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Bakhtiari Struggles In Preseason Opener

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Bakhtiari Struggles In Preseason Opener

Heading into training camp, much has been discussed about the Green Bay Packers' offensive line.  With all five starters from last year returning and having played together all of last season, they seemed poised to become one of the more cohesive and effective units in the league.  Offseason and preseason conversations about the O-line even conjured up memories of the days of Chad Clifton, Mark Tauscher, Mike Wahle and Marco Rivera.  With all that having been said, this was an area that I focused on during last week's preseason opener against the New England Patriots.  The starting line played just over 30 snaps together and again, it was week one.  Not much to go on with such a small sample size.  But we all saw left tackle David Bakhtiari give up a couple of sacks on Aaron Rodgers and, preseason or not, it's never something the team nor the fans want to see.

Bakhtiari was easily beaten on several occasions and appeared to be a step slow.  Hopefully it's just some rust from the offseason that he needs to shake off.  Bakhtiari stepped in and became the Packers' starting left tackle in 2013 when a season-ending injury to Bryan Bulaga occurred early in training camp.  Bakhtiari held onto that starting spot again in 2014 and was serviceable.  By serviceable, I just mean he at least kept the proverbial building from falling down around him.  A quick glance at last year's offensive tackle rankings, according to Ourlads Scouting Services, didn't even have Bakhtiari listed in the top 20 out of 32 teams.  The bad news there is that the Packers have a guy protecting the blind side of the best quarterback in the league who is average, at best.  This has been the case for two seasons now and the common response is that Rodgers is able to make up for any shortcomings of the offensive line with his mobility.  But for how long?  

Our own Adam Czech said to believe the hype about the offensive line in his recent column that discussed several hot takes on the Packers.  Although Bakhtiari was a turn style on a few occasions, I tend to agree.  It's his third year in the league and with the team.  The offensive line is one of those positions where an entire unit can improve itself as the year moves along and as they gain confidence.  Bakhtiari does take the mental part of the game seriously and prepares well, as has been reported in the past.  One area of concern was that he was not at practice on Saturday due to a knee injury.  Whether it was suffered in the game against the Patriots or may have contributed to Bakhtiari's struggles is not fully known.  According to media reports, he was walking around fine on the sideline at practice, and the injury did not appear to look serious.  More to come on that when the team resumes practice this week.

If there is one area of the line that teams prefer not to have to worry about, left tackle has to come right after center, with a right-handed quarterback.  The Packers have not said anything about being concerned about Bakhtiari's play.  And if we're being fair, center Corey Linsley got flattened at least once, himself.  It's too early to make a mountain out of a mole hill with regards to Bakhtiari's struggles, but there will be more eyes on him in week two and in hopes that he shores up some of the issues.  If he has to miss time due to the knee, that could become a factor in his getting up to speed and ready for the regular season in less than a month.

The Packers have to be hoping that Bakh is OK, both physically and in his on-field performance.  In a major "what if" scenario, it would likely require some shuffling on the line if the Packers had to make a change.  J.C. Tretter, Don Barclay, Jeremy Vujnovich and Vince Kowalski sit behind Baktiari as reserves who are or who have played tackle in the past.  Tretter has spent most of his time on the interior of the offensive line during his time in Green Bay.  Barclay missed all of last year with an ACL injury and had his own set of struggles against New England.  Vujnovich and Kowalski have little to no experience and aren't ready to assume a regular role yet.  The Packers would probably have to move Bulaga to the left side and insert either Tretter or Barclay on the right.  Barclay didn't turn in a stellar 2013 season at right tackle and coming off major surgery, would be a question mark as far as how effective he can be now.  

The bad news is that Bakhtiari at least gave us a reason to wonder if this is just a blip on the radar.  Had this been our traditional "Games Balls/Lame Calls" post, Bakhtiari would have received a lame call.  The good news is that it's not a huge story at this point and there wasn't much else to complain about after the Packers' performance last week.  Let's hope Mr. Czech is right and we can get back to believing the hype sooner than later.

 

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Jason is a freelance writer on staff since 2012 and also co-hosts Pulse of the Pack podcast.  You can follow him on Twitter here

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (40) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Cheesestradamus's picture

If Bakhtiari is hurt or taking plays off because, "it's just pre-season game" Than he is going to get Aaron hurt. "You play as you practice." Bakhtiari is the weak link in our offensive line and he better keep Aaron safe or expect to get replaced? But who would replace him?

Evan's picture

Bahktiari being the weak link on the o-line (while 100% true), is more about the talent throughout the rest of the line than any major deficiency with Bahk. He is in no risk of being replaced.

Dan Stodola's picture

I agree he's not in danger of being replaced. At least not this year. If he doesn't improve over last year and improve to being a solid starting LT, then I think the Packers have to seriously consider drafting a LT in the draft if there is one available. Bahktiari still needs to improve a lot if he wants to be the LT of the decade for the Packers a la Clifton.

I still have not bought into his being the LT of the decade in GB. Never have since he was drafted.

gr7070's picture

Agreed Dan, except that he should be in potential danger of being replaced. I'm just not sure we have someone better.

Dan Stodola's picture

We don't have anyone better this year, unless you consider the idea of moving Bulaga mid season, which I don't. That's why he's not in danger this year. But if he doesn't improve over last year, LT has to be considered in the 1st rd next year if one happens to be available when they pick #32 overall :).

WKUPackFan's picture

Everyone has an off night, and Bakh struggles some against certain types of guys.

It won't happen this year, but with Buluga safely signed to a less than elite LT dollars contract, would a switch be beneficial? MM was ready to do it previously.

gr7070's picture

"Everyone has an off night, and Bakh struggles some against certain types of guys."

One doesn't get to be bottom third in the league with just an off night. That's an off season, multiple ones in this case. Which means this is who he is - not good.

And he struggles with the majority of starting DE/OLBs. That's what makes him bottom third.

Is he Marshal Newhouse? Thankfully he's much better. He's at least a legit NFL-caliber tackle. He's just one of the lesser ones.

FWIW I'm not trying to attack any individual posters; I'm sure all here are great - as Packer fans tend to be. Please understand tone is tough to gage in text, especially when being critical of specific opinions.

But the pervasive "Bahktiari is good in spite of all the objective and plenty if subjective evidence to the contrary" discussion I don't understand.

Bahktiari is the new BJ Raji - the insanely overrated player that seems so obvious to me but not others. At last with Bahktiari he's well, well worth a roster spot. Raji I would have preferred never resigned, last year.

I hope I'm wrong about both.

Evan's picture

I don't think Bahk is great or irreplaceable, but I definitely think he's better than "not even average."

For whatever stock you put into PFF (and OL grading is just about an exercise in futility), last year they gave Bahk a +7.5 for pass blocking and a -13.2 for run blocking.

Obviously his run blocking needs to get much better, but for a team that passes as much as the Packers do, as long as his pass protection continues to be good, I'm not going to worry too much.

I'd say right now he's perfectly average - he'll have games where he struggles and he'll have games where he's great. But he's also still very young, so I'm hopeful.

PS: When has Raji been overrated? I feel like he's been every Packers fan favorite whipping boy after Hawk.

barutanseijin's picture

I never put much faith in PFF ratings, but that split matches what I saw last year. Bakhtiari is OK at pass pro but below average with the run blocking. It's probably the reason the Packers ran Eddy Lacy to the right more. I'd like to see a stouter LT line up for the Packers. As far as i know, that guy is not yet on the team.

RCPackerFan's picture

I'm perfectly fine with Bakhtiari as our LT. As long as he continues to protect Rodgers' backside, that is the most important thing for him.

LT's usually aren't stout. They are more agile to be able to defend the faster pass rushers.

gr7070's picture

I have to say I don't recall him being that highly rated w/r to pass blocking. Which is definitely the most important part of most any OL responsibility, not just for the Packers O, but also for the fact that passing is a much more effective aspect of an NFL offense.

If he ends this season with a +7.5 pass accompanied with some improvement in run I'll take that. I'm unsure either will happen.

Watching individual performance per play and tracking that is the best we have. Thus PFF is pretty good. Even for OL grading; maybe especially so for OL since numberFire or Football Outsiders analytics are incredibly tough for individual linemen. It's far better than a fan's memories of 16 previous weeks.

Raji has never been recognized as awful by the Packers faithful, one of the worst in the league. And I've seen way too many still consider him good or sure he'll be 2010 Raji (or even serviceable) with a magical position move.

Hawk was both bad and underrated. ; )

Evan's picture

I don't have a PFF account, but I got those numbers from ALLGBP. http://allgbp.com/2015/02/13/david-bakhtiari-2014-green-bay-packers-eval...

That writer gave him a C+ for 2014, which I think is just about perfect. At the end of the day, the proof is in the pudding, and the Packers offense was one of the best all time last season with Bahk at LT. I think we're very much picking nits. If our worst offensive player is a C+, I think we're in pretty good shape.

gr7070's picture

"That writer gave him a C+ for 2014, which I think is just about perfect. At the end of the day, the proof is in the pudding, and the Packers offense was one of the best all time last season with Bahk at LT. I think we're very much picking nits. If our worst offensive player is a C+, I think we're in pretty good shape."

This is the kind of stuff I don't get. One can't, with sound logic, say the proof is in the pudding w/r to Bahktiari and then go on to say all is good because the *offense* performed well. How did Bahktiari perform is the question; and the answer, most likely appears to be below average.

You're ignoring Bahktiari's inabilities by focusing on the fact our offense is great. It's great because of Rodgers and in spite of Bahktiari.

If he's bottom third that's not C+. Bottom third at LT is too low for too important a position.

I would love to see the rankings for 32 starting LTs and where he stands.

Evan's picture

But if Bahktiari's inabilities aren't hindering the offense in any meaningful way, what's the problem?

Could they upgrade from him? Sure. But I'm not losing sleep over his performance. Could they spend a 1st round pick next year on a LT? I wouldn't be upset. But I think there will probably be bigger needs on defense.

Like I said, if Bahktiari is the worst player on the offense, I think they're in very good shape.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

I agree with the general tenor of your comment, gr7070. I took some heat for suggesting Bakh was a below average OT. But if I read Cheeseheadtv's recent tweet correctly, Bakh's +7.5 blocking grade came out to be the 9th best OT for pass pro, but the -13 run grade was so terrible that it dragged him down to 53rd. I guess GB is okay with OL as long as they can pass block so Rodgers does not get killed.

Evan's picture

That's the stat I searched high and low for and couldn't find without a PFF account - where his +7.5 grade ranked overall.

If he was really the 9th best pass-blocking OT last year, then what are we even talking about?!

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Well, I'd be talking about our inability to punch the ball in from the 2 running the ball, and scheming with other teams knowing his deficiency, and allowing a lot of penetration. Still, I'd like to see a DVOA analysis on Bakh. BUT you are right- GB is okay with Bakh specifically because he won't get Rodgers killed.

In case you are interested, Bakh had a +2.8 pass pro grade in his rookie year and a -15.2 run blocking grade. I dug up the article linked below with great video of what he needs to work on - trouble with bull rushes and run blocking led all of us to simply think a year in a weight room might do wonders for him. Big improvement in pass pro, with only a little bit of improvement in run blocking.

https://www.profootballfocus.com/blog/2014/04/09/rookies-in-focus-david-...

Dan Stodola's picture

Raji was bad as a miscast out of position 34 DE. No doubt. Loved what he did as a NT when he actually played it, and I for one look forward to seeing him at his best and natural NT spot.

gr7070's picture

He's a bottom third left tackle in the league! That has nothing to do with the rest of the line talent, which is considerable. In fact he should be helped at least a small amount by playing next to the best left guard in the league.

I'm concerned. I was concerned last year. He's not good. Not even average. And he's at the most important position on the line.

He looked awful last week. On nearly every play. Against a rookie, too.

The folks talking how one more year will help I disagree with, too. Everyone had one more year. Most folks in the league are young like Bahktiari - so if he automatically improves those others do to. If they're not young they're either promising rookies or good enough vets to stick around a while. One more year isn't likely to change his spots.

It amazes me how many fans see his rankings on PFF and this other site referenced and completely ignore it and go on to say he's good. He's not.

I would love to see Sitton tried at left tackle. I understand there are reasons he's at guard, but I'd like to at least attempt to see what he has there going forward. If not him than Tretter.

We need to improve LT with Aaron Rodgers back the.

WKUPackFan's picture

Easy gr - Evan is a good dude. No need to get hostile

The TKstinator's picture

(Agreed. Evan is definitely one of the good ones here.)

To rely on PFF, or our own eyewitness judgments, or whatever, is part of the fun. But what I always go back to is the fact that the coaches are extremely difficult to fool. They see these guys every practice, they meticulously grade the game performances, they are experienced in what to look for and what to expect. They know what they have in each player. If it is deemed that GB needs an upgrade at LT (or at any position, really), it is already known internally. All we as fans can do is speculate.

Evan's picture

You guys are gonna give me a big ego. Next thing you know I'll be referring to myself in the third person and signing all my comments.

Evan

The TKstinator's picture

The TKstinator says there would be nothing wrong with that.

The TKstinator

DrealynWilliams's picture

Talk about jumping the gun...

Evan's picture

"The good news is that it's not a huge story at this point..."

900 words later....next time lead with that and save us all some time.

JK :)

DrealynWilliams's picture

Right?

x24's picture

I am concerned with Bakhtiari. I saw poor footwork and, or lost leverage on virtually every play. Flowers is no push over, he can still play. But poor footwork, and winning the leverage battle is fundamental football and for that I am concerned.

We know Bakh can play, and with another off season under his belt he should be stronger this year. Hopefully they can coach him up, get back the chop in his feet and the "Z"s in this knees.

We'll know more next Sunday, until then, I think it IS a concern

The TKstinator's picture

But I can't take a few plays in the first preseason game over two full seasons' worth of performances.

croatpackfan's picture

I think that whole 1st O line did not perform well. David was the worst, Corey behind him, even Josh /& T. J. had big mistakes. The best was Brian Bulaga while he was playing! I think the situation will be substantially improved. Do not forget that O line learned some new things (from Mike Solari - T. J. was talking about) that may not fall in place yet, but it will be.
I believe the hype...

4thand1's picture

There were a few players that had "off" nights during Thursday game. Yes Bakhtiari, and Barclay (who was really bad) were off. I still partially blame Barclay for Rodgers broken collar bone 2 years ago, I'm not a fan. Bakhtiari plays the most important position on the line as it was pointed out above. If he had a sore knee, wtf was he in there for. I hope he makes a jump in his overall game, and I'm not going to pass judgement on his play so far.

WKUPackFan's picture

I more than partially think Barclay was responsible for AR's injury. He gave up on his block.

Barclay is a great story, and a fine person I'm sure. However, if we were using baseball sabermetrics speak, he'd probably be below a replacement player level. According to Rob D's statistics, linked by tgr yesterday, Vujnovich is seriously struggling. Tretter is probably the best back up tackle on the roster.

4thand1's picture

Cow42 is alive and well. Did anyone else see him on a live game day blog? I think it was family night, I knew he was still lurking. In a sick kinda way, I kinda miss him.

PaulRosik's picture

When did he get injured and how much of a problem was this in his admittedly poor performance?

Nick Perry's picture

I read a interesting piece in Packer Report yesterday basically talking about some of the same things. This was a small part of it.

The Packers haven’t tipped their hand as to how they’d handle an injury to Bakhtiari in the regular season. If he were to miss time, standout right tackle Bryan Bulaga probably would shift over to the left side and Barclay would enter on the right side. Bulaga, however, hasn’t taken a snap at left tackle in training camp. Vujnovich has taken the second- and third-team reps throughout camp.
Regardless, Barclay is central to the Packers’ backup plans. And that makes his performance against the Patriots troubling. On the No. 2 offense’s first series, Barclay was beaten by Jabaal Sheard, forcing Scott Tolzien to flip a dangerous end-over-end pass to running back Rajion Neal that fortunately fell incomplete. On the next play, he was beaten again, tackled Sheard and was flagged for holding.
On the second possession of the second half, Barclay allowed a sack to Rufus Johnson. On the next possession, Johnson beat Barclay and forced quarterback Brett Hundley to flee the pocket.
That was the end of Barclay’s night. In six possessions, he allowed one sack and three additional pressures.

They went on to talk about the O-Linemen in camp, really none are options at Tackle. Without completely shuffling the OL up the Packers are really counting on Barclay to step up. After Thursday night's Game and Family Night as well, Barclay needs to show SOMETHING soon. The Packers are to damn close and to try a back-up Tackle spot with another UDFA might not cut it. Barclay is better suited to play Guard. A team like Seattle, St. Louis, and Denver would all take Barclay to lunch if he's out there.

Thompson has $18 million in cap space. If Barclay proves he's not recovered or has lost some of what he had from the injury, Ted should really shop around once roster cuts starts, or we can all hope and pray the Packers don't lose a single game to injury on the OL. Personally I'll pray AND hope Ted brings someone in if Barclay can't cut it. This is the Packers year. "It's Time".

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Nice synopsis. It is easier to find a RT than a LT. I've seen no evidence that Tretter can play OG, much less OT. One writer recently suggested Josh Walker might move to RT and maul over there. IDK about that. I will give Barclay a couple of weeks to fully recover from his surgery, and while picking up a respectable RT if one becomes available after final cutdowns sounds sensible to me, TT only occasionally brings in that type of guy.

Nick Perry's picture

I really hope Don comes around. That was his first game action in what 18 months, since the loss at Lambeau to the 49ers in 2013. I'd imagine it will take a minute to get used to speed of the game again and trusting the knee 100%. Who's the guy that's 6'8"? I know he's not ready, just wondering though.

Dan Stodola's picture

Fabians Ebbele I think is the guy your asking about. From U of Az, can't say I know much about him tho. Couldn't find anything of a scouting report for him. Guessing a size/athlete kinda guy w/o much production in college, a la Pennel, that might be developed on the PS for awhile.

Nick Perry's picture

That's the guy, thank you. Be something if he could be developed into something. The Packers brought over Mike Solari from the 49ers this year. I thought that was an overlooked move by McCarthy to bring him to the Packers staff.

4thand1's picture

No team will cut a serviceable LT, maybe a RT. Then Bulaga can move to LT. In fact, I wouldn't mind seeing Bahktiari moved to RT and Bulaga to LT.

Tundraboy's picture

Just one game and a preseason one at that.

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