When I shared on Twitter on Monday that left tackle David Bakhtiari graded out the lowest of any Packers offensive player in Sunday's win over the Dallas Cowboys, according to ProFootballFocus.com, fans were in disbelief (just look at the responses).
After all, this is the player that just stoned seven-time Pro Bowler DeMarcus Ware to the tune of just one tackle and no sacks.
Granted, Bakhtiari didn't line up across from Ware on every play, but he did for a majority of the game. And doubly granted, Ware appears to be wearing down at 31 years old after switching to end in a new defensive system in 2013.
Still, Bakhtiari held his own and has for most of the season.
At the very least, Bakhtiari is a candidate for the NFL's All-Rookie team after playing nearly every snap of every game this season, missing only three plays against Washington in Week 2.
The reason why he graded out so low against the Cowboys, however, was his run blocking.
Of of his 141 total rushing yards, running back Eddie Lacy gained only 25 to the inside and outside shoulder of Bakhtiari.
Gaining traction in the running game has been a season-long issue for the Packers offensive lineman.
Out of 78 NFL tackles who have played at least 25 percent of their team's offensive plays, Bakhtiari ranks dead last, 78th, with a cumulative run block rating of negative-17.2, per Pro Football Focus.
But in today's day and age, left tackles in the NFL have become more valuable for what they're able to do in pass protection, guarding the quarterback's blind side. In that regard, Bakhtiari has been worth his weight in gold.
Bakhtiari is responsible for allowing eight sacks this season (again, per PFF), although four of them came in the first four games of the season and five came in just two games (two against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 1 and three to the Detroit Lions in Week 13).
The rookie would seem to have a high ceiling because of his lateral foot quickness and tenacity not to give up on plays.
Bakhtiari's relative weakness appears to be in functional strength, with evidence perhaps pointing to his matchup against Jared Allen of the Minnesota Vikings in Week 12. On several occasions, the Packers rookie offensive lineman was pushed backwards almost into the quarterback, but Bakhtiari was always able to keep himself in front of the defender.
With an offseason in an NFL weight room under the tutelage of a professional strength and conditioning staff and little else on which to focus, Bakhtiari should be able to make strides and be even better in the future.
Adding more functional and core strength should aid in Bakhtiari being able to fill out his frame, anchor in pass protection and get better push in the running game.
One difficult decision the Packers will have to make in the offseason is what to do with Bakhtiari and fellow tackle Brian Bulaga, who's recovering from a torn ACL suffered in training camp.
The Packers went out on a limb to switch Bulaga from the right side to the left side of the offensive line before the 2013 season began, so reversing course would show their commitment to developing Bakhtiari.
It makes sense that former first round draft choice Derek Sherrod would also be part of the equation and be even better equipped to compete for a job one more season removed from his gruesome broken leg, originally sustained in 2011.
The focus for now, though, is preparing Bakhtiari and coaching him up to the fullest extent possible for the rest of the season.
Next season will come when it comes, and when it does, Bakhtiari figures to be a front runner for a position in the starting lineup, wherever and against whomever that might be.
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.
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