Green Bay offensive line still a work in progress
The Green Bay Packers went into training camp focused on doing a better job of protecting Aaron Rodgers.
The early returns have not been encouraging.
Having allowed nine sacks through two pre-season games, the team's protection problems appear to be deeper than simply deciding whether to start TJ Lang or Derek Sherrod, the rookie first-round pick, at left guard.
Since Rodgers took over at quarterback from Brett Favre three years ago, the Packers have given up 123 sacks, an average of 41 per season.
In the five years before that, they allowed an average of 20.6 sacks per season.
While the ability of Rodgers to extend plays on his feet is a factor in the increased number of sacks, his numbers (34 in 2008, a league-high 50 in 2009 and 31 last year) are still too high, Joe Philbin, the offensive co-ordinator, said.
"If you look at our offensive production since [Rodgers] has become the quarterback, the one thing that doesn't fit what we're all about is the amount of sacks we've had," Philbin said.
"We rank about 27th in the league, where we used to be in the top five. So that's an emphasis. We did not get off to a good start with five sacks [in the first pre-season game]. That's not anywhere near where we want to be. So it's a little bit frustrating.
"We've got to do a better job."
Given how much Sherrod has struggled so far this pre-season, it came as no surprise when Mike McCarthy, the coach, decided to start Lang this week at Indianapolis and in the September 8 regular-season opener against New Orleans.
Sherrod, who was playing out of position at left guard after playing only at tackle in college at Mississippi State, sprained his knee against the Arizona Cardinals last weekend, but McCarthy said the injury had little bearing on the decision.
Lang, meanwhile, was rewarded for his professional approach."I've been here long enough to know that the depth chart can change day by day," he said. "It's my job now to play to a higher level and be an impact player for this team. I don't want to come in as a new starter for this team and have any glaring holes. I want to fill that spot and do my job."
Lang said he was motivated by the coaches giving Sherrod most of the work with the first team.
"Honestly, it made me work that much harder. I don't know if that was their goal, to kind of light a fire under [me], but whatever they did, it definitely worked," Lang said.
"Now I'm ready to set new goals for myself: be an impact player and be a guy that goes out there game after game and be consistent and continue to do my job."
Published: August 24, 2011 04:00 AM