Corey Linsley has been quiet force in middle of Packers' O-line

Seventh-year center continues to be as humble as he is productive

C Corey Linsley

GREEN BAY – Corey Linsley doesn't spare a breath when complimenting the play of the Packers' offensive linemen around him through the first three games of the 2020 season.

The seventh-year center is quick to praise David Bakhtiari for his "elite" skill set that's made defenders prone to Aaron Rodgers' hard count in an effort to gain a step on Green Bay's All-Pro left tackle.

Linsley lauds left guard Elgton Jenkins for his positional versatility and commends fourth-year veteran Lucas Patrick for ably settling in at right guard. He tips his cap to Billy Turner, Rick Wagner and even rookie Jon Runyan for how they've adapted to new, and sometimes unexpected, roles.

As for Linsley? Well, good luck getting the veteran to say much about himself. For example, when asked to describe his role in Rodgers' deconstruction on opposing defenses with his hard count, the veteran center releases a quick and humble laugh.

"I snap the ball. I don't know," said Linsley, pausing. "It really doesn't get more complicated than that."

But it does. Linsley, in a quiet and understated manner, has been a pillar on the Packers' offensive line for 89 starts spread over six seasons, and has snapped to Rodgers more than any other center during the two-time MVP's 12-year run as starting QB.

Over time, he's developed a comprehensive understanding of the nuances unique to Rodgers' cadence and snap count, both of which have been on display in Green Bay's first two road games played in large empty domes.

Between Week 1 in Minnesota and last Sunday in New Orleans, Rodgers has drawn the opposition offside on five third downs. Two resulted in automatic first downs, one led to a 39-yard pass to Marquez Valdes-Scantling and another that precipitated a defensive pass interference penalty in the end zone.

Rodgers nearly took a timeout on that one, until calling at the last second for the ball when Saints linebacker Demario Davis jumped into the neutral zone. From there, it was up to Linsley to know when it's time to deliver the ball to his quarterback.

"It's very, very complex," said Linsley of Rodgers' cadence. "It's not like we're sending rockets up into space or anything … but it's complex enough to where being on the same page as him takes a lot of time and effort from studying, playing, all of that. It takes a concerted effort to get used to his cadence."

Linsley recently talked with Bakhtiari, the longest-tenured veteran on Green Bay's offensive line, about how the two have grown to anticipate what Rodgers is going to do and the quantitative effect that's had in potential free-play situations.

It's not just creative chemistry that's made Linsley a stalwart on the O-line since 2014, though. It's his communication at the line of scrimmage, reliable pass-blocking and sneaky athleticism to get to the second level to block for his running backs.

A few of Green Bay's big runs this season – Aaron Jones' 15-yard pickup in Minnesota and Jones' 75-yard touchdown against Detroit – were keyed by Linsley and Jenkins clearing the interior for Jones to power into the second level.

"It's amazing, there are so many guys on the team who sometimes go unnoticed. He's one, he's been incredible," offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett said. "His leadership role, the ability to run the entire offensive line, from all the calls that he makes, just his athleticism. The things that we ask him to do, there's not a lot of guys who can do what he can do."

Due to injuries, the Packers already have started three different combinations on the offensive line and played with seven total, with Linsley lining up alongside four different guards. Despite all that, Rodgers has been sacked only twice on 111 drop-backs.

Linsley has twice been voted an alternate for the Pro Bowl but never received the call to Orlando. Through three games, Pro Football Focus has Linsley as its highest-graded center and fifth-highest graded offensive linemen.

Undoubtedly, that makes no difference to the 29-year-old, but those around him know just how important Linsley has been to the Packers' fast start on offense.

"Corey's been playing at a high level since I've been here," offensive line coach Adam Stenavich said. "I think everyone's just accustomed to him doing a great job. That's just the level, that's a testament to him. I couldn't be happier with Corey."

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