Rookie linemen learning their roles

Fifth-round pick Jamon Meredith might spend season learning behind left tackle Chad Clifton; fourth-round pick T.J. Lang — who his collegiate position coach lauds for his competitiveness — could battle for a starting job at guard or right tackle.

A couple of days into the Packers' rookie orientation camp, the roles of their two rookie offensive linemen aren't quite as foggy as they were on draft day.

During Friday's practice — the only one of the three-day camp that was open to reporters — fifth-round pick Jamon Meredith took practically all of his snaps at left tackle.

Asked if that was by design — in other words, because Meredith was the only player qualified to play there during this camp — or whether left tackle was the Packers' position of choice for Meredith, coach Mike McCarthy said: "That's the position we really evaluated him for. I knew he moved to guard, but that is something our regional scout there, Brian Gutekunst, definitely felt that he had that ability. We want to take a real long look at him at left tackle."

Of course, there's a long time between now and the season opener, and plenty can change. But assuming the Packers like the athletic Meredith's potential at left tackle and longtime left tackle Chad Clifton stays healthy and is playing at a high level, Meredith is destined to spend his rookie season watching and waiting his turn.

That might be good for him. At 6-foot-5 and 298 pounds, he doesn't exactly cast an intimidating shadow, even though he was one of the strongest offensive linemen at the Scouting Combine. Meredith readily admits he needs to add some weight — and not necessarily cafeteria weight.

"I think I'm real raw and obviously I need coaching technique-wise," said Meredith, who started at left tackle as a sophomore and junior at South Carolina but played left guard as a senior. "I think I can be molded into something special. I think the coaches see that, too."

Fourth-round pick T.J. Lang, on the other hand, spent his Friday alternating between right tackle and the guard spots. At this point, it's anyone's guess where Lang will wind up this season.

"We really don't have that set yet," McCarthy said. "That's something that, Lang could be inside, too. He definitely has the strength levels for a young player to come into this league. I thought that was very apparent. He really reminds me a lot of a number of our current linemen. I really like the way he fits in with that group."

Obviously, there's a void at right tackle, where longtime starter Mark Tauscher is a free agent and coming off of a torn ACL. Among the contenders are veteran Tony Moll, who failed to seize control of the position when Tauscher went down last season; third-year pro Allen Barbre, who failed to make a run at a starting job at guard last season; and Breno Giacomini, who didn't play a meaningful snap from scrimmage last season as a rookie and is coming off of ankle surgery.

So, Lang has a chance to earn a job there. Or, the Packers could swing Daryn Colledge from left guard to right tackle, which would open that guard spot for competition.

"Not really," Lang told Packer Report on Saturday when asked whether he's considered the possibility of starting this season. "This weekend, I'm focusing on learning the plays and learning the offense. I don't really know where they're going to want me to play, but I'll be more than happy to play inside or outside. It's up to the coaches. Whatever role they want to give me, that's the role I'm going to play, and I'm going to be happy with it. Whether it's at right tackle, center, guard, left tackle, whatever. I think I can come in and add to the group. We'll see what happens."

Lang and Meredith were impressive during one-on-one pass-rushing drills on Friday. Lang stopped B.J. Raji in his tracks during one of the marquee reps. While there are questions about Meredith's will to become a dominant lineman, there are no such questions about Lang. He spent his first season at Eastern Michigan at defensive end before moving to offense. He lined up as the starting right tackle during his first practice on offense. He was the starting left tackle as a junior and senior.

His offensive line coach at Eastern Michigan, Kurt Anderson, arrived at the school last season. Before that, he worked at Michigan, where Jake Long was the first overall pick of the 2008 draft. Anderson said Lang would have been the second-best lineman on that Michigan team.

"Yeah, he's a really aggressive kid," Anderson told Packer Report for a magazine feature on Lang. "He really likes physical contact. He's a competitor in every sense of the term. He's going to compete every single day, and it's going to be nonstop, whether it's on the field or the classroom."


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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 packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Bill also is giving Facebook and Twitter a try. Find him on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook.


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