Over a nine-year career, Detroit Lions starting right guard T.J. Lang has won a Super Bowl with Green Bay, been to the Pro Bowl twice, and played in 132 NFL games. He's accomplished a lot in his nearly decade-long playing career, but that doesn't mean a player like him can't come into his 10th season in the league with a bit of a chip on his shoulder.
Lang was part of a Lions offensive line last year that dealt with a lot of injuries and performance issues. Detroit started 11 different starting combinations, ranked last in the NFL in rushing, and was part of an offense that collectively allowed 47 sacks.
"Obviously everybody knew about the health, injuries," Lang said. "I don't think anybody's going to sit here and tell you we had a great performance last year, but you know what, since we walked in the door on April 9th, whatever it was, I don't think anybody spoke one word about last year. I think we spoke about what we need to do this year, what we need to improve on, and kept our sights, kept our focus on that.
"But yeah, I think it's human nature to kind of, you always have that in the back of your head that maybe it's some people didn't think you were very good, maybe it's as a unit, as an individual, whatever it is, and I'm sure that drives some guys. Not to be cliché, but I think a lot of guys have some urgency and definitely a little bit of a chip on their shoulder."
On paper, this offensive line has the potential to be good, with health really being the biggest key. Lang and starting right tackle Rick Wagner have a history of success in this league. Graham Glasgow has steadily improved every year, and was graded as the eighth best center in the league last season by Pro Football Focus.
GM Bob Quinn has spent first-round picks on left tackle Taylor Decker in 2016 and this past offseason on interior lineman Frank Ragnow.
PFF is pretty high on Detroit's potential upfront in 2018. They recently slotted the Lions' starting five as the eighth best unit heading into the season.
"The Lions have quietly built an offensive line that could be the best Matthew Stafford has ever played behind," the website wrote. "After signing right guard T.J. Lang and right tackle Rick Wagner last offseason, the Lions drafted PFF's top-rated college center, Arkansas' Frank Ragnow, in the first round this April. Now with Taylor Decker a year removed from a torn pectoral, the Lions have a chance to throw out five quality starters for the first time in a while."
That's a pretty fair assessment, but again, it all hinders on staying healthy.
View photos from Day 5 of 2018 Detroit Lions Training Camp presented by Rocket Mortgage.
"I know everybody wants to talk about the health," Lang said. "We try to control what we control. We try to control our effort, we try to control our attitude and those are two things I think that as long as we show up every day with the right mindset I think we're going to improve every day and that's where our focus is."
Both Quinn and Lions head coach Matt Patricia have talked about the need to be strong in the trenches and up the middle. Patricia made the comment Wednesday that the unique thing about offensive line play is trying to get five guys to see a play through the same pair of eyes.
Quinn's put a lot of resources into the offensive line, and it appears to be a nice collection of complementary parts with the right attitudes.
"Obviously, we've got to work every day," Lang said. "We've got a lot of things we need to improve on, just like every group. We took our lumps last year and I think everybody's making sure we're going to do our part to not let that happen again."