Packers Annual Checkup: T.J. Lang

The Packers moved T.J. Lang to right guard in 2013 and he did so well there that the Packers now likely have their starter at that position for years to come.

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FOX Sports Wisconsin’s Paul Imig gives an in-depth statistical analysis and film study of every Packers player in his annual offseason checkup. Check every weekday through mid-April for his latest report.

T.J. Lang, starting right guard

Season stats: 17 games (all starts at right guard; played 97.7 percent of total offensive snaps), three sacks allowed, 18 QB hurries allowed, five penalties season rating: 10.8 (ranked No. 6 out of Packers’ 23 qualified offensive players; ranked No. 15 out of all NFL offensive guards)

Best game: Week 16 loss vs. Pittsburgh (played all 79 offensive snaps), zero QB hurries allowed, zero sacks allowed, zero penalties; 4.3 PFF rating

Worst game: Week 13 loss at Detroit (played all 43 offensive snaps), two QB hurries allowed, one sack allowed; minus-3.0 PFF rating

Expectations at the start of the season: Medium

Expectations were … Exceeded

Looking live: Like all of the Packers’ starting tackles and guards, T.J. Lang switched to a new position last offseason, taking over at right guard after two years as the starting left guard. There was a period of adjustment for Lang with technique at his new spot, but it seemed like he had it down by the time training camp began. Lang was unsurprisingly consistent throughout preseason and training camp, though he did suffer a back injury that forced him to miss three practices. In a rare accomplishment for an offensive lineman, Lang even intercepted a pass from B.J. Coleman during unit drills on Aug. 25 (not a good sign for Coleman, who was released a week later). There was no question as the regular season rolled around that Lang was ready for his assignment at right guard. The only potential issue at the time was that Lang had a bit of a revolving door next to him at right tackle throughout training camp, with Don Barclay eventually pulling away with that job.

Upon further review: Lang would be the best guard on at least half of the NFL’s teams. But, with Josh Sitton (arguably the NFL’s best guard) at the other spot, Lang seems to be overlooked at times. He shouldn’t be. Though not at an elite level in either pass blocking or run blocking, he’s good in both areas and therefore isn’t a liability in any situation. Lang has also continued to show steady improvement through his three years as a starter and, now at age 26, will likely settle in as Green Bay’s starter on the right side for at least another four years or so. Looking back again at the way he played in 2013, Lang almost always finished his blocks and never appeared to give up on a play. He’s certainly not the most athletic offensive lineman in the league, but his attitude as a blocker usually makes up the difference. While Eddie Lacy had the most success when running behind Sitton on the left side, Lang’s blocking on the right side allowed coach Mike McCarthy to be able to confidently call running plays in either direction.

Overall 2013 grade: B-plus

Status for 2014: One-hundred percent chance of being on the Packers’ active roster to begin the 2014 season. Lang’s contract runs through the 2016 season with him set to earn $17.1 million between now and then. If the season started today, he’d be the fifth highest-paid player on the roster (behind Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews, Tramon Williams and Sitton). It’s a fairly big chunk of salary cap room for a team’s second-best guard, but it’s proven so far to be a wise investment made by general manager Ted Thompson when he re-signed Lang in August 2012. Lang won’t turn 27 years old until September 2014, so he should still be trending up in his progression. Combined with Sitton, Green Bay has one of the best (if not the best) guard duos in the NFL. That is unlikely to change any time soon, which is a great benefit for the Packers as they build out their team.

Next: Inside linebacker Jamari Lattimore

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