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Moll's Ticket Could Be At Left Tackle


As a rookie in 2006, Tony Moll made a name for himself on the Packers' offensive line by starting five games at one position (right guard) and then filling in for an injured Mark Tauscher for five games at another position (right tackle).

Two years later, relegated to a backup role amidst intense competition up front, Moll has been charged with showing even greater versatility to stay in the fight for a roster spot.

Through the first week of training camp, Moll has been taking virtually all of his snaps at another new position - left tackle. Since camp opened on Monday, he's been the primary backup to veteran starter Chad Clifton, even taking several snaps with the No. 1 offense when Clifton is getting his customary rest.

In his first two years with the Packers, Moll was almost exclusively a right-side player, so the switch is no small matter, especially for a converted tight end who played only his final season in college (at Nevada) at tackle to begin with. But Moll thus far has made the adjustment pretty smoothly, and he was mentally prepared for the switch before Monday's first practice.

"It's something we discussed in the offseason to work (toward) as a goal, to get me over to the left side playing left tackle," Moll said. "I'm still not going to be forgetting my roles. I've been mostly playing in games at right guard and filling in at right tackle for Mark as well.

"I'd like to say I'm hopefully one of the utility guys that will be able to make the team."

Offensive line coach James Campen said the switch with Moll has coincided with flipping Orrin Thompson, primarily a backup left tackle during spring workouts, to the right side. In the meantime, Moll's "old" No. 2 right guard and tackle spots are being filled by rookie draft picks Josh Sitton and Breno Giacomini, respectively.

The switching with the veterans is all in an effort to see which linemen can provide the most value in a reserve role, knowing that during regular season games the roster drops from 53 to just 45 active players.

"You dress seven, sometimes eight (offensive linemen) on gamedays, so with the guys that are in the backup role for that week, it certainly gives you some flexibility if they can play more than one position," Campen said.

Campen anticipated Moll having little trouble with the change, in part because his college work at tackle, however limited, did include time on both sides of the line.

For Moll, the biggest adjustment is in his body position and footwork, performing the mirror image of what he's accustomed to doing. He's had his ups and downs during the one-on-one pass rush/pass blocking drills, but that's to be expected this early in the transition.

"The biggest difference is you get comfortable being in one stance, having your hip open up one way while the other one stays closed, and keeping your weight looking balanced when you're actually pushing it one way getting ready for a play," Moll said.

"Now everything is the exact opposite. You have to train your right foot to act as your left foot, and vice versa. That part is tough, but it's coming along. I think every practice getting reps I'm seeing improvement."

{sportsad300}Moll is helping himself by studying the playbook even more thoroughly. The better he knows the blocking and protection schemes against certain defensive fronts - from any position on the line - the more he can make the center's protection call in his own mind and then simply focus on his technique and footwork to execute the play.

Another focus of Moll's is his health, which caused plenty of struggles last season. Moll sustained a neck stinger right after the Family Night scrimmage last year, and an all-too-quick recurrence forced him to miss all the preseason games.

He started three games at right guard in midseason as an injury substitute, but in that third start (at Kansas City, Nov. 4), he re-aggravated the neck stinger again.

He spent part of the recently completed offseason program focusing on strengthening and stretching his neck muscles to hopefully prevent any more stingers. While there are no guarantees, training camp this year has been so far, so good.

"I feel good. I feel confident," he said. "I'm not going to count my chickens before they hatch, but I'm just going day by day, practice by practice, trying to stay focused and put myself in a position where I won't get injured."

If he doesn't, he could get the ultimate summer test for any "rookie" left tackle, which would be to protect his quarterback's blind side in a preseason game. That's when Moll's versatility will be tested most. Or better said, again.

"He looks good. He's in good shape and he's working his tail off," Campen said. "Everybody is in a tough battle. We have 14 kids in that (offensive line) room that are all battling, every single one of them."

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