T.J. Lang was back on the field at practice on Wednesday, enabling the Green Bay Packers to resume the starting right-tackle competition between Marshall Newhouse and Don Barclay.
Lang played one series in Friday night’s 17-0 loss to Arizona with the first team line, but sat out two practices sandwiching the exhibition game with a back injury, pushing Barclay away from the heat of competition at tackle and into the starting spot at right guard during a majority of team drills.
The fifth-year starting guard wound up feeling well enough to do more than originally anticipated during Wednesday’s 2-hour, 30-minute practice session, allowing Barclay and Newhouse to rotate with the first-team offense.
Both of the 24-year-old offensive linemen subbed regularly at right tackle with Barclay receiving the first few snaps during the final no-huddle period before Newhouse came in for the last five.
Barclay’s versatility and experience playing all five positions on the line has made him an intriguing prospect as the team’s sixth offensive linemen, but he’s still very much in the running for the right-tackle spot he inherited last season after Bryan Bulaga went down with a season-ending hip injury.
However, it just so happens he’s also competing against last year’s starting left tackle in Newhouse, who bumped to the right side when the organization made the decision to move Bulaga and Josh Sitton to the left side of the line this offseason.
“You’d really love in a perfect scenario for players to stack up, put them in a line and let the best guy win. You’d sure like to do that,” Packers offensive line coach James Campen said. “But right now, being that it is training camp we’re getting closer to that. Certainly, the flexibility also helps players emerge. If Donny wasn’t flexible last year – if you’re just going to say, ‘OK, you’re just going to play this position.’ You’re limiting an opportunity for a guy to shine in other areas, too.”
After seeing 30 offensive snaps on Friday, Barclay received praise from Packers coach Mike McCarthy for his performance while Newhouse’s relatively solid night working at both left and right tackle seemed to be overshadowed by one play.
However, that one play was critical as veteran John Abraham to breezed past him to force a Graham Harrell fumble off a sack and spur the questions on if the Packers should consider a change.
“Me and Marsh are real close. He battles every day, I’m going out with the same mentality, doing the same thing,” said Barclay, who started the last six games at right tackle (playoffs included). “At the end of the day, it’s everyone’s goal to get a starting spot. Everyone’s close in here no matter what happens.”
Both Campen and McCarthy have acknowledged the importance of identifying and sticking with one starter at right tackle prior to the start of the regular season, but with three preseason games left aren’t in a hurry, either.
“I think it’s one that everyone would like to answer, myself included. But that’s really the responsibility of the players,” McCarthy said. “My priority as far as the coaching staff and the outlook and how we prepare each and every day is to create opportunities for these players. If you get our quality of play to rise from week to week, and I thought we improved as a football team today on the practice field.”