One of the most overlooked stories of the preseason is unfolding in Washington, where defensive tackle Phil Taylor is on track to earn a spot in the Week One starting lineup after two years out of football.
His new head coach wasn’t even aware that Taylor was out of football.
“I was in Cincinnati for three years when he was at Cleveland and I know what a force he can be at nose [tackle],” coach Jay Gruden told reporters on Saturday. “He was tough to deal with, he really was. We had him for a workout, and I didn’t even know he was on the streets. His knee looked better. He was in good shape. He had a whole offseason and did some good things. I think his body is finally back to where he feels really good. He’s moving around, he’s active, he’s strong, so I like where he is right now. He’s just got to continue to maintain it.”
Knee problems caused Taylor to wash out of Cleveland in September of his option year, walking away with $5.477 million in guaranteed money for 2015. He landed on injured reserve early in 2016 training camp with the Broncos. Released from IR on August 11 a year ago, he didn’t play last season.
Now, he’s back and, for now, nearly as good as ever.
“He looks very similar, he really does,” Gruden said. “Now, like I said, he’s got to play some more plays and he’s got to put in day after day after day. We’ve got Green Bay, a very good team, and obviously Cincinnati [in] Week Three will be a great test with the running game that they have with obviously Joe [Mixon], Gio [Giovani Bernard] and [Jeremy] Hill, so we’ll see how he does.”
For now, the fact that he’s even back on the field and in line to be a starter is amazing.