I didn’t think Evan Dietrich-Smith was a legitimate NFL player two summers ago. After re-watching his three starts from late last season, I’ve changed my mind. He’s definitely a legitimate NFL player; he’s just not a guard. While the 26-year-old managed to survive in 188 snaps against the Giants, Oakland and Chicago, he wasn’t very impressive. The feeling here is that the Packers need to find a better No. 3 guard and allow EDS to concentrate on backing up 37-year-old center Jeff Saturday.
Dietrich-Smith is a fundamentally sound lineman who plays with an aggressive and nasty temperament. He generally stays on his feet and he often packs a punch on contact. What he lacks is athleticism. He got exposed in space quite often – especially against the Giants – and he really struggled to hit moving targets. I counted at least five plays where Dietrich-Smith’s inability to adjust to movement almost got Aaron Rodgers sacked. In each instance, only the MVP quarterback’s quick release or uncanny escapability kept him from getting taken to the ground.
The Packers can obviously get through a game or two with Dietrich-Smith at guard, but I think he’d become a liability if forced to play for an extended period of time. Ideally, one of the young linemen will step up in training camp and seize the backup position. Unfortunately, the odds of that happening aren’t very good. Ray Dominguez finished last season on the active roster, but he still has a lot to learn after starting 33 games at tackle in college. The remainder of the potential backups are either undrafted free agents or veterans who are more comfortable outside.
I used to think Jaymes Brooks had a chance to replace Dietrich-Smith as the No. 3 guard, but that was before the talented rookie from Virginia Tech injured his hamstring and sat out the entire offseason. There’s no guarantee he’ll be ready for the start of camp, and even if he is, he’ll be way behind. There’s always a chance GM Ted Thompson will acquire a veteran during the summer, but don’t bet on it. That means Dietrich-Smith will likely enter his second season as the team’s top backup at all three interior offensive line positions. And while that’s not my biggest concern in July, it could be if something happens to one of the starting guards or tackles in October.