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Posts tagged with "Corey Linsley"

It didn’t take long in 2017 for QB Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay’s offense to capitalize in a big way

GREEN BAY – It’s no secret why the Packers have been so effective for so long when it comes to harvesting free plays and turning those opportunities into points.

At least, not in Jordy Nelson’s mind.

“Our quarterback,” says the Packers receiver, matter-of-factly.

Aaron Rodgers and the Packers’ offense were at it again during Sunday’s 17-9 win over Seattle, cultivating three free-play opportunities off Seahawk penalties in the second half.

Two offside penalties resulted in a simple five extra yards, but the third – a 12-man-on-the-field call on Seahawks linebacker Terence Garvin – was an absolute game-changer.

Driving into Seattle territory, Rodgers had just completed a short pass to Ty Montgomery on second-and-4. The Packers didn’t change their personnel, but briefly huddled in preparation for what was a critical third down with Green Bay clinging to a 7-6 lead at the time.

That’s when the Packers noticed Garvin running to the sideline. Rodgers said the magic word and guys rushed back to the line of scrimmage. With Garvin two steps from the sideline, center Corey Linsley delivered the ball to Rodgers and the flag was thrown.

Nelson, lined up in the slot out of a bunch formation, knifed between the coverage of linebacker Bobby Wagner and safety Earl Thomas to haul in the 32-yard touchdown.

“We just wanted the penalty and then everyone just went crazy. It’s almost recess all over again,” Nelson said. “You try to find an open area and get up there as soon as possible. There wasn’t anything special. I think Randall (Cobb) and I were able to stretch Earl Thomas a little bit and got on him.

“They weren’t obviously prepared and set up the way they want to be set up, so that’s why we do it and we want to keep them on the field as much as possible.”

While Nelson chalks up a bulk of the credit to Rodgers’ awareness and command of the huddle, it’s an area Head Coach Mike McCarthy places an emphasis on during training camp.

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Every young player needs that first opportunity

Marco from Garden City, KS

I may be too late but it’s worth a shot. Back when Vic started this column was when I got a job as a parts man at a truck shop. Needless to say the computer quickly had the Packers site added to the favorites tab. I appreciate what you taught us about football and more importantly life. I wish you the best in your new journey. Farewell, Vic.

You’re too late, but Vic said he’ll keep reading so here’s hoping he’ll get a peek at this.

Brian from Mather, CA

Mike and Wes, I have no doubt that Vic has left us in very capable hands to cover the exciting season ahead…and hopefully many more. I have no idea where you guys find the energy to keep up with all you do, but I can only imagine it helps to really love what you do (as did Vic). Here’s hoping for a great season for you guys as well as our Pack!

The coffee is brewing. The 2017 season is almost here. It’s a new day. Let’s get started.

Ron from Waukesha, WI

I’m liking how Ted Thompson has rebuilt our defensive line. It starts with Daniels, then add two ascending second-year players in Clark and Lowry, then sign a solid free agent in Francois and finish it with Adams, a third-round draft pick. The arrow is pointing straight up. Should we then expect to see more three-man fronts this year versus the two-man fronts we saw so much of last year?

I don’t know whether the depth on the defensive line is going to result in more three-man fronts. It’s certainly a possibility. What they are in position to do is have more natural defensive linemen on the field in nickel and dime situations. Dom Capers and Mike Trgovac have a lot of combinations to work with.

Greg from Perkasie, PA

I heard Rodgers, and now Mike, mention home-field advantage for the playoffs as being a critical factor in getting back to the Super Bowl. I understand teams don’t like to play up north in the winter, but it sounds like too much of an excuse to me. Bostick didn’t muff the onside kick because that game was in Seattle, and the Packers didn’t get blown out because the game was in Atlanta. It shouldn’t matter where the game is, just win it.

It’s about putting yourself in the best position possible. There’s a big advantage playing in front of your home crowd and not traveling the day before a game. Plus, do you remember what happened before the NFC title game? Fog forced the team to fly out of Milwaukee. The team didn’t arrive at the hotel until like 10 p.m. Was that why the Packers lost the game? No, but there’s a big difference between traveling the day before a game and being at home.

Alex from Indianapolis, IN

Who is the biggest guy, the strongest guy and the fastest guy on Green Bay’s 2017 roster currently?

Martellus Bennett is the tallest, Lane Taylor is listed as the heaviest, Corey Linsley might be the strongest and Trevor Davis probably is the fastest.

Monty from Hazen, ND

Hey guys, less than two weeks until camp starts and wondering what roster battles you are watching closest. I am looking forward to seeing who wins the starting guard spot. Not a sexy spot, but probably the most important.

 

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Green Bay Packers guard Lane Taylor (65) on the scrimmage line during the first half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions, Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)

AP PHOTO/DUANE BURLESON

Lane Taylor’s life changed in a blink.

He entered the 2016 NFL season as a relatively untested backup. His lone extended performance came in the 2015 season finale at left guard while Josh Sitton played left tackle.

He performed admirably considering the situation. It was obvious, however, the Green Bay Packers were replacing an All-Pro with a player who had not played much.

Taylor could not be blamed for that. Sitton was one of the best guards in all of football. He was only playing left tackle because the Packers were desperate to find someone with replacement-level ability to play in place of David Bakhtiari. Everyone they had tried there struggled mightily.

Sitton was their most talented offensive lineman. They gave him a chance. Sitton was unhappy about the situation and said after the game he thought it was clear that he was a guard.

Once the season concluded, it looked as if Taylor was going to be the team’s top reserve offensive lineman once again.

The Packers returned a strong starting five with Bakhtiari, Sitton, Corey Linsley, T.J. Lang and Bryan Bulaga lining up in front of Aaron Rodgers.

All of those players, save for Linsley, had played at an extremely high level before. Linsley is an above-average center. Put it all together and the Packers had what looked to be one of their best offensive lines since Mike McCarthy took over as head coach.

The strength of that line was at the interior. Sitton and Lang formed what could be argued as the best guard duo in all of football. The two players excelled at pass blocking while being above average in the run game.

That starting offensive line took all the primary reps in training camp. When the starters played in the preseason, they all played together. Everything looked normal.

Then it all changed on cut-down day when reports surfaced that the Packers were looking to trade Sitton.

Of course once those reports surface, a trade rarely happens. Sitton was ultimately released. The Packers have never given a specific reason as to why Sitton was released.

There has been plenty of speculation, but ultimately Ted Thompson goes with his customary answer that he will not discuss a player who no longer plays in Green Bay.

Sitton’s release put Taylor firmly in the spotlight. He went from a player in the shadows to the starting guard on Rodgers’ blind side.

Green Bay Packers guard Lane Taylor sits on the bench during the first half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions, Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

If a fan was uneasy, it was understandable. Sitton was released with almost no notice. There was no indication throughout training camp that Taylor was nipping at Sitton’s heels. Add in the fact the Packers are a passing team. Taylor’s primary weakness was as a pass blocker.

Instead, it looked like the Packers were throwing a young player into the fire.

One of the best things that anyone can say about an offensive lineman is that they were not noticed all that often.

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Packers’ veteran offensive lineman earns respect and appreciation from coaches, teammates

GREEN BAY – For years it was often heard that if any player knew the Packers’ offensive playbook as well as quarterback Aaron Rodgers, it was probably fullback John Kuhn.

But now that Kuhn has been gone for more than a year, who’s next? Does anyone’s familiarity come close?

Strange as it may sound, Don Barclay could be the answer.

The veteran offensive lineman has at least practiced – if not played in a game – at every position up front during his six years with the Packers. And as he appears to be settling into his primary role as backup center for 2017, his playbook knowledge is only growing.

“It lets you control the bus,” Barclay said this spring about learning the offense from the center’s perspective. “You have to control what’s going on out there and make the calls.

“Not only that but it lets you focus in on the whole playbook now. You’re really looking at everything. You have to know fronts, you have to know the calls. You can call everything from the right tackle to the left tackle. You’re really in control out there, and it feels good.”

Barclay would have every right not to feel so good about the upcoming year. After all, he would have been the odds-on-favorite to win the starting right guard job to replace T.J. Lang had 12th-year veteran free agent Jahri Evans not been signed just before the draft.

Instead, Barclay was making all the snaps for the No. 1 offensive line throughout OTAs with starting center Corey Linsley recovering from offseason surgery. He’s once again the super-sub, Linsley’s top backup as well as possibly the first reserve option at either guard spot given his experience.

It’s a role he has not only accepted but owned with pride, and his longtime teammates have nothing but respect for his professionalism, on the field and in the locker room.

“Bringing Don back was a big thing for us,” Rodgers said, referring to the re-signing of Barclay this past offseason. “He’s really improved his game.

“This is a guy that’s started at tackle for us, started at guard for us, and now is in line to be our backup center. That’s fantastic, and I give him a lot of credit.  He has a great approach, he’s a great teammate, and he continues to show this team how valuable he is to it.”

Barclay proved his value early in his career, filling in at right tackle due to injuries as an undrafted rookie from West Virginia in 2012. The following year, he started 14 games at right tackle.

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Packers’ starting left guard was committed to his craft all offseason

GREEN BAY – No one need be concerned that Lane Taylor will rest easy now that he’s an NFL starter.

It’s just not how he’s wired.

Taylor’s first extended test as a regular was thrust upon him unexpectedly at the end of training camp last year, and he passed with flying colors. He started all 19 games, including playoffs, at left guard in place of Josh Sitton, who was released on the eve of Week 1.

The transition to Taylor for the offensive line became the non-story of the season. As the lone new guy on a unit that had been mostly intact for the previous two years, Taylor fit in smoothly and efficiently.

But Taylor hasn’t let his breakthrough success change him.

“I don’t think there were too many days in January, February or March, even before the offseason program started, that I didn’t see Lane Taylor in here working out,” Head Coach Mike McCarthy said as minicamp wrapped up last week.

“He’s highly committed. He’s taken a big step in the offensive line room as far as leadership, and he’s setting himself up for an outstanding season.”

Taylor doesn’t do or say much to get noticed off the field – “He’s a quieter dude, if you can characterize any of us as quiet,” center Corey Linsley said with a smile – preferring to let his on-field work do the talking.

The approach has worked, ever since arriving as an undrafted rookie from Oklahoma State in 2013 and taking the tough road to a roster spot.

He got a couple of starts in 2015 as an injury fill-in, one at each guard spot, and earned a new contract in the offseason. Then came 2016’s late-summer shake-up, but Taylor was never rattled.

“Lane did exactly what he was supposed to do – he kept his nose down and he just played,” McCarthy said. “He played hard, he played physical. He played extremely hard in the run game and did some really good things in pass protection.

“Most important, he was there every game, so he’s got that under his belt.”

Last year provides a strong foundation for Taylor moving forward.

To the surprise of many at the time, his promise and potential allowed the Packers to feel comfortable letting go a three-time Pro Bowl guard last year with the regular season right around the corner.

He proved the Packers right and has repaid the team for its faith in him ever since.

On a team that annually gives several undrafted linemen a chance to prove they belong in the NFL, Taylor is a worthy role model to others breaking in the same way.

“I’ve noticed this year he’s a lot more confident,” offensive line coach James Campen said. “Obviously when you play, you gain that confidence, and he’s actually helping the younger guys in the room. It’s very encouraging to see someone do that.

“Lane is a fundamentally sound player. He’s had to come up as a free agent and do the things necessary to start, so certainly he’s a good person to follow in that room.”

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