While offensive line coach James Campen wouldn’t say it, T.J. Lang appears to be getting the upper hand over Derek Sherrod in the Green Bay Packers’ big battle at left guard.
“It’s close enough that they’re swapping reps, getting equal reps in the evaluation process every day,” Campen said.
During the 11-on-11 periods at Wednesday’s practice, Lang took 13 reps at left guard with the starters compared to 11 for Sherrod. That’s a change from the start of camp, when Sherrod — the impressive first-round pick out of Mississippi State — took nearly every rep at left guard with the starters.
"I really like how T.J.'s come to camp," coach Mike McCarthy said. "We have a history with T.J. He's made a jump from last year. That's clearly evident. Derek's really just trying to get familiar. He's going through a little bit of what Bryan (Bulaga) went through last year. He's not playing as fast as he'd like to. He's not reacting to things as quickly as he'd like to. It's a little more thinking than the finishing and urgency you're looking for.”
Lang’s comfort level is not surprising. This is his third season with the team. He knows the offense and the techniques taught by Campen. Sherrod is a rookie who didn’t see the playbook until the lockout ended. He also was a three-year starter at left tackle in college. Guard and tackle are 2 feet apart on the offensive line but miles apart in the action. Tackles generally get one-on-one battles and the matchups are obvious at the snap. At guard, the action happens much faster and the matchups can change on the fly.
“I feel smart,” said Lang, whose opportunity to earn a starting job last year was derailed by offseason wrist surgery. “I know what we’re doing out there assignment-wise. That allows me to be on the same with Scotty (Wells). I don’t think those guys have to worry about me taking care of my assignments. We can go out there and play.”
Sherrod said the adjustment from tackle to guard is going “pretty well” and that his head isn’t swimming from the enormous mental challenge. Like Lang, Sherrod is getting plenty of action at left tackle, too, as it appears the loser of the left guard battle will be the No. 1 backup at left tackle, too.
“It’s been a pretty good battle,” Lang said. “I think there’s some things that both of us are doing pretty well, and there’s a few small things that we need to fix. It’s been a great start for both of us. Just the competition of both of us playing well has made us both better players. We’re going to try to make it as hard on the coaches as we can to make a decision. When it comes down to it, we’re going to have a solid starting left guard and the backup’s going to be a hell of a player, as well.”
That’s all, folks (sort of)
By the strict definition, training camp ends on Thursday.
That’s when the players move out of the dorms at St. Norbert College. For the players with homes in the area, that means they can sleep in their own beds. For the players who are new to town, the team sets them up at hotels.
“As a veteran on the team now, I’m one of the few guys that gets to spend the night at their own house. I’m not complaining a whole lot,” Aaron Rodgers said with a smile.
Practice remains open to the public. There’s a walkthrough scheduled for 11 a.m. Thursday. The next preseason game is Friday, and there’s no practice on Saturday and Sunday. Next week, they practice at 11:15 a.m. on Monday through Wednesday leading up to Thursday’s game at Indianapolis. The next week, they practice at 11:15 a.m. on Sunday, Aug. 28, and Monday, Aug. 29. The last open-to-the-public practice will start at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 30.
New injuries: DE Lawrence Guy (concussion), DE Mike Neal (knee).
McCarthy called Neal “day-to-day” and didn’t rule him out of Friday’s preseason game. While a severe knee injury was immediately feared, McCarthy said Neal didn’t even require a scan.
Still out: WR Shaky Smithson (shoulder), WR Brett Swain (hamstring), S Brandon Underwood (knee), CB Davon House (hamstring), S Anthony Levine (concussion), TE Spencer Havner (hamstring); RB James Starks (ankle), G Adrian Battles (Achilles), T Chris Campbell (knee).
Returned: CB Brandian Ross (hamstring).
— It was Erik Walden’s turn to start opposite Clay Matthews in the three-man rotation with Frank Zombo and Brad Jones: “I don’t really pay too much attention. I’m just worrying about things I can control, and that’s my productivity and my play. I’m just having fun, am enjoying it, and am blessed with this opportunity.”
— With Neal out, C.J. Wilson joined Ryan Pickett and B.J. Raji as the starting defensive linemen.
— During the one-on-one pass rush drill, the offense won the first 19 reps. The streak ended late, when Raji used a swim move to blow past undrafted Sampson Genus.
— Arizona plays at Green Bay on Friday, and the Cardinals have plenty of Packers ties. Guard Daryn Colledge signed with Arizona during the offseason. Other Cardinals who played for Green Bay: Vonnie Holliday, Cyril Obiozor, Ronald Talley.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport.