The Green Bay Packers need young players to step up if they expect to be a force come January, but that won’t be enough. They also need a bunch of veterans to perform better than they did a year ago. Jermichael Finley, T.J. Lang, B.J. Raji, A.J. Hawk, Tramon Williams and Mason Crosby immediately come to mind. And while I have doubts about whether most of those players can be significantly better this season, I have no doubts about one of them. I fully expect Lang to go from competent to dominant in 2013.
Lang may have made that jump a year ago had he not suffered an injury versus the Colts in week 5. Prior to tearing a ligament in his elbow, the 25-year-old was the team’s best offensive lineman. Unlike the majority of his colleagues, he held up extremely well against San Francisco and Seattle – two of the most physical defenses in the NFC. That came as no surprise to people who have followed Lang’s pro career. The former Eastern Michigan star isn’t huge (315 pounds) by NFL standards, but he plays bigger.
The surprise was Lang’s newfound ability to handle quickness. He was equally as impressive against Chicago and New Orleans – two defenses that rely more on athleticism than size up front. Thanks to improved technique, his feet were a bit quicker and his recoverability was a lot better than in previous seasons.
Lang was playing at a Pro Bowl level through the first month of the 2012 season. Assuming the elbow is 100 percent, he should pick up in September where he left off last October. The only thing that could slow him down a bit is switching positions. Going from the left side to the right side won’t be easy, but he’ll handle it. After all, this is a person who has handled every other challenge thrown his way in four seasons – from being asked to move to tackle in the middle of a game to playing with one arm for months.