Lane Taylor didn’t see what the big deal was. It wasn’t like Sunday was his first NFL start.
Everybody else, though, made Taylor the center of attention heading into the Green Bay Packers’ season opener.
“I kind of put it in the back of my mind and went out there and played,” Taylor said in a phone interview. “At the end of the day, it’s just football. I’m a pretty even-keeled guy, so I didn’t let it get to me.”
The Arlington Martin product became a big deal last week when the Packers surprisingly released three-time Pro Bowler Josh Sitton and handed his job to Taylor. Taylor found out on his iPhone after coach Mike McCarthy announced it in his news conference.
“I saw it on Twitter after coach McCarthy’s press conference,” Taylor said. “That’s when I found out I was going to be the starter, when everyone else found out. I was excited for the opportunity. It’s obviously a big deal to be the Week 1 starter and have an opportunity to be the guy.”
Taylor, 26, has waited a long time for his opportunity to be a full-time starter. In his first three seasons, he made only two starts. Both came as an injury replacement.
“It was a bit of a blessing in disguise, because when I look back at myself my first year or even second year, I wasn’t really ready to be an NFL-caliber starter,” Taylor said. “It was great to develop behind Sitton and [T.J.] Lang, and see how they see things, allowing me to develop and become a good player.”
The Packers thought so highly of Taylor that they signed him to a two-year, $4.15 million in the off-season as a backup. They had no idea he would win an opening-day job.
“I definitely wanted to stay here,” Taylor said. “They knew that, and it was good we got to work out a two-year deal, to at least know I’m going to be here for two more years.”
Green Bay saved $6.55 million against the salary cap by releasing Sitton. It could have promoted Don Barclay, who has 23 career starts.
Instead, Taylor opened at left guard for the season opener and more than held his own by going unnoticed. He had no penalties and gave up no sacks.
The Packers believed in Taylor so much that on a fourth-and-1, on their first possession, they ran behind Taylor and left tackle David Bakhtiari. Eddie Lacy gained 9 yards.
Again, Taylor didn’t understand all the hubbub.
“Honestly, I didn’t even really notice [they had run left] until everyone started talking about it after the game,” Taylor said. “I’m just going out there and doing my job and doing what’s required.”
Taylor always knew this day would come. It just maybe took longer than he expected.
“I’ve always knew I could play in the NFL,” Taylor said. “I just knew I had to put it all together to be able to be a player in the NFL.”
The only thing that’s changed for Taylor, going from backup to starter, has been “a lot more media attention.”
Welcome to the starting lineup.
1 Former SMU standout Margus Hunt went into training camp needing to win a roster spot. The Cincinnati Bengals defensive end did that, and now, in his fourth season, the light seems to have come on. He had two passes defensed, a tackle for loss, a blocked kick and forced Nick Folk to alter his kick and miss an extra point.
2 Former Texas A&M star Jake Matthews, now in his third season, continues to struggle transitioning to the NFL. The Atlanta Falcons’ left tackle allowed a sack and had a false start against Tampa Bay’s Robert Ayers. Matthews has a bigger challenge this week in Oakland’s Khalil Mack.
3 Jay Ajayi, a Frisco Liberty product, reportedly wasn’t happy after Arian Foster was named the Miami Dolphins’ starting running back. Dolphins coach Adam Gase left Ajayi at home last week. But Ajayi has climbed out of the doghouse and will play against New England this week.
4 Martellus Bennett still ranks among the best blocking tight ends in football. Although Bennett had only three catches for 14 yards in his Patriots’ debut, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels raved about his blocking. Bennett played 69 of 71 snaps last week.
5 The New Orleans Saints released running back C.J. Spiller, even though his $1.7 million salary was fully guaranteed. New Orleans has $40 million in dead money on its salary cap this season.
Houston Texans outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus recorded four tackles, two quarterback hits, two sacks, one tackle for loss and a forced fumble last week. He leads the NFL in sacks over the past 12 regular-season games with 14. In his past 13 games, including the playoffs, Mercilus has 17 sacks.
Atlanta Falcons defensive end Vic Beasley, the eighth overall pick last year, had only four sacks last season. He finished the season opener with no stats despite starting and playing 39 snaps.
Dane Brugler of CBS Sports and NFLDraftScout.com gives his top-10 senior quarterbacks and top-five draft-eligible underclassmen at the position for the 2017 draft:
1. Chad Kelly, Ole Miss (6-2, 224)
2. C.J. Beathard, Iowa (6-2, 215)
3. Seth Russell, Baylor (6-3, 220)
4. Cooper Rush, Cen. Mich. (6-3, 230)
5. Mitch Leidner, Minnesota (6-3, 230)
6. Nathan Peterman, Pitt (6-2, 225)
7. Davis Webb, Cal (6-3, 227)
8. Gunner Kiel, Cincinnati (6-3, 215)
9. Bart Houston, Wisconsin (6-3, 235)
10. Brady Gustafson, Montana (6-6, 230)
Top-5 draft-eligible underclassmen
1. DeShone Kizer, N. Dame (6-4, 230)
2. Deshaun Watson, Clemson (6-2, 210)
3. Brad Kaaya, Miami (6-4, 210)
4. Mason Rudolph, Okla.St. (6-3, 220)
5. Baker Mayfield, Okla. (6-0, 209)
42Players from LSU in the NFL, the most of any college. Florida State and USC have 36 each, while Alabama and Ohio State have 35. No Texas team made the top 10.
Texas A&M product Michael Bennett needs three sacks to move into ninth place on Seattle’s all-time sacks list with 29.5.
The Carolina Panthers have won 13 consecutive games at home, the longest active streak in the NFL.
The Cleveland Browns have not had a quarterback start all 16 games since Tim Couch did it in 2002.
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton and receiver A.J. Green are the most productive QB/WR duo in their first five seasons with 395 completions for 5,789 coming into this season, per the Elias Sports Bureau. Their 40 touchdowns were tied with Miami’s Dan Marino and Mark Clayton from 1983-87.
Arizona receiver Larry Fitzgerald’s 100 touchdown passes have come from 12 quarterbacks.
New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning has 200 career interceptions, 100 at home and 100 on the road.
Indianapolis Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri has made 27 consecutive field goals, dating to last season. He needs two to pass Mike Vanderjagt for the third-best consecutive field goal streak in franchise history.
The Oakland Raiders have not started a season 2-0 since 2002.
Minnesota Vikings first-round pick Laquon Treadwell was active last week, but didn’t play a down despite being healthy.
Information from The Sports Xchange was used in this report.