GREEN BAY – Lane Taylor took first-team reps at left guard the entire offseason. He took first-team reps at left guard in the first couple weeks of training camp.
Then, the curveball.
Taylor was the only projected starter on the Green Bay Packers' offensive line to play in the preseason opener against the Houston Texans.
While the other four starters got to rest during the opener, Taylor — it turned out — was embroiled in a competition with rookie Elgton Jenkins. That competition could have been hard to predict, given Taylor — and not Jenkins — was consistently getting reps on the starting line since May.
Even Taylor, who started the past three years, didn’t know he was actually in a competition until 24 hours before kickoff against Houston.
“Obviously, it’s not the most exciting thing to ever hear in the world,” Taylor said, “but on the other hand, you’ve got to earn your spot. To tell you the truth, when it really comes down to it, you take all the emotions out of it and all of that stuff. You’ve got to earn your spot.”
In the revolving door of an NFL roster, Taylor is seeing the other side of what he experienced before the 2016 season. Back then, he was the young lineman in a surprising battle with veteran Josh Sitton, an All-Pro whom everyone viewed as the presumptive starter. Instead, the Packers released Sitton at the end of training camp, and Taylor was promoted to the top of the depth chart.
Taylor has played mostly well since then, though 2018 was not his best season. An ankle injury wiped out all of Taylor’s practice availability last offseason. Taylor has said the injury lingered toward the middle part of last season.
Regardless, if Taylor’s play has never been as dominant as Sitton's, he has rarely been an issue in the middle of the Packers’ offensive line. He’s also under contract for the next two years.
“Honestly, it’s part of the business,” Taylor said. “You’re never going to go through this thing without competition, really, no matter who you are. I clawed my way to get to where I’m at now, so it’s nothing new for me.
“I think I’ve done good. I don’t think I’m out of place in this scheme at all. I can fit in any scheme, really.”
The Packers drafted Jenkins in the second round last spring, planning to play him at guard. A lineman drafted that high (44th overall) isn’t expected to stay on the sideline long. The Packers presumably believe Jenkins is a more ideal scheme fit in new head coach Matt LaFleur’s outside zone.
“They drafted a guy high,” Taylor said, “so you know they’re going to want to get him in there and play him.”
Taylor adjusted his preparation this offseason to better fit LaFleur’s scheme, which calls for more lateral quickness and blocking side to side instead of directly downhill. The seventh-year veteran said he trimmed 10 to 15 pounds, expecting now to weigh 320 on game days. He’s hoping less weight makes him nimbler.
Even after the competition became official, Taylor has continued taking most of the first-team reps. He started the past two exhibitions at left guard, not Jenkins. It would be easy to discard the notion Taylor’s job is in legitimate jeopardy come Week 1.
Taylor, though, said he’s taking the competition seriously.
“I know I’m a starter and I can play,” Taylor said. “So I’m not worried about all that. I’m just trying to take care of business. My plan is to be here and keep rolling on the season.”