Packers Annual Checkup: G T.J. Lang
FEB 23, 2013 4:00a ET
Today: G T.J. Lang
Sunday, Feb. 24: LB Jamari Lattimore
Monday, Feb. 25: LB Terrell Manning
Tuesday, Feb. 26: LB Clay Matthews
Wednesday, Feb. 27: S Jerron McMillian
Thursday, Feb. 28: OLB Dezman Moses
Friday, March 1: DE Mike Neal
T.J. LANG, GUARD
Season stats: 17 starts (13 at left guard, four at right tackle); nine sacks allowed, 12 QB hurries allowed, six penalties committed
Best game: Week 4 win over New Orleans (left guard; zero QB hurries allowed, zero sacks allowed, zero penalties committed; 2.7 PFF rating)
Worst game: Week 12 loss at New York Giants (right tackle; three QB hurries allowed, one sack allowed, one penalty committed; season-worst minus-6.0 PFF rating)
ProFootballFocus.com season rating: 0.9 (second-best among Packers offensive linemen)
Expectations at the start of the season: Medium
Expectations were ... Met
Looking live: After just one season as a starter in 2011, it was apparent Lang was a core piece for the Packers. With that belief, general manager Ted Thompson signed Lang to a contract extension during the 2012 training camp for five years and $22 million. Though Lang is more natural as a left guard, he showed in 2011 that he was versatile enough to slide to right tackle if needed. That added to Lang's overall value to the Packers offense. Lang isn't at the elite level of fellow guard Josh Sitton, but he's dependable and still only 25 years old. Lang battled a few injuries this season, including one to his ankle that landed him on the inactive list in Week 14. Of course, what many will remember Lang for this season was his expletive-filled Twitter rant against the NFL's replacement referees following the blown call in Week 3. Considering the NFL unbelievably decided not to fine Lang for his comments and got rid of the replacement referees a few days later, perhaps his brash statements made a difference. At the very least, those tweets gave Lang a dose of celebrity status, as he had been retweeted more than any person ever on Twitter (though Barack Obama and Justin Bieber have since passed him).
Upon further review: It took a couple years on the bench for Lang to understand the dedication that it takes to succeed in the NFL. By Lang's own admission, he used to stay out partying all night long and then show up to early meetings the next day with very little sleep. As a fourth-round pick in 2009, Lang was being counted on to eventually become a starter. Now, four years into his career, his habits have changed, as has his on-field performance. Through his second season as a starter, it's clear -- both watching live and more in-depth on film -- that Lang (while at left guard) was better in pass protection in 2012 than he was as a run blocker. That's part of the reason he's able to switch to right tackle. But, in order for Green Bay's running game to improve, Lang will have to get better in that area. For the second consecutive year, Lang was ranked by ProFootballFocus.com with a minus-rating in run blocking. He was solid at right tackle in 2011 but surprisingly really struggled at that spot in 3 1/2 games this past season.
Overall 2012 grade: C+
Status for 2013: 100 percent chance of being the Packers' Week 1 starting left guard. Lang isn't going anywhere for a long time. Thompson identified Lang and Sitton as two offensive linemen to build around and to help protect franchise quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Lang still has a lot of room to get better, too.
Follow Paul Imig on Twitter.