Packers still searching for a backup center

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Backup center may rank low on the list of important positions for most NFL teams, but the Green Bay Packers were hoping to find a competent one before the start of the season.

That way, if anything happened to starter Evan Dietrich-Smith, they wouldn’t have to move left guard T.J. Lang to center and then find someone else to play Lang’s old spot.

But heading into Thursday’s preseason finale a Kansas City, they’re not sold on either of Dietrich-Smith’s backups.

Former Ivy League tackle Greg Van Roten, a second-year pro out of Penn, and rookie free agent Patrick Lewis of Texas A&M both have had issues. Neither performed well in last Friday’s preseason game against Seattle. Lewis sailed a shotgun snap high and wide to the right of quarterback Vince Young, and Van Roten’s run blocking was poor.

When asked if the Packers would have to move other offensive line starters if something happened to Dietrich-Smith, offensive line coach James Campen would only say: “I’ll answer it this way: We’ll be ready if that something were to happen.”

The center position remains relatively new to Van Roten, who didn’t start working there until midway through last season. He had an issue with a snap in practice this week, when he rolled a shotgun snap on the ground and drew the ire of the coaches. But perhaps the bigger issue for Van Roten is his run blocking. Against the Seahawks he got beat twice and allowed tackles for losses.

“This week, I definitely want to run block better than I did last week,” Van Roten said. “I want to keep protecting the way I have been, and I think I’ll be OK going forward.”

Lewis has more experience playing center. He moved there from guard after his sophomore season in college and last year was the starting center for Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Johnny Manziel.

“I think that those two guys will be battling,” Campen said.