The Packers starting offensive line has been in place since Day 1 of training camp, but not as much is known about the top reserves.
One of them was forced to step forward with the first group on Sunday night in third-year pro Herb Taylor.
Taylor filled in at left tackle with the No. 1 line for Marshall Newhouse, who sustained a concussion in the Family Night scrimmage. Taylor took the majority of the reps with the first unit, while seventh-round draft pick Andrew Datko got a few, as well.
Signed by the Packers in Week 16 last year after Derek Sherrod was lost to a broken leg, Taylor hasn't played in a regular-season game since 2008 with Kansas City. Head Coach Mike McCarthy referred to him as "raw," even for a third-year player on his fourth team, but he also called him "consistent" and "workmanlike." Taylor has flipped back and forth between right and left tackle throughout camp, and he continued to take snaps at right tackle as well Sunday night with the No. 2 line.
"I think he has a lot of football in front of him," McCarthy said. "When you get to that second part of your line group, you need versatility, and Herb gives that to us.
"I couldn't tell you how he practiced tonight. I didn't watch him specifically, but I'm hoping he took a step today."
He appeared to do just that, holding his own in the team drills for several snaps against outside linebacker Clay Matthews. Taylor was called for one false start and appeared to have trouble with defensive lineman Jerel Worthy on one rush when Worthy and Matthews ran a stunt, but those were just two glitches amidst dozens of snaps in a solid overall showing.
"It's always a next-man-up kind of deal," Taylor said in the locker room Sunday afternoon, before he knew for sure he'd be working with the first unit. "The offense doesn't stop for one person. That's how it has to operate to be successful.
"You don't ever want to be the weak spot in an offensive line, or anything."
McCarthy wouldn't rule Newhouse out of Thursday's night preseason opener in San Diego, saying he's going through the concussion protocol. Same goes for receiver Greg Jennings, who also missed practice with a concussion.
Eight other select veterans took the night off, a group that included Aaron Rodgers, Charles Woodson, Jarrett Bush, A.J. Hawk, Jeff Saturday, Ryan Pickett, Donald Driver and Anthony Hargrove. Fullback John Kuhn was also a "select veteran," but he chose to practice, working out for the first time in pads since coming off the physically-unable-to-perform list.
With Rodgers resting, Graham Harrell and B.J. Coleman handled all the quarterback duties on the evening. Both had their moments, as Harrell finished a no-huddle drive with a long throw down the right sideline to receiver Jordy Nelson and a TD pass to tight end Tom Crabtree. Moments later, Coleman completed a fourth-down throw deep along the left sideline to James Jones.
Harrell also came close to completing a successful two-minute drive at the end of practice, but Randall Cobb – who caught three passes in the possession – was tackled at the 5-yard line and Harrell couldn't get another snap off before time expired.
"This is exactly what Graham and B.J. need, the opportunity to take all the reps and get all the situational work," McCarthy said. "I thought it was great work."
The veterans' absence led to other young players getting reps with the first units. Evan Dietrich-Smith took Saturday's place at center, while cornerback Casey Hayward worked with the No. 1 nickel defense.
Linebacker Desmond Bishop also practiced in pads for the first time and showed up in the goal-line period, knocking fullback Nic Cooper off his feet after a short reception and then stuffing James Starks on the very next snap. The hit on Cooper drew a brief rebuke from McCarthy for being over-aggressive, but after practice the coach brushed that off as "part of training camp."
"I thought they flew around. I thought the energy was very good tonight," McCarthy said. "Sometimes there's a line there and we're going to cross it. It happens."
Injury update: Running back Marc Tyler, safety Sean Richardson, and receiver Tori Gurley returned to practice from prior injuries. Guard Ray Dominguez (ankle), tight end D.J. Williams (back) and defensive tackle Mike Daniels (knee, groin) remained out.
McCarthy said Daniels is "getting close," and that Tuesday would be a big day for him in regards to his status for Thursday.
McCarthy did rule out Sherrod for Thursday night. Related links