Bakhtiari Is A Game-Changer For This Version Of the Packers

Left tackle played 56% of the offensive snaps on Sunday

The last 21 months have been tough for David Bakhtiari. Before coming back against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, the left tackle had lost 19 of the last 20 Green Bay Packers games, including two playoff runs that could have had pretty different results had he been available. There were multiple surgeries, presumably a lot of pain, and an emotional weight for not being on the field with his teammates. And, as if all those factors weren't enough, Bakhtiari has had to handle people saying his career could be over - or worse, that he didn't want to come back that much.

That's why it was so impressive to see him on the field again, and the quality of his performance. Bakhtiari rotated in the lineup with backup left tackle Yosh Nijman - and both were solid, even though they faced a strong and fast Buccaneers pass rush.

"To come out here, finish the game, beat them, there's a lot of positives to take away," said Bakhtiari after his comeback. "I'm just fortunate, blessed, happy."

Bakhtiari was on the field for 35 snaps, 56% of the offensive plays — Nijman was on the field for 27 offensive snaps, plus two special teams plays. According to head coach Matt LaFleur, coaches and the training staff will wait for how Bakhtiari's knee will respond after the first game action since he played a half against the Detroit Lions in last season's finale before deciding whether 69 will play every snap next Sunday against the New England Patriots or if they will keep the same approach, with a limited snap count.

"Just trying to keep (Bakhtiari) available for the whole game," LaFleur said. "We didn't want to go zero to 60 with him. Outside of that Detroit game, he hasn't played in almost two years. Do you load him up with 60 plays in a game? We didn't think that was the right thing to do. And Yosh has done a great job as well. So it's a credit to Yosh."

The offensive line is highly important for the Packers offensive identity in 2022. Without Davante Adams, traded to the Las Vegas Raiders, it was always unrealistic to expect an immediate improvement from the receiving group. If the Packers were to keep or improve the offensive level in comparison to the last couple of seasons, that would need to go through the offensive line play.

And the difference between what the Packers had available in week 1 against the Minnesota Vikings and what they have at disposal from now on is massive.

If even Yosh Nijman and Royce Newman, at different degrees, were decent, having David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins back at the tackle spots is a huge upgrade. Moreover, it allows Newman to play at his preferred position, right guard, moving Jake Hanson to backup center.

The Buccaneers' defense is a rare challenge, and it was natural that the Packers offense would have problems - even though it was a relatively frustrating performance by the offense, the Packers are still the team that scored the most points against Tampa this season, after the Bucs allowed just three points to the Dallas Cowboys and 10 to the New Orleans Saints - seven of them in what may be considered garbage time.

"Really great job by the guys upfront," said quarterback Aaron Rodgers in his press conference after the game was over. "Hopefully, Dave can play a little bit more next week."

With their ideal offensive line healthy and on the field, the Packers will have the possibility to expand the offense and play more within Matt LaFleur's philosophical concepts. David Bakhtiari showed he carries the G, and his availability brings a chance for the Packers to elevate their offense to another level.

Photo: Samantha Madar/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin / USA TODAY NETWORK

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Wendell Ferreira covers the Green Bay Packers for Zone Coverage and Cheesehead TV. He is a Brazilian journalist with over a decade of experience covering the NFL, soccer, NBA, and MMA. Follow him on twitter at @wendellfp  

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4 points

Comments (51)

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Coldworld's picture

September 26, 2022 at 11:09 am

How does that make Bakh a game changer? You never say. Metrics seem to suggest that he and Nijman perform roughly equivalently. We still had one of our top 5 OL off the field for every snap of the game.

Our OT depth is better, certainly, but we effectively substituted our best OL by far this year for our best OL player over the prior years. Pretty much zero sum on Sunday. If it means we can move Nijman to RT, freeing Jenkins, then when that happens we might just benefit materially.

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murf7777's picture

September 26, 2022 at 11:18 am

Why would you say Nijman and Bak played relatively similar when Josh gave up an easy sack? He’s not the player that Bak is and it isn’t close at this point. Josh has potential to be really good thou.

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Coldworld's picture

September 26, 2022 at 11:44 am

They both had similar stats from what I’ve read/saw

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Leatherhead's picture

September 26, 2022 at 12:10 pm

I, too, thought they were similar. I'd encourage people to watch again and focus on Nijman and Bakhtiari and decide for themselves. Bakhtiari actually looked better than I was expecting him to after such a long layoff.

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Big_Mel_75's picture

September 26, 2022 at 12:31 pm

Who is Josh? Yosh Nijman did not allow the sack. That was on Royce Newman when he got over powered yet again. We need to figure out a way to play Nijman and get Newman to the bench were he belongs.

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Guam's picture

September 27, 2022 at 07:48 am

I don't believe Yosh gave up a sack and both Yosh and Bahk gave up pressures to an inside move by the Tampa DE.

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T7Steve's picture

September 26, 2022 at 12:49 pm

I'm hearing Stenavich (SP?) is saying that the experiment trying Nij on the right in training camp didn't work. Hopefully he can convert for depth reasons.

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Coldworld's picture

September 26, 2022 at 01:22 pm

They tried briefly to see if it was natural then just moved him back out of need once they decided that it would take time for him to adjust.

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HawkPacker's picture

September 26, 2022 at 02:00 pm

If Yosh is not the apparent answer at RT, then I would hope that they are working the other 2 rookie/new tackles on the 53 at RT and possibly some at LT as well. We need to continue to look down the road to see if either of the two new guys will work at either T position in the future. Maybe one of them will excel in the near term and we could move Jenkins to RG if need be.

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Coldworld's picture

September 26, 2022 at 03:28 pm

It’s hard to know, but I hope someone is being worked towards that.

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canadapacker's picture

September 26, 2022 at 04:07 pm

Caleb is more of a right tackle than left according to his history - and I remember that Njimon took a long time to discover his game. I just hope that his development is the same - and as he took a lot of weight off - it is sometimes hard not to be a yo-yo guy with the weight, If he packs more muscle onto his frame and keeps the type of foot speed and quickness that he has shown in limited preseason game then he might be the next guy. Give the running backs options to run behind - left or right.

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Guam's picture

September 27, 2022 at 07:50 am

Yosh played some right tackle at Virginia Tech. He can play there, but he may need some adjustment time.

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Coldworld's picture

September 27, 2022 at 09:08 am

He learned technique with us, and did so exclusively on the left as a result of a decision to teach in a constant position. There’s no physical reason he can’t play on the right, as he has, he just hasn’t had an opportunity to practice applying his technique there.

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PhantomII's picture

September 27, 2022 at 11:25 am

Jenkins can play any position and said he needed a week to get the footwork reps down and feel for adjusting to the defense angles. I'm for either one...Yosh moving inside or Jenkins moving inside. Jenkins will want to be paid like a T and has earned it and Yosh will also. Anything to keep Newman on the bench and especially the weight bench.

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WendellFerreira's picture

September 26, 2022 at 01:02 pm

Hi, Coldworld. According to PFF, Bakhtiari had the highest pass blocking grade among the Packers offensive linemen yesterday.

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LLCHESTY's picture

September 26, 2022 at 01:11 pm

PFF is having it's issues with grading line play this year. I used to trust them more with grading the lines more than other spots but last year and even more this year they've had some questionable grades.

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Coldworld's picture

September 26, 2022 at 01:23 pm

Pretty close. Are you arguing that that changed the game?

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jont's picture

September 26, 2022 at 04:20 pm

In my business a lot of people say "if you can't measure it, it didn't happen". Without boring you to near death about economics, they are not correct. So it is here.

The return of one of the league's truly top players to an o-line usually described as "unsettled" with guys playing out of position is not only a game changer but a possible season changer. If he can stay healthy and get close to pre-injury form, well.

His team mates are hopeful. In one of the pre-game fluff pieces, they showed Packer players wearing t-shirts with Bahk stuff on them. Morale, team spirit, positivity. I count that too, but understand few others do.

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NitschkeFan's picture

September 26, 2022 at 11:11 am

Nice to see Bakh out there but I don't recall seeing that type of rotation used on an offensive lineman in the past. We are all keeping our fingers crossed that we hear good things about how Bakh's knee responds over the next day or two.

If Bakh can play anywhere near his previous level then it will help the struggling offense.

I'm not sure Jenkins is any good at RT? It's too soon but what was wrong with keeping him as a Pro-Bowl level LG? I get that tackles have more value than guards but when you have an excellent guard then we risk getting weaker at LG and perhaps just mediocre at RT. Hope I am wrong.

Maybe I am an old guy whose memories are fading, but I grew up watching Gene Upshaw and Art Shell playing next to each other for the better part of a decade on those great Raider's teams. I don't recall anyone trying to switch things up and have Upshaw move to RT. If we want to get more modern then how about Quinton Nelson? All Pro guard on a Colts squad that keeps trying to improve their O-Line. But they never move Nelson to tackle.

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coolhand's picture

September 26, 2022 at 11:21 am

I wonder, do we give Caleb Jones a look at RT? A story on packers.com tells it that MLF talked to the OL about the idea of Bakh and Nijman and they were skeptical, but bought in later. I though Bakh looked good when he was out there. Hopefully the knee responds well.

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Leatherhead's picture

September 26, 2022 at 01:13 pm

I'm an old timer too. I think that your order in the offensive line is LT....even if all the other positions on the line suck, you want that QB's blindside protected.

Then it's center, because he handles the ball on every play and calls out the assignments. A good C makes both of your guards better.

Then it's RT, then LG, then RG. So you want to spend your resources on your most important spots. Which brings us to Jenkins. Certainly, he can play any spot, he's shown that, and he's in the last year of his deal and if we want him back next year we're almost certainly going to have to pay him like a LT. But we've got a young guy...a cheap young guy....playing LT really well for us right now/.

My preference, long term and in a perfect world, would be to put Jenkins at C, Nijman at LT, make Myers our top interior backup, and play Tom at RT. IMO, that gives us a pretty good left side and a pretty good interior and I think Tom could get the job done at RT. It also has the virtue of keeping some of our shakier linemen on the bench.

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HawkPacker's picture

September 26, 2022 at 02:08 pm

Good ideas LH but I am hoping that the other two rookie tackles that they kept on the 53 would pan out to be the RT. Looks like Tom could be another guy like Jenkins that we can use to sub in the OL at about any position. Looks to me like we have plenty of Tackles for the future and present. Actually more than at guard.

Jenkins has been struggling a bit at RT and I am hoping it is rust as it was my belief that he could play that position and play it well. And as you say, when we extend him he will be paid as a tackle, not sure if LT but my thought was as a RT.

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LLCHESTY's picture

September 26, 2022 at 10:35 pm

You'd put Myers on the bench and continue to play Newman? 🤯

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Guam's picture

September 27, 2022 at 08:02 am

Haven't seen enough of Tom to anoint him a starter anywhere on the O-line yet. He has potential but needs to get stronger. I would also prefer that Newman be the first one to the bench over Myers. I think Myers is a better center than Newman is a RG.

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PhantomII's picture

September 27, 2022 at 11:35 am

I'm sure Jenkins IS the best OL we have, wherever he is. I don't think he's quite 100% either and is still the best.
When BAK can go a whole game at a high level, he may be the better LT. If we want the best OL we need Caleb in the lineup at L/R G or RT. Then we will be moving some folks around and keeping AR from getting jittery.

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dobber's picture

September 26, 2022 at 11:25 am

With his wonky practice schedule, he'll have a couple planned DNPs this week, so gauging how he's responding to game action will be difficult (unless he DNPs all week, of course). If Bakh isn't playing a full game of snaps by the time the Jets game rolls around--and admittedly, that's 3 games from now--then I don't know how much he's helping. Still, he should be improving each week, and he wasn't bad last night in his return. One week at a time. The Patriots can get to the QB, but they can be had in the run game. It gives him a chance to dictate play on that side.

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Leatherhead's picture

September 26, 2022 at 12:07 pm

Yes, and yes. All we know right now is he was able to play half the snaps yesterday. Let's see what happens in practice this week and the game next week before we start moving people around based on the assumption that we've got Bakhtiari at LT. Maybe we do, and that'd be great. Maybe we don't, and then a bunch of shuffling is probably counterproductive.

I think Nijman has done a fine job. I'm not sure how much of a net gain Bakhtiari is over him at this point. I'm also not really on board with the thinking that we can just start Nijman at RT while having him be ready to switch sides in the middle of a game if Bakhtiari can't go. Left tackle is the most important spot on the line, and having Bakhtairi/Nijman is a strength. We have other options at RT.

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jont's picture

September 26, 2022 at 04:24 pm

Dobber, Leatherhead, let me give you both some thumbs: 👍👍

Yes, and yes; this game was a great step forward, but let's see how this week's practices go. None of us want to hear the words setback, swelling, or drained.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

September 27, 2022 at 01:43 am

If Bakh can only play one half each game, that would still be a big help if he is playing at a high level. No team can have too many OTs.

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Packer_Fan's picture

September 26, 2022 at 11:52 am

Having Bak and Jenkins back is a game changer. Once they are back, playing whole games and rounding into what they were, then what is the best five? Moving Jenkins to RG and playing Nijman at RT? Wendel is right. How can the playbook be expanded? More crossers?

And with both Watkins and Watson out, there was limited options for Rodgers. Picking up another veteran WR should be done.

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gpt999's picture

September 26, 2022 at 12:15 pm

Yes, this team BADLY needs another veteran WR given that expected injuries to Watkins happened sooner than later. I'd love to see Watson play to his potential but injuries, injuries, injuries...

Gutes has got to look at his lineup, see who can be dealt or released to find some cap space for a veteran WR. I do not think we will see OBJ here as LA seems to be a better lifestyle fit fir him over cold GB.

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Coldworld's picture

September 26, 2022 at 03:38 pm

If OBJ plays this year I will be very surprised. If he looks like himself, considerably more so.

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jannes bjornson's picture

September 26, 2022 at 01:21 pm

I would move for a TE as Tonyan doesn't appear to be 100% with his speed/cuts. The pick by Rodgers was on Tonyan not squaring in his route.

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Packers1985's picture

September 26, 2022 at 03:18 pm

I think the db made a great play. Fooled Rodgers in making that play.

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Leatherhead's picture

September 27, 2022 at 01:48 pm

I think both of you guys are right. Rodgers can, and does, throw through a tight window, but if the route isn't right then it's going to present an opportunity for a real good play on defense.

Rodgers doesn't get fooled. Rodgers does the fooling.

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Ritzy's picture

September 26, 2022 at 12:35 pm

If we were to go with our top 5 lineman it would be from left to right: Bak, Jenkins, Myers, Runyan and Nijman. We're forgetting that Jenkins made the Pro Bowl two years ago as a left guard, although he played some center that year. Also to consider is that Jones and Dillon are both left-handed ball carriers who do most of their best running off the left side. For a strategic standpoint it would seem logical to load your 2 best lineman to the left side.

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wildbill's picture

September 26, 2022 at 08:49 pm

Agree

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DeezNutz's picture

September 26, 2022 at 01:59 pm

With a healthy Bakhtiari at LT, my opinion of the ideal offensive line would be having Jenkins at RG and Nijman at RT. Obviously Jenkins can play either guard or tackle on both sides of the line, and can even play center. But I think he represents a significant upgrade of Newman at RG without sacrificing too much at RT when you slide Nijman in there. Just my two cents and I'm obviously not a coach, but it sure is fun to opine and hear others opinions.

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PhantomII's picture

September 27, 2022 at 11:40 am

BAK/ Jenkins/Myers/Caleb/Yosh

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LambeauPlain's picture

September 26, 2022 at 02:23 pm

Big Bob seemed slow and tentative to me. I have never had an ACL but hear the recovery is as much mental as physical...trusting the healed knee. He will get better with more snaps.

Rodgers called the LT time share "interesting", hinting he, like buddy Dave, were not keen to the idea. But the QB also, like Matt, praised both Yosh and Dave's play.

Here's the OL I would love eventually love to see: Dave, Jenks, Myers, JRJ, Yosh with Tom the swing tackle backup and Newman the backup guard.

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Packers1985's picture

September 26, 2022 at 03:20 pm

Yes Big bob seemed little slower not sure we'll see him atleast 80% of his usual self this year.

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Coldworld's picture

September 26, 2022 at 03:32 pm

It’s about a 3 to 6 month lag on average. We can hope for later in the season. The same is true of Jenkins. Bakh is 2 years out, so harder to know if the same effect is applicable.

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canadapacker's picture

September 26, 2022 at 04:29 pm

Bak is also 31 and as a big man - who cannot practice full out - game shape is going to be an issue = and yesterday add on 90 F + temperature - the team played him enough snaps. Cooler weather against the Pats maybe more snaps - but still not a full load I would surmise. But the Pack is doing the long from a time perspective drives - which factors into this well .

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Coldworld's picture

September 26, 2022 at 07:34 pm

I was referring to his mobility/flexibility in the knee. He’s older, it’s true, but the issue with ACLs in athletes is that fitness to perform typically returns some 3 to 6 months before full utility. What we are seeing in Tonyan and Jenkins is likely that in large part. Bakh is much further removed from the ACL, but has had collateral issues. It’s possible that he may therefore have sidestepped that issue at least. I was impressed with his mobility yesterday. Conditioning is a whole different problem.

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dobber's picture

September 26, 2022 at 07:35 pm

I'd like to know how many times he chipped getting into his route release last night. It seemed like a lot.

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canadapacker's picture

September 26, 2022 at 04:00 pm

Is there an update on the health of Myers - or was he just a little banged up and exhausted due to the heat?

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GregC's picture

September 26, 2022 at 05:28 pm

I heard he was cramping from the heat, so he's probably okay.

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DeezNutz's picture

September 26, 2022 at 08:01 pm

Glad to hear that. Now let’s hope Jaire won’t be out too long and we get Christian Watson back next week.

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Bure9620's picture

September 26, 2022 at 09:20 pm

I have to say I have become a big Yosh Nijman fan. Met him Saturday night. He was out to dinner with Devondre Campbell and their significant others and they were seated next us at a very nice restaurant in South Tampa. Introduced myself, they could not have been cooler. Very nice guy. Appreciated the support. Very nice guys.

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LambeauPlain's picture

September 27, 2022 at 11:15 am

Nice! What was Yosh's entre? I have visions of a 1 lb bone in Ribeye...

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Bure9620's picture

September 27, 2022 at 05:43 pm

White shirt and a Orange puffer vest

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