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Packers have high hopes for Lang, Underwood

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Dan Arkush

darkush@pfwmedia.com
Executive editor

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Posted Feb. 27, 2010 @ 12:24 p.m. ET
By Dan Arkush

All things considered, the Packers have to be very satisfied with a 2009 draft crop from which all but one selection — fifth-round OT Jamon Meredith, who was signed to the practice squad and picked up by the Bills — made their presence felt in varying degrees.

In a sense, though, the evaluation process has only just begun for the '09 group, with the Packers placing major emphasis on the strides and setbacks their players make in their second season.

Last year, the sophomore strides made by TE Jermichael Finley, who became a primary target for Aaron Rodgers in the quarterback's second year as a starter, and ORG Josh Sitton, who turned out to be the team's most consistent offensive lineman, were instrumental in the Packers' push to the playoffs the second half of the season.

"I think one of the biggest things in a player's development is that window from Year One to Year Two," Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said at the Combine. "And this year there are two players from our rookie class last year that I really think can make an eventual impact — (OL) T.J. Lang and (CB) Brandon Underwood."

Of the two, Lang, a fourth-round pick out of Eastern Michigan who made two starts at left tackle and one start at right tackle in his rookie campaign, appears to have a bigger initial upside as either a potential starter at right tackle in case free agent Mark Tauscher signs elsewhere or left guard in place of Daryn Colledge, who had a very uneven '09 season.

"We like T.J. a lot," said Packers GM Ted Thompson. "He has great versatility and the game's not too big for him. He thinks he can play, and we're glad to have him as part of our group. How he factors into the starting lineup, we'll just have to wait and see." 

As for Underwood, he could be an under-the-radar Packer really worth watching.

"He definitely has the size and athletic ability to play bump-and-run, and he really started to come into his own on special teams," McCarthy said. "We probably didn't want to play him as early as we had to on defense, but I thought he did some really good things when he started to get his feet underneath him. He showed he has the ability to play in our scheme and has tremendous upside."

For the most authoritative NFL draft news and free-agency analysis, visit ProFootballWeekly.com.

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