Taylor’s No. 55 just a part of adjustment

Jason Taylor’s new NFL life began Tuesday morning with a new number and a new jersey but the same old shoes and the same old weather.

Apparently, the former Dolphins star didn’t just bring his orange shoes with him from Miami but the daily downpour as well. Taylor’s first Redskins practice was cut about a half-hour short when the rain and the threat of lightning passed through Ashburn.

“That’s nothing new to me,” Taylor said. “Coming from Miami, it rains every day, so it was nice to see that nothing’s changed up here.”

Not exactly. After 11 seasons and six Pro Bowl selections wearing No. 99 in aqua, Taylor sported No. 55 in burgundy when he took the field. Fellow defensive end Andre Carter wears No. 99, which Taylor opted to leave in the past.

“We talked about it briefly last night, and I told [Andre] I’d get back to him,” Taylor said. “He was open to it, [but] I thought about it, talked to my wife and decided that we’ll let 99 stay in Miami and start a new chapter up here. I like double digits, and 88’s a receiver, 77’s ugly and 66’s an offensive lineman, so 55 worked. I wore 55 at the Senior Bowl and won the MVP… so I figured it might bring some good luck.”

What the Redskins expect from the lithe 6-foot-6, 255-pound Taylor - whose properly colored shoes are on order - is an enhanced pass rush over one that ranked 27th in the league last season. Taylor averaged 10.6 sacks during his 11 seasons in Miami, and no active player is within 16 sacks of his career total of 117.

“Going up against Jason [as a Dolphin], we had to come up with a way to slide, protect the tackle,” offensive line coach Joe Bugel said. “I told him, ‘I’m glad you’re here. We had enough time preparing for you.’ He got in that pass-rush drill, and I’ll tell you what, he’s a slippery hombre. Some of those linear guys, it’s hard to get your hands on ‘em. We tried to punch him today, and he went inside on us like a blink of an eye.”

Taylor participated in only the first session of team drills during the full afternoon practice, but offensive tackle Jon Jansen, who blocked him on several plays, said that was enough to see the soon-to-be 34-year-old was as good as ever.

Taylor played only left end and will stay there until he masters the defense. However, defensive line coach John Palermo said where he lines up down the road remains unclear. Palermo added that Taylor is “a better run player than people give him credit for. He looked really good to me.”

Taylor, who skipped Miami’s offseason program to compete on “Dancing with the Stars” - much to the chagrin of the Dolphins’ new braintrust - said it felt good to be back in cleats for the first time since Dec. 30.

“It’s like riding a bike,” Taylor said. “You might lose your balance at first when you get back on, but you still know how to ride. It’s a lot different than a dance floor, for sure. It will take a couple of days. Coach didn’t want to throw me in too quickly and bite off too much early. We’ll ease our way into it but getting work done all the while, not just standing around as if it’s a country club.”

Taylor, who sat with his only ex-Dolphins teammate, offensive tackle Todd Wade, at breakfast, was welcomed to the locker room with cracks about his dancing. Special teams ace Rock Cartwright, nearly a foot shorter than Taylor, asked him to dance.

“I think it was very obvious to some of the guys that I was kind of uneasy,” Taylor said. “They’re great so far, but I can’t tell you half of their names yet. It was very different after 11 years doing something else.

“It’s like being a rookie, but … I’m not going to carry anyone’s bag because I’m still one of the old guys. I’m like a little kid in some ways, but I feel so lost in other ways. It will take a while to get used to, and I’m nowhere near where I need to be to be successful, but there’s a lot of time before we kick this thing off.”

About the Author
David Elfin

David Elfin

David Elfin has been following Washington-area sports teams since the late 1960s. David began his journalism career at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, the University of Pennsylvania (B.A., history) and Syracuse University (M.S., telecommunications). He wrote for the Bulletin (Philadelphia), the Post-Standard (Syracuse) and The Washington Post before coming to The Washington Times in 1986. He has covered colleges, the Orioles ...

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