Category Archives: T. J. Lang

10

October

Four games in, Packers have No. 5 ground game in NFL

Rookies David Bakhtiari and Eddie Lacy have helped recharge the Packers' ground game.

Rookies David Bakhtiari and Eddie Lacy have helped recharge the Packers’ ground game.

Numbers don’t always tell the whole story, but in the case of the Packers’ new-look backfield, the early results show significant improvement running the football.

One quarter into the 2013 season, and the pass-happy Green Bay Packers have the league’s fifth-best ground game. The Packers are currently grinding out 141 rushing yards per game and 5.3 yards per attempt; Green Bay trails only Philadelphia, Seattle, Buffalo and Indianapolis running the football.

Eddie Lacy, the team’s second-round pick and clear-cut No. 1 back, was just one yard shy of becoming the team’s third-consecutive 100-yard rusher Sunday against the Detroit Loins.

Lacy was knocked out of the Washington game after suffering a concussion, paving the way for James Starks to rush for 132 yards on 20 carries. The following week against the Bengals–with Lacy still out and Starks being forced out of the game early–fellow rookie Johnathan Franklin racked up 103 yards on just 13 carries.

Improving the running game was high on the team’s to-do list this past offseason, according to coach Mike McCarthy.

“We’ll be better,” McCarthy said of his team’s running game following the 2012 season. I promise you that. Big letters.”

And better, they are. Last season, the Packers’ rushing attack ranked 20th in the league after coming in at No. 27 in 2011 and No. 24 in 2010. The last time the Packers ranked in the top half of the league was 2009, when they came in at No. 14 after averaging 117.8 yards per game.

Starks missed the Lions game and is expected to miss “a couple weeks,” according to McCarthy. Franklin stepped in as the No. 2 back behind Lacy against Detroit, but the rookie didn’t get another backfield snap after a second-quarter fumble. Instead, McCarthy opted to use receiver Randall Cobb in the backfield for a third-quarter possession.

Cobb took his first carry and bounced it to the outside for a 67-yard gain down the left sideline. He added another five-yard carry on that hurry-up drive to give himself a modest 36-yard-per-carry average on the afternoon.

Two fumbles in as many games certainly won’t help Franklin’s case to get a share of the workload. Perhaps undrafted rookie Michael Hill will get himself some spot duty depending on the team’s health at the possession. Hill was called up from the practice squad prior to the Lions game.

8

October

Packers Stock Report: Back on Track Edition

Jordy Nelson vs. Detroit Lions

Jordy Nelson- “He will bring it down”

The Packers took a big step in the right direction this week with a boring, but thorough beating of the Lions. The Packers won the game where they haven’t won many lately – in the trenches.

The offensive line, especially the interior three, showed what they are capable of, going up against some of the toughest, baddest (over-rated?) hombres in the NFL and controlling them for pretty much the entire game.

The defensive line was stellar; something we first saw in the preseason and it has been consistently good four games into the season.

So let’s take a look at who’s trending and in what direction after Sunday’s game:

Rising

T.J. Lang
When matched up against Ndomukong Suh and the other bruising interior defensive linemen for the Lions, Lang did exactly what needed to be done: Control their pursuit upfield and use their own momentum against them to create running lanes. It was the second straight solid performance from Lang against a group of elite interior defensive linemen.

Josh Sitton
After a horrible opener against the 49ers and battling back problems against Washington, Sitton has played a key role in shutting down Geno Atkins and quieting Ndomukong Suh. Thanks in part to Sitton’s efforts, the Packers are fifth in the league in rushing and Aaron Rodgers has had a pretty clean pocket to step into. Moving Sitton to the left side has paid off so far.

Jordy Nelson
You could put any of the three receivers in the rising category. I chose Nelson because his toughness is second to none. It doesn’t matter if he’s covered on the sideline or absorbing a big hit over the middle, Nelson makes the catch, then gets up and does it all over again. He hasn’t busted out the Jordy Stiff Arm yet this season, but the Jordy-Makes-a-Miraculous-Catch-With-a-Defender-Draped-All-Over-Him-as-he-Falls-Out-of-Bounds plays have more than made up for it.

Steady

Evan Dietrich-Smith
If we’re going to give Sitton and Lang props for controlling some monster defensive tackles over the last few weeks, it’s only fair that we show Dietrich-Smith some love too. The free-agent-to-be is putting together a nice little season so far. Nothing spectacular, but more than holding his own against some quality interior defensive linemen.

18

September

Packers Offensive Line Back on the Sack Track – Film Study

Packers Offensive Line

Coming into this season, there were two areas that topped my list of improvements the Packers HAD to make;  Aggressiveness on defense and protecting Aaron Rodgers.

The Packers aided their defense by drafting some players that play fast, tough and aggressive.  They let as few players go who they felt just could no longer do so. They reshaped their defensive mentality by bringing back sparkplug Johnny Jolly and encouraging some current players to play more aggressively and set the tone for the rest of the defense (see Clay Matthews vs. Colin Kaepernick).

As I watched the defense over the course of the preseason, I could see it building, game to game. So much so that I felt really good that the defense would be at least in the upper half of teams this season, if not top 12. An 11th hour injury to Morgan Burnett, the QB of the defensive secondary, forced several players into roles they had not really practiced for that week. The secondary was victimized against the 49ers, but I still felt good about what this defense would become.

With a full week to practice their new roles, the secondary bounced back nicely against the Redskins, before the whole defense took the second half off. When Burnett and Hayward return, the Packers defense will take a quantum leap forward. But I digress –  let’s get back on course to the real topic of this post, the offensive line.

As a former offensive lineman in my not so stellar HS football career, I always keep a close eye on the big uglies up front. Unlike the defense, I did not get any warm fuzzies from what I saw in preseason from the offensive line. I did a previous film study on the Packers Rams preseason game, focusing on some pretty poor run blocking I observed.

Two games into the season, my biggest fear about the offensive line has once again reared it’s ugly head. In two games the Packers have allowed 6 sacks of the deservedly highest-paid quarterback in the NFL. At that rate, they’ll be right back in the same area of the 51 sacks they allowed last season. Absolutely unacceptable.

Of course, the Packers have some excuses. They decided to take a bold step by moving their two best OL over to Aaron Rodgers’ blind side. Their best laid plans went awry as Bulaga was lost for the season and Derrick Sherrod, their other recent year first-round draft pick tackle, still can’t get back on the field.

20

August

Packers – Rams Video Second Look: Offensive Line

Packers offensive line.There were a few things I noticed while watching the first string offensive line as they were blocking for the rather impressive Eddie Lacy. I mentioned a few in my “First Impressions” post, where I give my initial observations without rewinding. It’s a little game I like to play, a way of testing if my perception of what is happening during the game is accurate or not.

I normally get the answers when I go back and watch the game a second time, this time with the benefit of rewind at will.

Time permitting, I’m going to try to pick one or two of those first impressions and look at them together with you, in video form, every week.

Today’s topic is the offensive line’s run blocking. Although Eddie Lacy had some impressive gains, I was noticing Packers offensive linemen getting pushed into the backfield on several occasions, especially Evan Dietrich Smith and TJ Lang.

In this first video, Lacy breaks off an 8 yard run, but no thanks to Evan Dietrich-Smith (EDS), who can not handle the speed of the gap-shooting DL. Lacy. Matthew Mulligan is also beat badly, and Lacy is confronted with two ST. Louis DL in his path, two yards deep in the backfield. For another running back, this is a loss of a few yards. But thanks to his much-renowned spin move, Lacy gets away from that trouble, breaks a tackle past the line of scrimmage and then plows through a few more defenders for some extra yards. It’s good to have a real running back, isn’t it?

(Note: I slowed the play down in the second part of this video. I also recommend using the pause button to stop the action at various points to get a better idea of what is happening.)

 

17

August

Packers vs. Rams – Game Day First Impressions, Unfiltered: GB 19 STL 7

Packers - Rams

Green Bay Packers vs. St. Louis Rams:  2013 Preseason game 2

Unfiltered game day blog post of comments, observations and first impressions.

Inactives for today:

Green Bay PackersGreen Bay Packers
16 WR Kevin Dorsey
17 WR Charles Johnson
18 WR Randall Cobb
26 RB DuJuan Harris
28 S Sean Richardson
29 CB Casey Hayward
38 CB Tramon Williams
73 T JC Tretter
75 T Bryan Bulaga
78 T Derek Sherrod
81 TE Andrew Quarless
82 TE Ryan Taylor
87 WR Jordy Nelson
95 DE Datone Jones
99 DE Jerel Worthy

St. Louis Rams
27 S Matt Giordano
30 RB Zac Stacy
54 LB Jabara Williams
57 LB Sammy Brown
64o OL Sean Hooey
76 T Rodger Saffold
97 DE Eugene Sims

 

 GAME NOTES:

All eyes will be on the Packers offense. Mike McCarthy earlier in the week said he’s looking for a much better performance from them in this game. Since Aaron Rodgers will still get limited snaps, that means one of their backup quarterbacks will actually have to look like, you know, a quarterback.

My eyes will be looking for Eddie Lacy. Want to see if he’s as good against real competition as he looked on family night…

 

 

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Mike McCarthy Pregame Show on 620 WTMJ:

Keys to 2nd preseson game:  Develop team personality.  See guys step into leadership roles.  Have a lot of guys who need to play better and need to take advantage of opportunities with guys out injured

Eddie Lacy:  Biggest thing is how he responds.  Hasn’t played since Family Night so will play rep count by ear

Kick Returner:  Big week for Jeremy Ross.  Needs to play well at both receiver and in return game.  Micah Hyde going to get a chance to return kicks in second half as well

Mike Neal at OLB:  Mike will play in some rush situations

Quarterback situation:  Vince Young’s playlist has increased and will have more opportunities than last week.  Plan is to give Rodgers twice as many snaps as last week

Preseason play calling:  Not a big believer of calling “gadget” plays in preseason.  Save those for regular season.

Adversity defense:  How the defense prepares for the game and responds after other team makes a big play.  This is a focus this season

———————-

 

12

August

Word of Hobbes: Marshall Newhouse and David Bakhtiari

One of the best football writers out there is Ben Muth; many people claim not to know much about offensive line play, but this man obviously is not one of them.  If you don’t follow or read his stuff, stop reading this article and head over there now,  you’ll thank me later.  In a little bit of a homage, I’ve decided to do a “Word of Hobbes” on the Packers preseason opener against the Arizona Cardinals.  I choose Aaron Rodgers’ 50 yard bomb to James Jones not because it was a big play, but because Rodger’s held on to the ball longer than he probably should have, thus forcing the offensive linemen to hold their blocks a lot longer, which exposes technique and athleticism.

Screen shot 2013-08-11 at 8.10.11 AM

The Packers are in a 3-1-1 personnel group (3 WR-1TE-1RB), although since we are looking at offensive tackle play this is largely unimportant; perhaps the most important thing to note about the receivers is that neither the tight end nor the running back are responsible for any blocking assignment, both immediately go out on their routes without chipping or really trying to influence the defensive line.  So for all intents and purposes this is a straight 5 OL vs 4 DL battle. As this is the preseason, you aren’t going to see many complicated stunts or exotic blitzes, so really it’s a 1 on 1 battle with rookie left tackle David Bakhtiari vs. Matt Shaughnessy and right tackle Marshall Newhouse vs. Calais Campbell.  Also keep in mind Newhouse has the bigger issue on his hands as Campbell is a considerably better pass rusher than Shaughnessy and is also huge at 6’8″

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Immediately after the snap Campbell goes for a swim move, and Newhouse makes matters worse by completely whiffing on his initial punch with his right arm (which you can see is at Campbell’s left arm instead of on his frame).  Shaughnessy on the other hand opts to go with a pure speed pass rush, either hoping to outrun or outturn Bakhtiari to the quarterback.  However Bakhtiari easily matches Shaughnessy with his kick slide.  Also notice how much lower Bakhtiari and how much more his hips are sinked compared to Newhouse, who due to his whiffed punch now is up close with Campbell

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22

July

Packers OL Andrew Datko: Training Camp Dark Horse or Off the Team?

Packers offensive lineman Andrew Datko

We don’t know much about Packers offensive lineman Andrew Datko because he was stashed away on the practice squad all of last season.

What we did know about him after the Packers drafted him in the seventh round in 2012 we’ve probably already forgotten because, well, he was on the practice squad all of last season.

Because the Packers offensive line situation always seems to be in some sort of disrepair, it’s important that we keep any offensive lineman who can walk upright fresh on our mind before training camp battles begin.

Here’s a refresher on Datko so you don’t have to ask yourself “Who is that guy?” should Datko make some noise during camp.

  • At Florida State, Datko started 12 of 13 games as a true freshman at left tackle. Even though he only weighed 260 pounds, he still had 21 knockdown blocks. Talk about starting your college career with a bang.  
  • He started all 13 games his sophomore season and only allowed two sacks. In 11 games as a junior, he only allowed one sack.
  • Things went downhill from there. After starting the first four games of his senior season, Datko hurt his shoulder — the same shoulder he hurt in high school. The injury required surgery in November and Datko couldn’t lift at the NFL combine, causing him to freefall down draft boards and fall right off many of them.
  • Physically, Datko is the type of offensive lineman the Packers like to draft: A successful college left tackle (when healthy) who is athletic, versatile and could theoretically play multiple positions.
  • Datko’s ceiling in 2013 is winning the Packers sixth man job along the offensive line. If he does that, both Datko and the Packers have to be ecstatic. It would mean the 6-foot-6, 315 pounder is healthy and Ted Thompson can breathe a little bit easier if Derek Sherrod is a lost cause.
  • Obviously, Datko’s worst-case scenario is the shoulder acting up again and getting cut.
  • Realistically, look for Datko to be in the mix for the seventh or eighth offensive line slot, probably not the sixth. The sixth-man job likely goes to the loser of the battle to start at right tackle. Datko lined up at guard during OTAs, which also helps his chances of making the team, if healthy.