GREEN BAY - Intentional or not, the Green Bay Packers wasted no time before lining up for their initial fourth-down attempt of the season, and the direction of Eddie Lacy’s plunge was impossible not to notice.
Left B gap. Behind Lane Taylor.
Coach Mike McCarthy called Taylor’s number as much as he called Lacy’s on the fourth play of the Packers' 27-23 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. Needing a yard, Lacy picked up nine behind the left side of the Packers' offensive line, extending a drive that ended with a touchdown and 7-0 lead.
When asked about the play Monday, offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett cracked a smile.
“It helps the confidence,” Bennett said. “No doubt about that. For us to be in that position, fourth-and-1 and we go for it, it speaks volumes.”
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Bennett said it was a boost for the entire offensive line, not just Taylor.
Indeed, Taylor wasn’t the only one who made a critical block. Left tackle David Bakhtiari blocked inside to support Taylor with a double team against Jaguars defensive tackle Malik Jackson. Even receiver Randall Cobb got in on the action, throwing a surprise cut block against Jaguars defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. from the left flank.
It was perhaps the best example how the Packers helped Taylor through his first start. An interior offensive lineman can be protected schematically, and the Packers used Bakhtiari often as an extra assist in blocking patterns.
Bakhtiari said that chemistry should only improve in future weeks.
“For us,” Bakhtiari said, “just week in and week out, understanding each other better, knowing where we’re going to be, our mannerisms and communications, and just fit. For your untrained eye, it’s like, ‘How heavy does he lay on certain blocks? How much do I need to come over? How much does he feel me? He does this move, so I need to compensate.’ It’s just that stuff that's truly time, you can’t really rush it, but I think we’re on the right track and the right path.”
In the locker room Sunday, Taylor described his debut as full-time starter as “definitely solid.” He was hardly noticeable, which is a good thing for interior offensive linemen. He also was savvy enough to stand up in his stance when Jackson crossed the neutral zone, drawing a 5-yard penalty.
Taylor stopped short of calling Sunday’s game an audition to keep his job, but he knew a poor outing could have cost himself the opportunity. He won’t have to worry about that entering Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Vikings.
“Obviously, you want to go out there and play a good game,” Taylor said. “There’s not a time that you don’t. If you’re a backup and you go in there, you’ve got to play well. If you’re a starter and you go in there, you have to play well. We all hold each other accountable to do your job, and I felt like I did.”
So did Bakhtiari.
A week after losing a friend when the Packers released Josh Sitton, Bakhtiari played an important role in Taylor’s success. It started during the week, putting in the time to get on the same page with a guard he’d rarely played with during games. With Sitton gone, Bakhtiari will assume more of a leadership role as the most experienced lineman on the left side.
Bakhtiari said he wasn’t surprised how smoothly Sunday went for the left side of the Packers' offensive line.
“We’re professionals at the end of the day,” Bakhtiari said. “You have to get the work done. I was confident in Lane. I know what Lane can do. I was confident in him. There’s things that I want to work on with him and be more consistent at. You won’t notice the things that we’ll be even better, but to us it makes a big difference.
“By no means are we where we want to be, but I think we’re definitely going off on the right direction. Very proud of what he did, and I’m happy with what we were able to put out there, and I’m excited for the weeks to come.”