GREEN BAY – When Lane Taylor looks back at some of his game film from 2016, his first season as the Packers’ starting left guard, he can’t help but chuckle.
“Just some things in my technique, I’m like, ‘What are you doing?’” Taylor said as the 2017 season wrapped up. “But after getting the whole season in, doing some new things in OTAs, I became a better, more complete player.”
That he did this past season, his first under the long-term contract he signed heading into Week 1. Thrust unexpectedly into the starting lineup in 2016 when Pro Bowl left guard Josh Sitton was released at the conclusion of training camp, Taylor felt some of those survival-type blocks that didn’t look so hot on film were due to switching to the left side after starting for four years in college at right guard.
He earned the contract extension anyway, though, and then got to work this past season on smoothing out his technique.
Taylor felt his greatest improvement came on his “jump set” on play-action passes, which requires an offensive lineman to sell the run at the snap but quickly revert to protection mode without the rusher easily slipping past him, the dreaded “Ole.”
“If you have a three-technique (across from you), you have to aggressively get on him but also be ready to pass block,” he said. “I was just so uncomfortable doing it last year. Anytime I did it, it wasn’t that great.”
It clearly wasn’t as bad as he makes it out to be, given last summer’s contract offer, but his self-critical approach served him well.
He held his own on the edge, but inside is definitely his comfort zone. With Bakhtiari under contract long term and center Corey Linsley signing an extension just before the end of the regular season, the middle-to-left trio will be together for the foreseeable future.
Questions remain on the right side of the line, where tackle Bryan Bulaga’s status for the start of 2018 is uncertain due to his November knee injury, and guard Jahri Evans is a pending free agent.
But Taylor likes how he and his two neighbors will get to continue building chemistry, provided they stay healthy. Green Bay’s offensive line held up well despite several injuries and constantly changing combinations in 2017, the type of season no one wants to repeat in 2018.
“Having one side together, intact, we know for sure the next three years, is really nice,” Taylor said. “I was pumped for Corey that he signed back, but I was pumped to have both of my sideports with me for the next three years.
“Together, we’ll (eventually) have five years together of playing time. That’s a lot of continuity. I think it’ll really help us out.”
As well as Taylor blends in between Bakhtiari and Linsley, he also wouldn’t mind standing out a little more. The undrafted product from Oklahoma State who first made the Packers’ roster in 2013 believes he has “a whole ’nother level of play to tap into” the longer he settles in at left guard.
The improvements from his first to second year as a starter were just the beginning, and he feels more consistency to his game is the key to climbing the ladder of credibility league-wide.
“Oh yeah, absolutely. I want to be one of the best,” he said. “I don’t want to be just another guy. I want to be in the conversation as one of the better guards in the league, make it to a Pro Bowl and be All-Pro.
“That’s definitely the next step.”