Players seldom regress from year one to year two unless there’s a legitimate reason. A surgically repaired wrist would be a legitimate reason. T.J. Lang, who filled in so admirably at both offensive tackle positions as a rookie, never came close to regaining that form in a disappointing sophomore season. Unable to attend minicamps and lift weights after undergoing surgery in April 2010, the former Eastern Michigan standout struggled from the very first day of camp last summer. Rusty and weakened from months of inactivity – both on the field and off – Lang was consistently beaten by players he had dominated the year before. Not surprisingly, he appeared to lose confidence with each passing practice.
Assuming Lang has regained his confidence – and that’s not a given – he has a chance to really help the Packers this season. With Daryn Colledge almost certain to leave as an unrestricted free agent, there will be an opening at left guard. First-round pick Derek Sherrod might get a look, but he’s never played inside and that’s a difficult transition to make without the benefit of an offseason. And while fellow rookie Caleb Schlauderaff has plenty of experience at guard, his transition – from the WAC to the NFL – won’t be any easier. Second-year men Marshall Newhouse and Nick McDonald might also be in the mix, but once again, it’s difficult to imagine either youngster being ready to take such a big step up without the luxury of minicamps and OTAs.
Lang doesn’t have a lot of experience at guard, but he has taken snaps there in each of the past two training camps. I’ve always thought his best position is right tackle, but Mike McCarthy (who probably knows just a tiny bit more than me) has long believed he’s a more natural fit inside. “I think T.J.’s long-term is at guard,” said the Super Bowl winning coach. “I think he’s a natural left guard, when I look at his body. But he is young. He needs to develop strength to hit that. He is a very young second-year player. There’s a lot of room for development.”
McCarthy’s quote is very interesting. He said Lang needed to develop strength – something he was unable to do last offseason due to the surgery. But now that the wrist is 100 percent, he should be able to re-establish himself as an ascending offensive lineman. As a rookie, Lang flashed power in his punch and the ability to jolt defenders to the ground. He also showed active hands and the ability to steer and control defenders. Those physical gifts, along with an extremely high football IQ, should give him a chance to not only replace Colledge at left guard if necessary, but perhaps upgrade the position as well.