GREEN BAY – Lane Taylor will readily admit 2018 was not his best season, at least not from start to finish.
But with regard to the outside noise that the Packers have to take as long a look at his left guard spot as they do the right guard position that needs a new permanent starter, he’s not about to start doubting himself.
His confidence isn’t blind, either. It’s simply that this past year he felt like he was the player he has been and can be for only part of the season.
Taylor’s third year as the full-time starter at left guard got off to a rough start with offseason ankle surgery that, to use his words, “knocked me out for four months.” He missed the entire offseason program, and while he got up to speed during training camp to take the field for the opener vs. Chicago, he wasn’t himself yet.
“You don’t want to admit it, especially going into Week 1 … ‘I’m fine, I’m fine, I’m good’ … and I was good to play,” he said shortly after the season ended. “It’s not an excuse. If I’m out there, I’ve got to play and I’ve got to play good.
“I didn’t play horrible. I had some bad moments, I agree with that. But I felt like I played good football (later in) the season.”
Taylor estimated his ankle wasn’t really back to full strength until the midway point, around the New England or Miami games in early November. He settled in for a few games, but then a foot injury forced him to sit out vs. Atlanta in Week 14. Two weeks later, he hurt his knee early against the Jets and exited after just seven snaps.
Then for the finale vs. Detroit, he didn’t start but suited up as an emergency replacement and ended up playing about half the snaps as the Packers shuffled personnel on the line due to other injuries.
How it all unfolded was in stark contrast to his first two seasons at left guard, when he started all but one game (even filling in at left tackle a couple of times in a pinch) and was projected as a player still on the rise and coming into his own.
He believes that’s still firmly on the horizon for him, but he’s going to continue striving for it as the undrafted find from 2013 always has – quietly and without a lot of fanfare.
“I definitely want to get back to my style of play,” he said. “It will definitely be beneficial, I’ll have the whole offseason to actually work out and get after it, just get back to playing how I know I play, and get better.”
That’s a mantra of sorts for the entire team, whose frustrations in 2018 spanned several position groups, some more beset by injuries than others. But healthy or not, standards weren’t met and the result is an upcoming offseason of change, starting with the coaching staff.
The offensive linemen will have a new position coach for the first time in any of their careers after James Campen moved on to Cleveland, so that will be a significant adjustment in itself. Whatever the case, Taylor, a six-year pro, feels the locker room has taken ownership of what went down, and after a break, the focus will soon be forward.
“I felt like we had a decent team, but this year has been a little different than past years. We found ways to lose games,” he said. “We’re used to finding ways, comebacks and what not. That was the frustrating part is we all know we didn’t live up to what we should have done this year.”
For his part, Taylor remains the least known of the “left side” trio that has three-time All-Pro tackle David Bakhtiari on one hip and Pro Bowl alternate center Corey Linsley on the other.
If he’s the forgotten man in between them, so be it, but he’s more concerned with getting back to feeling and playing like himself, for a whole season, again.
“They deserve it. They’re good players,” Taylor said of his neighboring linemates. “Corey played every snap this year, and he played at a high level, too. I’m not going to take anything away from them.
“But when you have people around you like them, they definitely push me to do better, be better. They get the notoriety, plus they’re good players. You want to elevate your game so you’re talked about with those guys.”