CAMP BODIES PART 3 OFFENSIVE LINE Jerry Gilbert 6/9/2007
The somewhat unexpected departure of 2 veteran offensive linemen this week has improved the prospects for the camp bodies who play on the offensive line. While the dismissal of tackle Kevin Barry is not a huge surprise, commentators here and elsewhere have opined that Josh Bourke, returning from injured reserve, was a prime candidate to back up at both offensive tackles. Bourke, possibly due, in part, to last season's back injury, was also cut by the team. With 2 tackles out of the way, free agents will have an opportunity to perform in practice and make an impression. Moreover, another prominent holdover, guard Tony Palmer, is nursing injuries. That also creates opportunities for the backups at offensive guard to show what they can do.
We have previously discussed center Pete Bier 6-3 297 Army. He should survive most of training camp simply because teams need several centers. The other candidates on the roster, other than starter Scott Wells, all have another primary position. This reality should provide a long term but still temporary home for this camp body.
The player who would appear to benefit the most from the departure of Josh Bourke is Orrin Thompson 6-6 322 Duke. In mini-camp and the OTA sessions, Thompson has been playing with the first unit whenever Chad Clifton was not available. Thompson is probably a work in progress. Other than what can be learned from his time on the practice squads of Miami and Green Bay, Orrin Thompson is pretty much a blank slate at offensive tackle. His entire college career at Duke was spent as a fairly ordinary defensive lineman. As a junior in 2004 he made only 44 tackles with but 3 going for minus yardage. His athleticism at his pro day also did not wow the scouts. He ran a 5.25 forty and lifted the bar 24 times. Nevertheless, Thompson has shown enough to hang around on the fringes of the pro game. The shortage of tackles in Green Bay will keep him around through training camp, but his background does not suggest that he will be the a backup tackle for Green Bay this season.
Also hoping to have a chance to play for Green Bay are four players who did play offensive tackle in college, but The Packers list all of them as guards
Adam Stenavich could be a player to watch. The 6-4 310 former Michigan offensive lineman is listed as a guard on the Packer roster. However, Stenavich played left tackle in the Big 10, starting 39 games and protecting the blind side of the Wolverine quarterbacks. In his senior season, Stenavich allowed no sacks and the league coaches named him All Conference following both his junior and senior seasons. College fans will also recall that Michigan had a pretty successful running game when Adam Stenavich was there. Realistically, Stenavich has little chance to benefit from the present absence of offensive tackles. He is currently playing left guard for Berlin in NFL Europa. A player who will arrive in Training Camp bruised and tired, Stenavich will have all he can do merely to make the practice squad this season.
Travis Lefew 6-4 292 Louisville is another former college left tackle who is competing to play guard in Green Bay. Ironically, a main reason that Lefew will likely remain a camp body is the presence of his college teammate Jason Spitz, who has slid over to guard from his college position of center. The last 2 drafts probably produced 3 guards who are more likely to be on the roster than any of the camp bodies. Nevertheless, Travis Lefew does have a chance to fill in at tackle during the OTA sessions, if he can impress the coaches. At 6-4 292, Lefew has adequate size, and he was a three year performer at left tackle for the pass happy Louisville Cardinals. He not only started every game, he was selected All Conference and third team All American as a left tackle.
Another college tackle, Tyson Walter 6-4 303 Ohio State is in camp and also listed as a guard, but Walter has a very different story. He was a 6th round draft choice of Dallas in 2002 and, because of injuries to the players ahead of him, Walter started 8 games in his rookie season at two different positions. He has started a couple more games in other years. Including preseason contests, Walter played all three interior offensive line positions for Dallas. However, the Cowboys did not have Walter in their future plans, and after he was cut, Walter was with Houston in 2005, but he never played.
Following half a season with the Redskins in 2006, which included some playing time, Walter was cut again, and he was added to the Green Bay practice squad. The fact that he had played tackle, guard and center was a plus as he could play the part of any offensive lineman on the scout team. Whether his versatility will be enough to stay with the Packers is another story. To his credit, Walter played 49 games for Ohio State and was All Big 10 and received an award as Ohio State's best offensive lineman as a senior. Another fact that helps him is, that with the departure of Kevin Barry, Walter is the most experienced offensive lineman on the roster except for the starting tackles. On the other hand, he has not convinced any prior coaching staff that he was capable of a major contribution, and Green Bay may decide that a younger player has more of a future. Walter is most likely no more than a camp body this season.
Finally there is a recently added free agent who played tackle at a small school. Pat Murray 6-3 312 played for Division II Truman State. Murray was a three-year starter at right tackle who was second team all conference as a junior and first team as a senior. After his final season, Murray was selected to play in an all-star game for small school players, the East Coast Bowl. Following a fine effort at offensive guard in that game, in front of pro scouts, Murray was invited to play in the Texas Against the Nation All Star Game which gave him a chance to play against Division I talent and before even more scouts. Realistically, Murray is a long shot to be any more than a camp body.