As a mid-round draft choice, David Bakhtiari has started his training camp down the depth chart in Green Bay, backing up the starters at both the right and left tackle positions.
Bakhtiari has been making the most of his opportunities, however, faring well against the likes of linebacker Clay Matthews in one-on-one drills.
If it seems unexpected for an unheralded fourth draft pick to be seeing success against a four-time Pro Bowler just days into his first season in the NFL, perhaps it’s because Bakhtiari knows more about Matthews––his strengths and weaknesses––than the typical NFL rookie.
“(Clay) and David have a really good relationship,” said David’s older brother Eric Bakhtiari in an interview on Cheesehead TV’s Railbird Central on Wednesday. “We all train together in the offseason, and he’s kind of taken David under his wing.”
Eric considers Matthews one of his best friends, a training partner and a roommate with him in 2012. A former NFL linebacker, Eric has signed contracts with six teams since entering professional football in 2008 and played with the San Francisco 49ers as recently as last season.
Naturally, Eric introduced his brother to Matthews, and a bond formed that has extended from California in the offseason to Green Bay now that the season is upon them.
As far as going up against each other in practice, Eric knows there’s no better form of preparation than going up against the best the NFL has to offer on a daily basis.
“I think it’s great for him,” said Eric. “I think that’s what he needs to do now, that way he can compete at the highest level, and he can have confidence in himself when the team calls upon him to go out there on Sundays and he has to block another great player.
“For him to sit there and know that he’s been tested against the best in the NFL, I think it will give him the confidence and the swagger he needs to go out there and play at a high level against another All-Pro.”
David Bakhtiari left college as an underclassman, after his junior year at Colorado. Following a combined 9-28 record the past three seasons (including a 1-11 record in 2012) and a coaching change taking place in the offseason, David didn’t stick around to see if things would turn around.
There’s a good chance David would have been selected higher in the NFL draft in 2014 had he stayed in school and continued his development, but Eric didn’t see anything wrong with declaring early.
“He started his clock a little earlier,” said Eric. “He’s going to be 21 years old that first game against San Francisco, and he’s not going to be 22 until Sept. 30. I don’t have problem with it because A) he’s really intelligent and B) he has the mentality and the work ethic to succeed at the next level. And I think he’s out there right now at training camp, and I think he’s showing he’s got the physicality and the strength to handle it.”
The Packers are only five days of practice into their 2013 season and just three of them spent in football pads, but the young Bakhtiari has already gained the notice of the coaching staff.
If comments from head coach Mike McCarthy are any indication, David might eventually get a shot to prove himself as a starter.
“I think that he’s off to an excellent start,” said McCarthy. “As far as the reps with the way we utilize him, I think he’s someone that is worthy of more reps and furthering the competition along the offensive line. He’s clearly one of the guys that has made a step in the padded work, so I’m very pleased with what he’s done so far.”
Bryan Bulaga would seem to be entrenched at the left tackle spot in Green Bay in spite of his inexperience on the left side of the offensive line, but the right tackle job is wide open.
Marshall Newhouse is getting first crack at the gig as the incumbent starter at left tackle last season, and Don Barclay is in the mix as well. Even Derek Sherrod can’t be counted out of the competition, but first he must get of the Physically Unable to Perform list and onto the field.
None of them would appear to have the job in their grasp, however. And Bakhtiari is as good a candidate as any, assuming he can continue his ascent.
Coming from a family that’s produced multiple NFL players, Eric Bakhtiari thinks it’s to David’s advantage being the baby of the house.
“He loves being coached. He’s a real coachable kid,” said Eric. “I think it’s because he was the youngest brother, he was used to being told what to do.”
Brian Carriveau is the author of the book “It’s Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America,” and editor of Cheesehead TV’s “Pro Football Draft Preview.” To contact Brian, email firstname.lastname@example.org.