Health of David Bakhtiari Crucial to Packers’ Success in 2019

David Bakhtiari may be more important to the Packers in 2019 than anyone not named Aaron Rodgers.

It seems like the football world is finally waking up to the incredible talent of David Bakhtiari.

After two years as a second-team All-Pro in 2016 and 2017, Bakhtiari achieved first-team All-Pro status for the very first time after the 2018 season. He ranked number 43 in the NFL’s “Top 100” list, a massive surge from his number 91 ranking a year ago. He is the Packers’ highest-rated player and the highest-rated offensive lineman overall in the latest edition of Madden. And, of course, he’s a viral sensation after crushing beers while in attendance at Bucks games in the NFL playoffs.

Bakhtiari has been a stud on the line for years now, but he has finally become a bona fide star in his own right. He is the finest left tackle in the game, playing at his peak in the position that may very well be the most important in the game outside of quarterback (others may argue edge rusher).

In the CheeseheadTV survey that gathered fan expectations for 2019, Bakhtiari was the second-most popular answer to the question, “Which player not named Aaron Rodgers will be most vital to the team’s success in 2019?”, behind only Davante Adams.

He was my top choice, and much of that has to do with how impossible to replace he is.

If Adams were to sustain a significant injury this year, his absence would absolutely be felt in the passing game, but one might argue that having an elite quarterback can at least help to make up for that loss.  This is, after all, the same quarterback who somehow managed to come minutes away from a conference championship berth while throwing to Jeff Janis and Jared Abbredaris.

But if Bakhtiari were to go down, what’s behind him is even more unproven.

Jason Spriggs has been the de facto plug and play tackle of the last several years, but he has been a bust and it’s not unreasonable to think he won’t make the team this year. The more likely option is that the Packers would slide Lane Taylor out to tackle and fill in the guard spot with whoever comes out of camp looking like the top backup there, be it Justin McCray, Elgton Jenkins, Cole Madison, Billy Turner or a surprising Cole Madison.

And all that’s assuming Bryan Bulaga remains healthy on the other side throughout the year and isn’t also in need of a replacement, something that is not at all safe to assume.

Simply put, there is a massive dropoff after Bakhtiari. The man is an absolute rock on the left side of the line.

Bakhtiari graded out at an excellent 88.3 for Pro Football Focus in the 2018 season. Our own Andy Herman had Bakhtiari as the second-highest graded player on the team at a +13.80 for the season, behind only Davante Adams (+15.30).

In Andy’s grades, the dropoff from Bakhtiari to the closest potential backup at the tackle position (Alex Light, +0.25) was a total of 13.55 points. That’s not as much as the dropoff from Adams (+15.30) to Geronimo Allison (+.55) or Randall Cobb (-.20), but it’s worth noting that Light only played 26 offensive snaps in 2018. If you only select players who had more significant playing time, you get into the territory of a Lucas Patrick (-3.35), Spriggs (-5.70), McCray (-6.90) or the abysmal Byron Bell (-13.50), who is no longer with the team.

Simply put, there was no depth for the Packers in 2018 on the offensive line. While there were at least flashes of promise for the young receivers in 2018, the offensive line was an injury from Bakhtiari away to true catastrophe. One would think the return of Madison, the drafting of Jenkins and the signing of Turner would help prevent such catastrophe this year, but it’s far too early to tell what the Packers have in those players.

Bakhtiari also serves an important role when one considers the difficulty of the front sevens the Packers will be facing this year. Detroit continues to build an incredibly potent defensive line. Chicago adding Khalil Mack was a franchise-altering move. Minnesota under Mike Zimmer will always be good at harassing the passer.

Bakhtiari is capable of neutralizing these threats. In 13 one-on-one battles against Mack last year, Bakhtiari had no sacks allowed, no pressures allowed and no penalties. And that’s against one of the top three pass rushers in the game at the moment.

 

The Packers are going to need Aaron Rodgers to return to playing MVP-caliber football this season if they’re going to contend for a title. But they’re also going to need Bakhtiari to continue avoiding the big injury. He, perhaps more than anyone on the team outside of Rodgers, would be immensely difficult to replace.

 

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Tim Backes is a lifelong Packer fan and a contributor to CheeseheadTV. Follow him on Twitter @timbackes for his Packer takes, random musings and Untappd beer check-ins.

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Comments (13)

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Bearmeat's picture

July 30, 2019 at 02:58 pm

There are 4 irreplaceable players on the team. If any of these guys are out for more than a 1/4 of the season, lights are out.

1. Aaron Rodgers.
2. David Bakhtiari
3. Davante Adams
4. Kenny Clark

I'd argue that an injury to A. Jones, Z Smith, Alexander would also really hurt.

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Leatherhead's picture

July 30, 2019 at 08:50 pm

I agree with the first four, and Alexander. I’d maybe add Martinez.

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Lare's picture

July 30, 2019 at 03:16 pm

Hopefully, Bakhtiari stays healthy all season. I don't see a viable backup for LT on the roster.

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flackcatcher's picture

July 30, 2019 at 10:44 pm

At this moment, their are no viable backups for either Tackle position. All we and the Packers have are questions. Most of those will be answered when the team puts on the pads, and starts playing preseason games.

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TheVOR's picture

July 31, 2019 at 10:04 am

I'm actually disappointed in articles that explain the greatness of an Athlete, followed by why it would kill the team if they got hurt? How about the same article without talking about injuries? Geesh, we all know injuries are part of the game, but whats next, an article about creating a Injury office pool? Geesh.

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Jonathan Spader's picture

July 31, 2019 at 10:52 am

VOR put me in for $5 on Kevin King!

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Cubbygold's picture

July 30, 2019 at 03:41 pm

I hope Pettine and this revamped defense continue to improve and have a strong season. The lack of depth on the offense is risky, and it's a result of all the top draft picks that had to be spent on the other side of the ball.

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Coldworld's picture

July 30, 2019 at 05:16 pm

Is there a team out there with three decent or better tackles? Some teams don’t have one. It certainly would be nice if Spriggs turns the corner, but Nijman will hopefully develop enough to make the roster because I doubt we can stash him on the PS.

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t-wrecks's picture

July 30, 2019 at 05:55 pm

He crushes beers at bucks’ games in the NFL playoffs? Huh?

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Gort's picture

July 30, 2019 at 09:15 pm

This is exactly why I wanted more than 1 O-lineman in the draft. Need more big uglies!

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jannes bjornson's picture

July 30, 2019 at 10:48 pm

They picked up Turner and Madison returned to the squad. That's three new bodies. All three know outside zone run games and I wouldn't count Madison out.

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PatrickGB's picture

August 01, 2019 at 07:15 am

All the more reason for a change in the offense. A good running game and quick passes would help the line. The team should no longer rely on long developing plays.

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Tundraboy's picture

July 31, 2019 at 09:37 am

With the way the league is coming at Rodgers, especially within our division ,I think the entire starting line is critical.

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