One year ago, Lane Taylor was watching from the injured reserve list as a rookie began to take off in his former starting role with the Green Bay Packers’ offensive line.
The 30-year-old offensive lineman had sustained a season-ending biceps injury in practice ahead of Week 3’s game against the Denver Broncos, which opened the door for 2019 second-rounder Elgton Jenkins to slide into his starting spot at left guard. By the end of the regular season, Jenkins had seized the role permanently with outstanding play and left Taylor’s future with the Packers up in the air.
“There was definitely some uncertainty,” Taylor told media after Thursday’s practice during a teleconference. “You really didn’t know, especially when you go from competing to a season-ending injury. You’re getting into the last year of your contract. You really don’t know how it’s going to play out, so I kind of sat back, took it all in and let everything unfold.”
Now, after taking a sizable pay cut this offseason, Taylor is back, feeling good and looking to reclaim the title of Packers starter during this summer’s training camp.
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Taylor Begins Camp in Three-Way Battle
Taylor isn’t going to shove Jenkins, a PFWA All-Rookie selection, out of his starting spot on the left side, but the right side of the Packers’ offensive line is up for grabs with head coach Matt LaFleur opening up competition at both positions in hopes of finding the “best five” to start the 2020 season.
While the Packers’ new media restrictions prevent reporters from divulging which players are taking reps with what unit, the first-team reps split between a few different combinations during their first few training camp practices.
According to ESPN’s Rob Demovsky, Taylor took first-team reps at right guard during the first practice with Billy Turner at right tackle, but the second practice saw Turner slide to the guard spot — where he started in 2019 — and Rick Wagner come in at right tackle.
Today it's Rick Wagner getting the first rep at RT with Billy Turner back at RG. In the first practice it was Turner at RT and Lane Taylor at RG. Clearly a competition. https://t.co/5GxpbQWXsA
— Rob Demovsky (@RobDemovsky) August 17, 2020
“We’re going to keep shuffling that line along until we feel good about it and know that we’re headed in a certain direction,” LaFleur told media in a Zoom call after Saturday’s first practice. “But at least for the next couple of weeks, it’s definitely going to be a competition each and every day.”
Taylor Was Consistent Prior to 2019 Injury
The Packers don’t have a tendency to re-invest in aging offensive linemen, especially ones with recent injuries, but Taylor made it easy on them with reliable numbers over his previous seasons and his willingness to sign a cheaper deal.
Prior to his 2019 injury, Taylor started three consecutive seasons for the Packers at left guard with no less than 880 offensive snaps taken in each one. He reminded reporters on Saturday that he played on the right side of the line for most of his life before coming to Green Bay in 2013, which presents some valuable versatility even if he is relegated to a backup role.
Taylor also agreed to take a reduced salary — from $4.55 million to $910,000 — during the final year of his contract in 2020, helping incentivize the Packers to retain him rather than cut him for cap savings. The restructured deal saved the Packers about $3 million in cap space.
“Lane is a proven player in this league and obviously it was unfortunate that he went down early last year, but he’s got a lot of starts under his belt,” Gutekunst told reporters on Thursday. “He’s been in the fire and is someone that you can rely on. We want to keep all those kind of players here. There’s obviously some limitations and restrictions on us from the financial part that we always have to look at, but we’re glad he’s here. We think he can help our football team and he’s off to a great start so far.”