GREEN BAY – The opportunity Adam Pankey got on Sunday was the kind any NFL player in his place dreams of getting.
With starting left guard Lane Taylor limited in practice and backup Lucas Patrick also not taking any 11-on-11 snaps, Pankey was Taylor’s replacement with the No. 1 offensive line throughout the nearly two-hour workout.
It was just one practice, and the film will tell the tale as to how Pankey responded to the challenge, but the second-year pro’s bid to make the roster as a reserve offensive lineman may have just received a nice boost.
“It’s definitely motivating that the coaches trust me enough to put me in that position,” Pankey said following practice. “I don’t take it for granted for sure, and I just focus on improvement every day and my fundamentals.”
That may sound cliché, but Pankey’s progress is not to be glossed over. An undrafted rookie last year out of West Virginia, Pankey came to the NFL having just started building a foundation as a pass protector.
“I came from high school being a guy that ran veer offense, which is super old-school, just downhill,” Pankey said of his days at run-oriented Hamilton High in Ohio. “That’s what I’ve been trained off of from Day 1 was running the ball.”
Forced to pick up pass blocking quickly in the Big 12 Conference, Pankey made 36 starts over four years for West Virginia, playing both guard and tackle.
As an undrafted prospect a year ago, Pankey lined up in practice at every position on the offensive line except center. He was released at the final cut-down but signed to the practice squad for Week 1. He was then added to the active roster in Week 2 and stayed there the rest of the season, though he did not appear in a game until Week 17, for one snap on special teams.
The “redshirt” year appears to have been a benefit, not only to get exposed to more pass-blocking techniques but to get the offense down at all the different spots he was being asked to play.
He credited veteran guard Jahri Evans with being an “open book” for him as a rookie, and he looked at Justin McCray’s approach as a super sub as one to emulate to make his way in the pros.
“He’s always ready for whatever he has to do,” Pankey said of McCray, who’s now starting at right guard. “He’s the perfect example of the kind of grit I want to try to have.”
It’s been showing, as right tackle Bryan Bulaga called him “a tough guy” and Taylor sees a changed player in his second season.
“He took full advantage of his year last year to get better,” Taylor said. “I really saw a difference when he came back for camp. He was more confident, ready, and he has more of an attack mentality.
“When you’re a young guy, hell, you’re just trying to remember the plays. You can tell he’s more comfortable.”
Pankey stepped in at left guard early in last Thursday’s preseason opener, as Patrick exited the game after one series. By all accounts he held up well, given his assignment in Sunday’s practice, the first on-field work since then.
Sunday’s dedication to one spot – left guard – was as welcome as it was unusual for Pankey. He declined to name a favorite spot along the offensive line, because he wants to be considered for any available opportunity. But settling in at one place, even if it’s just for one practice, can help.
Especially when it comes on the No. 1 unit.
“Every rep is so important,” Pankey said, “and the film that goes behind it, you can really dial in on things.”
The Packers were back on the practice field Sunday afternoon as they head into Week 2 of the preseason.