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Packers Guard Lane Taylor Passes First Test; Bigger Test Awaits

The starting point of Minnesota's defense is its tandem of defensive tackles.

The expiration date from Sunday’s season-opening victory at Jacksonville hit quickly for the Green Bay Packers and their new-look offensive line.

“About 35 seconds ago,” center J.C. Tretter said on Monday afternoon, about 24 hours after the Packers walked off the field with a 27-23 win. “That’s when we left the meeting room. We’re done with Jacksonville. Now, we’re on to Minnesota.”

The Jaguars have an up-and-coming defense. The Vikings’ defense, however, has arrived and will pose a much tougher challenge for Green Bay’s offensive line, which was shaken to its core by the surprising release of two-time All-Pro guard Josh Sitton during final cuts last Saturday.

Sitton’s replacement, left guard Lane Taylor, fared well in his third career start. He squared off frequently against the Jaguars’ prized offseason signing, defensive tackle Malik Jackson. It was a tough opening challenge and “I was ready for it,” Taylor said. “I’ve played before and I know what it’s like. I was ready to go.”

Taylor was up to the task. On a tone-setting fourth-and-1 on the opening series, he and left tackle David Bakhtiari delivered the key blocks on Eddie Lacy’s 9-yard run that set up the opening touchdown. Taylor said there was no hidden meaning in that run.

“To tell you the truth, I didn’t even know,” Taylor said. “That play could hit in several different places. It happened to come behind me and Dave. We had a good block and were able to execute. It was fourth down. We had to answer.”

While Taylor allowed a couple of pressures, he played a key role in Green Bay allowing one sack — a 0-yard scramble by quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Most importantly, Rodgers generally had the firm pocket necessary for him to extend plays.

“It was great,” Rodgers said of the protection after the game. “I think I screwed them on that one (sack). The last thing you want to do is take a 0-yard run because that counts as a sack. I thought the protection was very good and I thought Lane played really well. I'm happy. The line as a whole played great. (The pass rush) seemed to be high and wide on the outside and the middle (of the pocket) was very firm. That’s just how you like it.”

Tretter was impressed by the performance of his new left-hand man against a strong Jaguars front four.

"They’ve invested heavily in their defensive front and we did a good job of handling the stuff that they brought," Tretter said. "They brought a lot to the left side to test Lane and Lane was up for the challenge. Him and Dave did really well together and worked well together passing off games. It was a good defense. To hold them to close to no sacks was an accomplishment."

Taylor’s second career start came against Minnesota in last year’s regular-season finale. Taylor played well but the Vikings sprung the upset to seize the NFC North championship and end the Packers’ five-year reign. Jackson is a terrific player but the Vikings have one of the top interior tandems with Linval Joseph and Sharrif Floyd.

They power one of the NFL’s top defenses. That unit dominated Sunday’s 25-16 victory at Tennessee. Minnesota held the Titans to 64 rushing yards and 2.91 yards per carry, figures that ranked fourth and fifth in the league, respectively, heading into Monday night’s games. If that’s not enough, the Vikings’ defense scored two touchdowns, with linebacker Eric Kendricks returning an interception and defensive end Danielle Hunter scoring on returns.

Green Bay’s offensive success (or failure) will be keyed by the line and whether it can take a significant step forward after a chaotic first week together.

“I felt like it went well,” Bakhtiari said. “We went out there and were able to execute and did a lot of good things. There’s some things we need to work on but, overall, I was pleased. I like where we’re at.”

Bill Huber is publisher of 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 www.twitter.com/PackerReport.


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