Dietrich-Smith's Ankle Leaves Line In Flux

Center Evan Dietrich-Smith will test his injured ankle on Saturday. If the test doesn't go well, T.J. Lang would likely start at center. Then what? Among the many possibilities would be Lane Taylor making his starting debut, which a grinning Taylor said would be "awesome."

Depending on the state of center Evan Dietrich-Smith's ankle and the results of his Saturday workout, the Green Bay Packers might be forced to play everyone's favorite game of musical chairs on Sunday against Atlanta.

Without a true backup center on the roster, the Packers would be forced to move right guard T.J. Lang into the middle.

From there, there's a degree of mystery about the next domino or dominos to fall.

After Dietrich-Smith sustained a knee injury in the second quarter at Detroit, the Packers moved Lang to center, inserted Marshall Newhouse at right guard and kept Don Barclay at right tackle. The results were not good, as the Packers ran 16 plays, gained 19 yards and picked up two first downs in the next five possessions.

The Packers could go that route again. Or they could go with Barclay or Newhouse at right guard and plug in Derek Sherrod at right tackle. Sherrod, the 2011 first-round pick, played the final series against Detroit — his first offensive action since breaking a leg two years ago at Kansas City.

For the sake of simplicity, the Packers could do what they did during the fourth quarter at Detroit. For the final two series, the Packers benched Newhouse and replaced him at right guard with undrafted rookie Lane Taylor.

At Oklahoma State, Taylor (6-3, 324) started 47 games at right guard and did not allow a sack in his final three seasons. He had a predraft visit with the Packers, went undrafted, and signed with Green Bay for a $7,000 signing bonus.

Taylor has worked primarily at right guard this year, offensive line coach James Campen said on Thursday. If you're into reading between the lines, having a dedicated backup for Lang would make sense considering Lang is the backup center. Against Detroit, Taylor played nine snaps in his two series, running his season snap count to just 14.

"It's been all right," Taylor said on Friday of the adjustment between college stalwart and professional backup. "I've been able to get out there and at least do field goal. It's a little different. I've gone from being a four-year starter and every game knowing I get to play to barely getting in there. It's something I expected going into the NFL with all the good veterans that we have. It's all part of the process. I'm just plugging away and trying to get better every day."

With only sporadic game action since the preseason and with padded practices limited by the CBA, the Packers' injury situation and the Thursday game, Taylor said improvement as been as much mental as physical.

"Mentally, you've got to be on and you've got to know your stuff," he said. "Physically, when you go out there for practice, make sure you're doing things right. Whenever you're getting your look-team reps, you want to make every rep count."

Will Taylor make his first NFL start on Sunday? That remains to be seen. Mum was the word in the locker room.

"If I were to (play), I'd be ready to go," he said. "I've prepared and done all I can do. Now I'm ready to go."

How cool would it be to get the call on Sunday?

"It'd be awesome," Taylor said with a huge grin. "It'd be really awesome."


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


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