GREEN BAY – No one need be concerned that Lane Taylor will rest easy now that he’s an NFL starter.
It’s just not how he’s wired.
Taylor’s first extended test as a regular was thrust upon him unexpectedly at the end of training camp last year, and he passed with flying colors. He started all 19 games, including playoffs, at left guard in place of Josh Sitton, who was released on the eve of Week 1.
The transition to Taylor for the offensive line became the non-story of the season. As the lone new guy on a unit that had been mostly intact for the previous two years, Taylor fit in smoothly and efficiently.
But Taylor hasn’t let his breakthrough success change him.
“I don’t think there were too many days in January, February or March, even before the offseason program started, that I didn’t see Lane Taylor in here working out,” Head Coach Mike McCarthy said as minicamp wrapped up last week.
“He’s highly committed. He’s taken a big step in the offensive line room as far as leadership, and he’s setting himself up for an outstanding season.”
Taylor doesn’t do or say much to get noticed off the field – “He’s a quieter dude, if you can characterize any of us as quiet,” center Corey Linsley said with a smile – preferring to let his on-field work do the talking.
The approach has worked, ever since arriving as an undrafted rookie from Oklahoma State in 2013 and taking the tough road to a roster spot.
He got a couple of starts in 2015 as an injury fill-in, one at each guard spot, and earned a new contract in the offseason. Then came 2016’s late-summer shake-up, but Taylor was never rattled.
“Lane did exactly what he was supposed to do – he kept his nose down and he just played,” McCarthy said. “He played hard, he played physical. He played extremely hard in the run game and did some really good things in pass protection.
“Most important, he was there every game, so he’s got that under his belt.”
Last year provides a strong foundation for Taylor moving forward.
To the surprise of many at the time, his promise and potential allowed the Packers to feel comfortable letting go a three-time Pro Bowl guard last year with the regular season right around the corner.
He proved the Packers right and has repaid the team for its faith in him ever since.
On a team that annually gives several undrafted linemen a chance to prove they belong in the NFL, Taylor is a worthy role model to others breaking in the same way.
“I’ve noticed this year he’s a lot more confident,” offensive line coach James Campen said. “Obviously when you play, you gain that confidence, and he’s actually helping the younger guys in the room. It’s very encouraging to see someone do that.
“Lane is a fundamentally sound player. He’s had to come up as a free agent and do the things necessary to start, so certainly he’s a good person to follow in that room.”
The offensive line is dealing with another major change, as veteran and six-time Pro Bowler Jahri Evans takes over for the departed T.J. Lang at right guard, leaving Taylor still with the fewest career starts amongst the first-string group.
But just like last year, that won’t faze him. He certainly doesn’t feel like the new guy anymore.
“It’s definitely different, just from an awareness standpoint, understanding defenses, understanding blitzes and what not,” Taylor said. “I knew it before, but when you actually are in the game, in the fire, now it becomes more second-nature.”
So is the chemistry with his playing partners, left tackle David Bakhtiari and Linsley. Even though Linsley sat out OTAs and minicamp recovering from an injury, Taylor still appreciated the opportunity to get all the spring reps at left guard with the No. 1 unit.
He was able to concentrate on “fine-tuning” for the season, rather than fret about a roster spot or playing time. It was a mental load off, even though his winter workout schedule showed he never physically relaxed.
Taylor’s consistency in that regard has developed into one of his best traits.
“He’s always the same guy day in and day out,” Linsley said. “There’s no ups and downs with Lane. He’s always on his game, and at practice, he’s the same dude out there giving it his all. He has the same amount of focus all the time.”