice after missing both Wednesday and Thursday. In Week 14, Saturday was limited with foot injuries. When asked if the move was injury-related, Saturday said he didn't think so.

Dietrich-Smith, 27, started four games at left guard this season. He struggled mightily in his first start at Detroit, but played progressively better over the final three.

Saturday is scheduled to make $1.35 million in base salary in 2013, with a $1.4 million roster bonus and $1 million in weekly bonuses.

Zach Kruse is a 24-year-old sports writer who contributes to Cheesehead TV, Bleacher Report and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He also covers prep sports for the Dunn Co. News. You can reach him on Twitter @zachkruse2 or by email at [email protected].

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (51) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Beep's picture

So this must assume that Lang is going to be healthy from his "Concussion/Illness" on the injury report.

Evan's picture

He passed his concussion test and was practicing today.

Denver's picture

Classy response by Saturday. Here's hoping EDS takes the ball and runs with it...not literally, that probably wouldn't go over very well.

Fish . Crane's picture


bryce's picture

What poor timing. And, why is McCarthy spending his time on this rather than signing someone to replace shankosaurus rex?

CSS's picture

Poor timing, how? Several prior contests, especially the last 3-4 weeks, the running game has been on the verge of breaking off some very big gains if not for a center that's clearly incapable of doing anything at the 2nd level, let alone win at the line of scrimmage. All EDS has to do is be a 'push' in pass-pro in comparison to Saturday and it's a upgrade in the run game.

Chicago finally gave them one-high looks and cover-3 with less 2-high due to the actual potential of a running game. Getting those single safety looks, or at the very least not having 2 safeties 20 - 30 yards deep, will only help the offense in the playoffs. Should EDS not perform in his two test games leading up to the playoffs, you know what you have in Saturday.

Also, the coaching staff is paid to juggle multiple issues. They can weigh their options on Crosby while doing other things, too.

Idiot Fan's picture

I applaud them for having the stones to make this move. It can't be easy to bench a veteran that you signed in the offseason. Also, it will be good to know for next year what we have in EDS at center. Plus, you give him two almost meaningless games to get in the groove before the playoffs. It actually seems like perfect timing to me.

FITZCORE 1252'S EVO's picture

I agree with that 100%. Great timing.

Mojo's picture


I think Saturday has graded out poorly almost the entire year. EDS must be good on the center-QB exchange and picking up what the D is doing, else shouldn't be a problem. Plus, as Idiot mentions, he gets two games to get used to things.

MarkinMadison's picture

+3 How can the timing get any better than a game against the Titans?

Mike's picture

Won't say great timing but ballsy indeed! & also, a move that is best for the future - should EDS prove worthy of being the center of the future, that's one less need to address in the draft!

bryce's picture

If Saturday was costing them 3-4 games ago, then they should have benched him then. 2 weeks before the playoffs is not the time to have a major shake up.

CSS's picture

16 weeks into a physically taxing sport where bodies everywhere are wearing down, losing stamina. Your 37 year-old center's game has regressed every week and there's no reason to believe it's going to improve. Coaches film doesn't lie and it's time for a change. Worse case scenario, Saturday get's 2 weeks rest and he's back in the line-up for a stretch run. The coaching staff had to watch Dietrich-Smith right next to Saturday on film every Monday. You don't think they graded them side-by-side and came to the realization that one is a liability and the other at least offers an upgrade in the running game?

bryce's picture

Don't get me wrong, I don't think it's a bad move. I just think it's the wrong time. It should have been earlier or not at all. I hope I'm wrong.

Mr.Bigg's picture

Couldn't replace him a few weeks ago because of Baluga's injury. Timing is not good or bad- the time is always whatever it is.

This is my preferred line since Barclay has proven himself.

gratif's picture

Love the move.

We need to figure this out before the playoffs and before next year.

At his skillset/fit, EDS could outperform his contract for years.

If it doesn't work you go back to the vet.

ZeroTolerance's picture

Because that's Thompson's job.

bryce's picture

McCarthy has nothing to do with who his kicker is? Doubt it.

Jamie's picture

So if MM thinks Saturday is done with two weeks remaining, the best thing to do is keep him in because the timing would have been better (according to you) three weeks ago??

That's a very very strange and irrational way of decision making, but whatever floats your boat.

Rocky70's picture

It's not strange or irrational. It's another perspective. ---I'm sure that fans who are more informed can see both arguments.

Jamie's picture

Please explain what piece(s) of information I am missing that would justify leaving a guy in that the HC thinks is done. Please...

zeke's picture

Who would you have had replacing Lang at guard when Lang was playing RT then?

some guy's picture

"Who would you have had replacing Lang at guard when Lang was playing RT then?"

Why are you asking this of the person who thinks now was the right time to make the move? I think you're a bit confused.

Rocky70's picture

Any injury to any of the starting 5 (Newhouse, Lang, EDS, Sitton, Barclay) puts Saturday right back on the field at center (Unless Van Roten can actually play). That's the sorry-state of this offensive line. The OL could easily be the cause of another quick "one & out".

7 WRs, 4 TEs, 4-5 RBs to go with 7 O-Linemen. Makes little sense.

bryce's picture

Agree...all pre-season we were saying, "Man, that o-line is thin." Now it's catching up.

BubbaOne's picture

League wide almost all teams have OL issues and did since the start of the season. For instance, take a look at the Bears. The new GM who brought in a host of new players this off season addressed their atrocious OL needs w/…(drum roll)…Chilo Rachal. Mike Tice is considered one of the best OL coaches in the league and look at how terrible that line has performed.
Even Reggie Wells who TT cut is on a NFL roster and Packer castoff Breno Giacomini has started all year for the Seahawks. I think there were no good options for TT so he went w/ youth adhering to his draft and develop philosophy.

Jamie's picture

Again...who is this 8th or 9th O-lineman that is going to save the season? You never answered the last time I asked.

Rocky70's picture

That's not my job or yours. This is an off-season activity conducted by the GB hierarchy. At this point, names aren't key because it's too late now to add servicible O-Linemen. The key is the numbers. GB has no use for 7 WRs, 4 TEs or 4-5 RBs. ----- But they sure could use another O-Lineman whose been on the roster since August.

I'm abit surprised that you don't have a clearer understanding of my point. Many fans have been making the same point for months. ----- Maybe you were out that day kicking the ol' soccer ball around in the back yard.

Jamie's picture

So what you're saying is you have no clue what you're talking just like to continue arguments that have no basis in reality (ie, quality lineman grow on trees...why did we forgo one of those for a position where we have depth in excess?).

It's not that easy, pal.

Rocky70's picture

Of course it's not easy but that doesn't make it impossible. The very best are able to 'get it done'. ---- Just watch ---- this off-season there will be an emphasis on the OL by TT just as he emphasized defense last off-season. Drafting BPA is "out the window".

Rocky70's picture

@ Jamie

You need to "learn the game" instead of just watching.

zeke's picture

Or it could be as simple as TT doesn't think that any of the OL that were/are available on the street (or one of the three OL currently on the practice squad) are better than the Packers' number 7 WR, number 4 TE, or number 5 RB.

Jamie's picture


Unless Rocky Downer knows what TT did or did not do to try and improve depth on the O-line...who's to say he didn't try, but ended up feeling the available options were not very appealing?

These folks think things happen in a vacuum...what they see is all that happens. Especially with TT's MO for keeping everything get upset with inaction knowing at the same time TT tells us nothing is non-sensical and EXTREMELY naive...especially for a know-it-all.

BubbaOne's picture

Makes no sense to me either. TT/MM are 31-6 in the last 2+ seasons, what are they thinking?

some guy's picture

"7 WRs, 4 TEs, 4-5 RBs to go with 7 O-Linemen. Makes little sense."

First, you're counting some guys who are on IR. Secondly, I don't know about you but I think this organization has demonstrated its ability to identify and develop quality WR prospects. If they think Boykin and Ross can be something, they should cut them loose in favor of O-linemen who the front office doesn't think can play? What kind of sense does that make? If you need players who aren't good enough to make a roster, there will be some available. That's how street free agents work, and it's not like there's a shortage of them.

Fish/Crane's picture

One, Two.
One, Two.

Even the calendar tells Crosby to change numbers.

dullgeek's picture

Ironically, Saturday is currently the leading vote getter for Pro-Bowl center on the NFC side.

MarkinMadison's picture

Proof of the power of name recognition, in case anyone needed it.

PackRat's picture

Another one for the PackRat.

6-8 weeks ago I argued that JefSat was making the entire line look bad. He could offer no help to either of the guards in their slide protection and was immobile getting to the second level on any running play. THERE WAS A REASON THE COLTS DIDN'T OFFER HIM EVEN A ONE YEAR CONTRACT WITH A ROOKIE QUARTERBACK COMING IN, OFFERING HIM A FRONT OFFICE JOB.

Even with an average C like EDS, I'll bet the Pack will be able to finally slide protection to minimize the weaknesses demonstrated by Lang and the uneven play of Sitton. The backs/TE will now be able to focus their attention on dominant DE's and blitzing LBs, not worrying about the blitzkreig up the middle. Best of luck Jeff--you are a class act and a potential Hall-of-Fame center. I like the stones MM is showing shoring up this glaring hole prior to the playoffs and wonder if AR12/TJ/Sitton weren't somehow involved in instigating the move.
m (he of rather eloquently I must say) pointed out exactly what has become an

RON's picture

Saturday benched!Starks fumbles benched earlier in year!Crosby can not kick field goals he plays.GRANT fumbles he plays .Finley drops passes he plays.Bush leads league in penalties on special he plays.Thompson should draft a coach.......

Point Packer's picture

Hey, great idea. Not like this one took a Super Bowl a couple years ago. Or won all but one game in the regular season last year. Clearly he has no idea what he is doing.

TT, this Ron guy is brilliant. You should really consider drafting a coach.

hayward4president's picture

Stop counting chickens folks. See chiefs game last year.....

Clay's picture

Guys please allow me a little "I told you so" moment.

I brought this up earlier when Barclay established himself.

First move was to move Lang back to guard.

I asked at the time of that move, why not move EDS to center (not that I thought of it of course). A reasonable sportswriter mentioned it.

Also earlier in the year, Rodgers said EDS could be the Packers' "center of the future."

I know Rodgers is being generous but still he obviously has confidence in the guy.

At the time I posted, the response was along the lines of "Ted likes to stick with proven veterans, etc."

So what's my point?

Just HAPPY about this move. Bottom line this is an UPGRADE no matter how you slice it.

I had visions of Saturday getting pasted by Justin Smith in the playoffs.

Great guy but just not strong or fast enough anymore.

Now the line has some more punch.

People are whining about Crosby here. So be it. I am scared as hell about that too, but let's at least be happy that the Pack improved ever so slightly on their biggest liability...the O Line

Peace out.

BrianD's picture

Super Bowl winning offensive line from less than 2 years ago:

Present offensive line

things can change in a hurry (especially with injuries)

I bleed Green More's picture

To me O line is a very big need next year. If we squeak by this year by our chiny chin chin and that is a big if.

imma fubared's picture

My take when I look at the so called premiere QB's like the Mannings is they have huge offensive lines to stand behind and watch the routes develop. Sure makes your job easier.
With that said, yes the Pack could use some help via the draft to shore up the O line. Rogers is the go to guy and he can't get it done running around and getting pounded to the ground all day.
Hopefully the C staff won't rely of Sherrod and or Beluga coming back and if they do great but this year let's plan for the worse case scenario.

cow42's picture

Brady never has to leave his pocket.

Jamie's picture

And hasn't won a SB in....

cow42's picture

you're right.
Patriots' offense isn't good enough to win a Super Bowl.

There I go again - what was I thinking?

Patriots' offense isn't any good at all.
hasn't been for years.

my bad.

so you're intimating that in order to win the Super Bowl it's better to have a line that doesn't allow the quarterback to stay in the pocket.

what you really want is a line that allows penetration in order to get that qb out of the pocket and on the run.

that's a sure-fire recipe for success.

got it.

hey! why have a line at all?

some guy's picture

Uhh, not sure what games you were watching but taken as a whole, Manning's Colt lines were average at best. Playing with Manning has a tendency to make folks look like overachievers. His Bronco line this year is, if not the best he's ever had, then certainly very close.

I bleed Green More's picture

Barclay may not be playing tomorrow so musical chairs again.

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