It seems like three years ago, but it was only three months ago when the talk of training camp was the Green Bay Packers moving forward with a solidified offensive line.
But in the days between a must-have victory over Dallas in Week 10 and another must-have game coming up against San Francisco in Week 11, the Packers will be mulling their options at right tackle.
Will they go with veteran Mark Tauscher or rookie T.J. Lang?
“Oh, hey, whatever words, we’re open to it,” offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said of the choice of either going with the rookie or going with Tauscher for a different combination for a fifth consecutive game.
Tauscher missed Sunday’s 17-7 victory with a knee sprain sustained during his season debut last week at Tampa Bay. In his place, Lang — seeing his first game action at right tackle as a professional — didn’t allow a sack while seeing a rotation of Pro Bowler DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer.
“Played well. I thought he played well,” coach Mike McCarthy said of Lang on Monday. “He graded out very well, and physically he seemed to come out of the game OK. It was good to see him. I think he’s a little more comfortable on the right side than the left side, which I think everybody can understand that. That’s more of a position he feels most comfortable at.”
Ware generally plays right outside linebacker, where he would have lined up against left tackle Chad Clifton. But the Cowboys smelled blood in the water at the Packers’ most vulnerable position, and frequently put Ware across from Lang. Ware finished with two sacks, but none of them were against Lang, though Ware did beat Lang a couple of times and did force one false start.
“I think I did pretty good for the most part, but I’m the kind of guy that the negatives really stick out in my mind,” Lang said after the game. “Obviously, the false start, there was one pressure I can remember. But I think I pulled a lot of positives out of the game. For the most part, I think I took a step forward today and it’s just going to be exciting to continue to improve, continue to get better and take a step forward again next week.
As for Tauscher, he’ll work out on Tuesday, and if all goes well, he’ll at least practice a little on Wednesday.
Whether Lang would keep the job over a healthy Tauscher will be determined in practice. Or, the Packers could do what they did for the first half at Tampa Bay, when Tauscher and Allen Barbre rotated after every two series.
Like Dallas, San Francisco runs a 3-4 defense. San Francisco’s left outside linebacker, Manny Lawson, has 2.5 sacks, and the 49ers are in a five-way tie for 21st in the league with 17 sacks. With the four sacks allowed on Sunday, Green Bay has yielded 41 — a whopping nine more than second-place Kansas City.
Building some continuity could alleviate some of the pressure, but going into the 10th game of the season, the Packers aren’t in that position.
“I feel like I’ve been answering this question for two years,” McCarthy said. “We’d like to line up with five offensive linemen in the same spots and gain some continuity and consistency. So, we’ll continue to work for that goal.”
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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 email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.