It was barely one month ago when the Green Bay Packers shocked the football world by releasing All-Pro guard Josh Sitton.
Lane Taylor understood the concern and the barrage of questions directed at him and his fellow offensive linemen headed into the opener at Jacksonville.
“I didn’t have a problem with it,” Taylor said on Thursday. “Everyone should have a question about it because, obviously, I’d started two games before then. I felt like it was part of the whole role of becoming the starter. I expected a lot of questions.”
There are a lot fewer questions now.
It’s only been three games, but Taylor has passed his early tests. According to STATS, Taylor hasn’t allowed a sack and hasn’t been penalized. According to Pro Football Focus, Taylor has allowed five pressures but no sacks or quarterback hits.
With no glaring gaffes on his resume, Taylor no longer is a man in demand by reporters. There no longer are, in Taylor’s words, “6 billion eyes” watching his every move.
“Every game, I want to go out there and I don’t want to be a focus of the offense,” Taylor said. “I want to do my job. I don’t want to hurt the team with a negative play or whatever it might be. I always want to go out there and do my job.”
The men who flank Taylor on the Packers’ offensive line are impressed by the job Taylor is done.
For left tackle David Bakhtiari, the release of Sitton meant more than losing a trusted linemate. Sitton was Bakhtiari’s mentor, the veteran who Bakhtiari leaned on when he was thrust into the starting lineup as a rookie. Now, Bakhtiari is dispensing some of that wisdom.
“He’s young, he’s going to fly around and I know he’s got a little nasty side to him,” Bakhtiari said. “You saw that in the preseason. It was the same thing with Josh. The more snaps you have, the more times you play, the more guys you play, the more wisdom you build on the field and the slower the game becomes, and then you can really focus on all the little things that come into play. That’s one thing that Josh taught me and I’m really trying to harp on Lane. The more he can see, the smarter you can play, you can win the play before the snap. That’s huge. That’s really the big thing that Josh brought to me and I’m trying to bring to him.”
Added center J.C. Tretter: “I don’t think anybody doubted how talented of a player Lane was. He got an opportunity and he’s made the most of it.”
Based on PFF’s grading, Taylor is the NFL’s 25th-best guard. Broken down by phase, Taylor ranks 34th in protection and 22nd in run blocking. Considering there are 64 starting guards, those rankings would suggest Taylor is, at the very least, an above-average starter.
That doesn’t put him in the same class as Sitton. Sitton ranks fifth among guards, including second in protection and 16th in run blocking. However, with a cap charge of $1.45 million compared to Sitton’s $6.60 million, Taylor is providing solid play at a discount rate.
After some early “anxiousness” at moving into the starting lineup, Taylor has settled right in. He might have entered the league as an undrafted free agent. He might have entered this season with two career starts. But Taylor had no doubts he’d be ready for the latest step in his career evolution.
“I’ve prepared for a long time to play and I prepare a lot each week,” he said. “I just have confidence to go out there and play well.”
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.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.