Lang's Challenge Not As Daunting This Time

If T.J. Lang starts at left tackle in place of veteran Chad Clifton, at least he will get Jared Allen on somewhat even footing on Sunday. Packer Report corralled Lang on his way out of the locker room on Friday.

Last Friday, T.J. Lang cleared up whatever mystery there was by saying he'd be starting at left tackle at Cleveland.

Hey, rookie, how about this week?

"I have no idea," Lang said.

The bull's-eye will be on whoever lines up at left tackle for Sunday's showdown against Minnesota. In the matchup at the Metrodome last month, Jared Allen beat fill-in left tackle Daryn Colledge for 3.5 sacks and beat Lang for another in the fourth quarter.

Veteran Chad Clifton returned to practice on Friday and was a full participant, though he didn't take all of the first-team reps. He's listed as questionable on the injury report, meaning there's a 50 percent chance he'll be available for Sunday's rematch.

Coach Mike McCarthy said he'd "probably" make his decision on Saturday night.

If Lang gets the call, the challenge this time won't be nearly as daunting as it was at the Metrodome on Oct. 5. How could it be any more difficult than coming in cold off the bench in the fourth quarter, with the Packers behind 28-14, with the crowd in a frenzy, with the offense backed up and with Allen knowing that the Packers had to throw the ball?

"Especially up there, it was real tough," Lang said. "The crowd noise, everything, it was tough. The speed of the game was so fast. You know, Monday night, it's loud up there, it's rocking. It was my first time really getting some experience. I think I did some good things, also some things I've learned from and I think I've corrected those. If I get to play this weekend, I'm looking forward to show what I can do and do my part to help this team win."

Of Allen's 7.5 sacks this season, all have come on turf. Of his 14.5 sacks last season, 10.5 came on turf. Breaking it down, that equates to 0.75 sacks per game on artificial turf compared to 0.5 sacks per game on grass. And with a home game meaning the crowd noise won't be an issue, the playing field will be a lot more even.


Jared Allen dominated the Packers in Round 1.
Tom Olmscheid/AP Images
With a league-high 65 sacks since the start of the 2004 season, any little edge will be welcomed by Lang.

"I think it's a great opportunity if I have a chance to play," said Lang, who was almost spotless in making his first NFL start last week at Cleveland. "I'd be going against one of the premier pass rushers in the league. It's an opportunity for me to make a name for myself if I get to play. It's also a great opportunity for the team. We feel good about our preparation this week. They got into us a little bit last time we played them. We're going to take some pride in doing our job this week up front and especially keeping Aaron clean. We keep him clean — last week we showed we could do that — and he made some good things happen."

Speaking on a conference call with Packers beat reporters on Wednesday, Allen said he'd prepare for both Clifton and Lang. Clifton held Allen to no sacks and no tackles during last year's game at Lambeau Field,

"I enjoy playing against Clifton," Allen said. "He's a good player, we have good battles. You put a rookie over there, that's all part of it. We'll see how salivated I am come Sunday."

Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier expects the Packers to pay a little extra attention to Allen after what happened a month ago. His counterpart on Sunday, offensive coordinator Joe Philbin, agreed with that assessment.

"Certainly, he's a guy when you game plan things, you're aware of every time you design a play, every time you call a dropback pass, there's a risk-reward involved and you've got to figure out (if you can block him)," Philbin said.

"You give it some thought, you give it some consideration. Obviously, with the production he had a couple weeks ago, you might give it a little more consideration."


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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. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.


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