GREEN BAY, Wis. – In a tradition that stretches more than a decade, here is our annual ranking of the 90 players on the Green Bay Packers’ roster. This isn’t merely a look at the best players. Rather, it’s a formula that combines talent, salary, importance of the position, depth at the position and, for young players, draft positioning. More than the ranking, we hope you learn a little something about every player on the roster.
No. 15: C Corey Linsley (6-3, 301, seventh season, Ohio State)
The Packers selected Linsley with a fifth-round pick in 2014. About four months later, starter JC Tretter suffered a knee injury in a preseason game and Linsley was thrust into the lineup. His NFL debut? At inhospitable Seattle and against the mighty Seahawks.
“I’m going to pray for him,” Seahawks defensive end Bruce Irvin said a few days before the game. “It’s going to be a long night, man.”
No prayers were necessary. While it wasn’t a long night, it has been a long career for Linsley. Entering Year 7, he’s made 86 career starts. After playing every snap in 2017 and 2018, injuries limited him to “only” 88.1 percent of the snaps in 2019. A concussion against Dallas in Week 5 ended his consecutive-snaps streak at 2,768. Impressive as it was, Linsley downplayed its significance.
“Oh, I don’t care. Honestly, that was cool, but it didn’t make a difference to me,” he said upon getting cleared from the concussion protocol a few days later.
Still, for the third consecutive season, he started all 16 games.
According to STATS, Linsley allowed 1.5 sacks and was flagged once (for holding). PFF wasn’t as kind. PFF charged him with five sacks, and he ranked 22nd of 29 centers to play 50 percent of the snaps in its pass-protection metric. Run blocking has always been a strength, and that didn’t change with the schematic changes. He allowed three stuffs (a tackle at or behind the line on a running play), down from four last year despite a more run-centric offense. On runs up the middle, the Packers averaged 5.29 yards per carry, according to league data, the second-best mark in the league.
A standout player on the field, he's also a standout in the community. Linsley and his wife, Anna, are active in CASA of Brown County. CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates. A CASA advocate provides a voice for abused and neglected children who are under the legal protection of the court system.
CASA volunteers often are the only consistent adult presence in the lives of abused and neglected children, many of whom are in foster care. The Linsleys met regularly with three siblings for about a year before the case closed in the spring. With Corey in the heart of the football season, Anna is handling a case involving one child.
“It was awesome,” Linsley said. “I hate to say we got as much out of it as the kids but we did. We learned from them. You learn so much and they eventually found out what I did, so that was kind of funny to see that. It’s so great to see the kids. They’re honestly just children, as simple as that sounds. They’re living in their own world and they’re so happy and full of life. To see that is refreshing to know that you’re helping out good kids.”
Why he’s so important: Entering his final season under contract, Linsley has the third-highest cap charge among NFL centers at $10.5 million. There is some depth with veteran Lucas Patrick and rookie Jake Hanson, a sixth-round pick and a four-year starter at Oregon. Still, with strength, demeanor, athleticism and intelligence, Linsley is the total package and one of the better centers in the league. A back problem, which knocked him out of the finale against Detroit, is a bit disconcerting in terms of his long-term future.
“I don’t think we have enough time for me to talk about how good Corey is,” left tackle David Bakhitari said last year. “He’s a fundamentally sound football player. He’s got strength and he’s got smarts. You couple that athleticism, I really want him to be around.”