Facing the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, the second worst-thing that could ever happen to the Green Bay Packers happened. No, quarterback Aaron Rodgers didn’t get hurt (that’d be number one), but they suffered another injury on the offensive line.
Left-guard-turned-right-tackle T.J. Lang suffered an ankle injury that forced undrafted rookie Don Barclay into the lineup for the first time of his young career. And this happened a week after the offensive line got brutalized by a New York Giants’ defensive line that flustered, hit, pressured, hurried, and sacked Rodgers from the opening kickoff onward.
I have a lot of faith in the Green Bay Packers and am not prone to panic because I think they’re the best team in the world and can beat anyone, but I will admit that I was on the verge of despondent tears when I saw Lang limp off to the sideline.
Barclay played adequately in his first real game, however. He was responsible for more than a couple of holding penalties – which became a frustrating theme in the game – but played well enough within the unit to give Rodgers time to look downfield. Rodgers was sacked twice in the game and hit four times. Not great, but a veritable triumph after the five-sack, seven-hit, 147-pressure showing last week. Rodgers’ two sacks only led to a loss of three yards, which is the silver lining in the sacks.
The offensive line still has much room for improvement – fewer sacks and fewer penalties should be the priority – but gave fans a reason not to despair. The line also deserves high praise for their role in the running game, which found life on Sunday.
Lang’s injury does not appear to be too serious, and hopefully he won’t miss any extended time. An interesting question that arises from Barclay’s ability to hold his own, however, is whether he’s good enough to leapfrog current lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith. If so, this would allow Barclay to take over at right tackle and allow Lang return to his original spot – left guard – when Lang returns.
This is pretty unlikely since the Packers are committed to putting the best five guys they have on the field without too much concern for their natural positions, and Dietrich-Smith is much more battle-tested than Barclay. At this time of the year, it would not be wise to play around with protection, especially at a position that is dependent on chemistry with other lineman. I’m crossing my fingers that the Pack can stay healthy the rest of the way, but it’s still good to know they have a backup in Barclay who can be depended on.