Packers Offense Equipped to Handle Loss of Bakhtiari

There is no replacing David Bakhtiari, but this Green Bay Packers team is as well-equipped as any to handle his loss. 

Well, this sucks. The Green Bay Packers were just a few days away from their Week 17 matchup against the Chicago Bears with the NFC's No. 1 seed on the line, and a hopefully, a Super Bowl push to follow. However, we would learn on Thursday evening that star left tackle David Bakhtiari had reportedly torn his ACL in practice and is out for the remainder of the season. 
 
This is clearly a huge blow to a Super Bowl contender as they lose possibly the second most important player on this team. 2020 was turning into another ho-hum All-Pro campaign for Bakhtiari as he had allowed only one sack and nine total pressures in 446 pass-blocking snaps. He was also Pro Football Focus' highest-graded tackle. 
 
Now, the Green Bay Packers will have to push on without him, and there is no sugar-coating it; there is simply no replacing David Bakhtiari. With that said, this doesn't mean that the Packers' season is coming to an end either. 
 
Outside of losing Aaron Rodgers -- which I don't believe any team could handle -- this year's Packers squad is as well-equipped to handle losing a star player as they've been in years. When it comes to replacing Bakhtiari specifically, the versatility of the offensive line along with Matt LaFleur at the helm will allow Green Bay to absorb this blow. 
 
All season long, the Packers have dealt with injuries along the offensive line -- including Bakhtirari earlier in the season when he missed three games -- and as a result, they've had to play musical chairs with the constant movement of their players. We've seen Lane Taylor at right guard, while rookie Jon Runyan Jr. and Lucas Patrick have played both guard positions. Elgton Jenkins has played every position extensively except for right guard, Rick Wagner has filled in at right tackle admirably, and Billy Turner has played both tackle positions as well as right guard. 
 
Yet despite what feels like constant shuffling, the Packers' offensive line unit still ranks first by ESPN's pass-block win rate metric, which measures the rate at which a player can hold his block for at least 2.5 seconds, and first in run-block win rate as well. On top of that, the 15 sacks that they've allowed are the second-fewest in football, and their 116 pressures are the fewest.
 
So when it comes to who could replace Bakhtiari, Green Bay has two realistic options; Turner or Jenkins. 
 
Turner was the starting left tackle for three games during Bakhtiari's absence earlier in the season, and to my surprise, he held up relatively well. Over 120 pass-blocking snaps, Turner allowed just one sack and four pressures. If Green Bay does go with Turner at left tackle, then Wagner would be the right tackle -- assuming he's healthy -- while Patrick would be the right guard and Jenkins the left guard. 
 
Jenkins has far less experience at the tackle position in the NFL than Wagner, but he did take 33 snaps at right tackle in Week 1 and 27 at left tackle in Week 9, where he didn't allow a sack or a pressure against San Francisco. Jenkins has the athleticism and the quick feet to be able to work in space, and he has the strength to handle bull-rushes.
 
With Jenkins at left tackle, the Packers would likely play Patrick at left guard, Turner at right guard where he has played recently, and Wagner at the right tackle spot. 
 
As I alluded to above, we also can't overlook the importance of having LaFleur as the Head Coach in a situation like this. If a star player is injured, LaFleur is going to make adjustments to help the replacement. Allen Lazard or Marquez Valdes-Scantling should not be expected to do the same things as Davante Adams, and Turner or Jenkins shouldn't be asked to do the same things as Bakhtiari. 
 
I know this sounds like a simple concept, but it's not something that every coach does. Former Packers' Head Coach Mike McCarthy was very much in line with the 'next man up,' 'plug and play' mentality where the replacement was expected to fill a similar role to the starter. There are times where that may work, but there are also times where it could backfire. 
 
This means that regardless of who we see at left tackle moving forward, there will be more two tight end sets to help chip and more rollouts getting Aaron Rodgers out of the pocket. The LaFleur system already emphasizes running the ball as well as the quick passing game--both of which will also help mitigate the loss of Bakhtiari. 
 
And, oh yeah, the Packers still have the MVP and future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers under center. 
 
As I've already said, and I'll say it again, there is no replacing David Bakhtiari. He's just too good of a player. However, that shouldn't change your expectations for this team. While the road to the Super Bowl may have gotten a bit more difficult, it's still the end goal, and it's still well within reach. 
 
Offensive line play is often defined by the sum of the parts rather than one individual player. And even without Bakhtiari, Green Bay can still put a very capable starting five on the field. So if there's a Packers team that can absorb the loss of Bakhtiari just before the playoffs begin, it's this one. 

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Born and raised in Green Bay, WI and I still call it home. After my family, watching the Packers, sharing my opinions on the team through my writing and interacting with other fans is my greatest passion. You can find me on Twitter at @Paul_Bretl. 
 

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Comments (36)

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splitpea1's picture

January 01, 2021 at 11:38 am

This is certainly unwelcome news, but it's not devastating. If there's one position group that can absorb a loss like this, it's the OL, where we have adequate depth and versatility. I'm not trying to minimize the loss, but I think we'd be in more serious trouble if we lost AR (obviously), Davante, Jaire, ZDS, or Jones. We need to just get through the next game with a win, and MLF can figure out the best solution going forward through the playoffs.

The 1996 Packers won the Super Bowl with a replacement at LT and so did the 2017 Eagles without their perennial Pro Bowler. So we shouldn't be too dejected; there is hope.

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Mr.Pleepus's picture

January 01, 2021 at 11:45 am

Absolutely, well said. Gotta have faith in this team.

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GBPDAN1's picture

January 01, 2021 at 03:23 pm

I agree, let's get through this next game with a win. We will get a glimpse at what our new O-line configuration looks like against Mack, Hicks and a good Bears front seven. If the O-line looks good against the bears (which should happen), we will be in decent shape for the playoffs. Just no more O-line injuries moving forward!!

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mnbadger's picture

January 01, 2021 at 11:44 am

thanks to split pea for talking me off the edge. I agree with PB that this injury doesn't spell doom, but additional losses could be devastating. Now let's put the cubs to rest and take a week to tweak the plan going into the playoffs. Pack 23-16. GPG

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Swisch's picture

January 01, 2021 at 12:08 pm

I like Rodgers rolling out at times for quick passes (and perhaps occasionally longer ones) or running to the sidelines for a nice gain (and at the worst just taking a sack for a minimal loss).
It also makes it easier for him to throw the ball out of bounds without a penalty for intentional grounding.
There's also the threat of handing the ball to Tavon Austin or MVS for a sweep in the other direction.
I'm confident that Lafleur and Hackett can come up with a variety of plays off the rollout, as well as many other ways to scheme around the devastating, but not desolating, loss of Bakh.

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PewAuKeeFan's picture

January 01, 2021 at 12:39 pm

This is a big blow, but Paul is right. This team has the OL and the coaches to get it done.

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TarynsEyes's picture

January 01, 2021 at 12:44 pm

As I stated in the earlier article, the offense is too smooth and quick for this to be an issue. However, it doesn't cover any over reactions that MLF may persuade himself to incorporate, less why he'd feel the need to.

According to the stats, where one in CHTV land particularly and others seem to base life on, the OL is ranked #1 while having endured the musical chairs. Why would anyone suddenly be on the ledge. If you are, it should still be based on the defense, regardless of the step-up in play of recent weeks, because this defense is more apt to step back than the offense with or without Bakhtiari.

I hope I wasn't to positive to enrage a few here, or negative for some to simply rage on personal level.

Happy New Year to All.

We all want a SB victory, regardless of our season long differences about the team.

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chugwater's picture

January 01, 2021 at 01:44 pm

No worries. Well said.

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Tundraboy's picture

January 02, 2021 at 04:35 pm

Superb Taryn. Glad you are here. Happy New Year.

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HighPlainsDrifter's picture

January 03, 2021 at 07:26 am

Poor Taryn, reduced to trolling for sympathy. And suddenly relying on statistics, after repeatedly saying that statistics are the basis of "false rankings".

Perhaps you should have the courage to name the "some" or "one" you are referring to. You continually attack other posters for their Packers opinions, you repeatedly post your abhorrent personal societal beliefs, yet you desire immunity from those who dare to point out your lack of decency.

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PearlyBakerBest's picture

January 03, 2021 at 04:20 pm

Evil triumphs when good men do nothing.

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Houndog's picture

January 01, 2021 at 12:52 pm

This truly sucks, especially for Bahktiari after the year he's had.
Hopefully the Pack can handle this with changes to personnel and play calling as suggested above.
A bit reminiscent of loosing Mark Tauscher in 2010.

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mbpacker's picture

January 01, 2021 at 12:54 pm

These are times that try teams souls! Go Pack Go!

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Bearmeat's picture

January 01, 2021 at 12:55 pm

Yeah. Well put, Paul. The OL can handle this. It just means we can't have ANY more injuries there AND that the margin of error has gotten smaller. No one is going to just shut down a side of the defense like Bakh and Jenkins could. Our OL went from physically dominant to "good enough." Basically, this takes away the offense's trump card.

I was truly thinking Super Bowl. Now, I'm nervous again. Bucs, Saints, Rams (and yes, the Bears this weekend) front 7's become far more challenging to navigate successfully.

Hopefully, the defense can continue to pick up its end of the bargain. LFG.

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stockholder's picture

January 01, 2021 at 01:07 pm

If TT was still the GM. Bahk would not have been resigned. He believed any OL can be replaced. So if you use the TT FORMULA, you are correct. WE will be just Fine. If BG was right. BAHK should still make the Hall of Fame.

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MarkinMadison's picture

January 01, 2021 at 01:35 pm

I think TT was more opposed to re-signing guards than tackles. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think both Clifton and Tauscher got third contracts from TT.

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stockholder's picture

January 01, 2021 at 02:58 pm

Yes- he liked dumping guards.

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Guam's picture

January 01, 2021 at 04:33 pm

Clifton got a third contract and fulfilled two of the three years on the contract (retired due to injuries I believe). Tauscher was released after his second contract and was brought back on a partial year contract mid season due to injuries on the O-line. Taushcer was then resigned to full one year deal after completing the partial year deal. So they both got third contracts but Tauscher was far from the normal third contract.

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fish's picture

January 01, 2021 at 02:25 pm

The article assumes Wagner is healthy enough to play, but he exited last weeks game with an injury. If he's out, it will speed Rodgers up probably. We may see a situation like when Davante was out where Rodgers actually plays better.

With the emergence of Dillon, I wouldn't be surprised to see Aaron Jones in the Ervin role and be out wide and go in motion while Dillon is the back. More creativity is probably on the way, although it may not be shown until the playoffs.

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Since91's picture

January 01, 2021 at 02:52 pm

Just brutal news! I feel like it’s my fault! Like I upset the football gods! I keep thinking...did I leave out one of my superstitions?!?!
But just like the team we need a reset! Maybe the terrible news brings on a laser focus in all 3 phases of the game! This O Line has performed above average for the majority of the season....They need to rally around their injured leader! Keep ARod clean and victory is ours each week!

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

January 01, 2021 at 03:24 pm

The Packers got pleasant surprises all along the offensive line this year. Wagner can play RT. Turner can play several postions reasonably well and has been trending up lately. Linsley is having a career year. Jenkins did not take a 2nd year jump but can play pretty well everywhere. Bakh was simply dominant. Lucas Patrick is having a career year. Runyan can probably play.

GB is in better shape that most clubs would be to replace their starting LT. Still, the drop-off might be considerable. Playing more 2 TE sets is likely but it does reduce LaFleur's options, especially given the stats on the massive increase in 11 Personnel.

I guess we shall see what playing without the "dancing bear" at LT looks like.

Edit: Jamaal Williams full participant. Stepaniak full, full and full but still has a questionable injury designation. Wagner limited and limited on Friday but no designation. Sternberger full Friday participant and no designation.
Keke out with a concussion.

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mrj007's picture

January 01, 2021 at 04:30 pm

It’s good that Sternberger might be back to help. I swear thus team is snake-bit. Bahktiari is a class act and I hope he has a successful recovery. This is the kind of thing you need luck to avoid - and off course Pack have none. It will be telling how this team reacts. IF they over come this- look out! I hate seeing all these opportunities over the years derail this team. Get well soon big guy! You’re my favorite player and I hope the team can rally around this.

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Since91's picture

January 01, 2021 at 04:51 pm

Mrjoo7
We can’t think like that!
That’s a polluted mind set!
We have to rally around one of our best!
Other players and leaders have to step up!
One man does not make the Green Bay Packers!
Let’s rally! Nothing is easy!

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Bure9620's picture

January 01, 2021 at 05:02 pm

I think they are indeed equipped to weather this but no more key offensive players. If this were McCarthy's offense with tackles always on a island I would be more concerned. This is a horizontal pre snap motion offense that assists tackles. I think we will be fine so long as Rodgers gets the ball out in the framework of the offense. Losing Bahktiari means we lose the luxury of second reaction plays. This O-line is no longer built to sustain blocks that long.

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PhantomII's picture

January 01, 2021 at 06:10 pm

Big loss but we have a lot of great OL pieces starting and waiting in the wings. As far as most important on offense It's
1. Rodgers
2. D. Adams
3. A. Jones
lose #1 and it's over. #2-3 would be very, very hard to win without especially in game with a game plan in full operation. That's how I rate most important players. We have a lot of depth on the team. We will be fine, just not ideal. Hopefully from here on out ML has devised alternate emphasis of players in case we lose a piece in game. Tonyan could be a focus piece also or Dillon.

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mnbadger's picture

January 02, 2021 at 07:45 am

Cheering for a full and speedy recovery for a true packer great. GPG

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MarkinMadison's picture

January 01, 2021 at 06:35 pm

Basically, no money saved, unless he retires.

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mnbadger's picture

January 02, 2021 at 07:46 am

thanks for going easy on me Mark, I forgot that he was already resigned. GPG

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MarkinMadison's picture

January 01, 2021 at 06:27 pm

My major concern at this point is that Wagner has been battling a knee issue off and on for the last several weeks. I assume they will have a back-up plan. Hopefully, it doesn't involve more musical chairs. I thought T was already a need for the draft - I was hoping they would draft one last spring. I think it is even more important now.

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GregC's picture

January 01, 2021 at 06:35 pm

Until now, the Packers hadn't had a season-ending injury for one of their best players in the past two years. Their luck finally ran out. But I agree that they have a good chance of overcoming this setback. This article helped calm my nerves a bit.

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LeagueObsrvr's picture

January 01, 2021 at 07:15 pm

David Bakhtiari missed three games this season, prior to the Bear game and these are Rodgers' stats in those games (sourced from Colin Cowherd's show this morning):

Completion Percentage: 70.8%
TD/Int Ratio: 11-0
Passer Rating: 130.2
Sacks: 2

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GregC's picture

January 01, 2021 at 08:39 pm

I looked up who they played in those games: Houston, Minnesota, and San Francisco. Some pretty bad defenses there. Well, San Francisco is middle of the Pack statistically, but they were badly depleted when the Packers played them.

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blacke00's picture

January 02, 2021 at 07:14 am

This setback can tell the measure of this team. If the OL regroups and plays as a unit we'll do fine. If they succumb to fear or worse can't adjust to what the Bears will try to do, it will probably be a long day.

The bears will try and "stress "the LT side of the line or "bull rush" Patrick which caused some problems a couple of weeks ago. the Packers will have to expect that and play call according. That's the benefit of a QB like Rodgers. If he is the "smartest guy in the room" then he should know what to do!

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Leatherhead's picture

January 02, 2021 at 09:05 am

A piece of bad luck, for sure. No choice but to try to win without him.

To borrow a line from Dobber, “I’ll take’why is it risky to offer big contracts to older players’ for $800, Alex.”

Some of you described Turner as the weakest link and said he should be released to create cap space so we could get a runsfastjumpshigh WR. You know who you are. Now, he’s the depth you need to get to the Super Bowl. Hopefully, you’ve learned something.

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Qoojo's picture

January 02, 2021 at 09:55 am

The bears with Mack, since he switched sides so much, will be a good test of how much they miss Bak. I don't think it will be as easy as some think here, and I attribute most of the OL replacement success this past year to Jenkins being so good. I think the line will be serviceable, but they are one injury away from having occasional jailbreak issues.

Have to hope that Linsey holds up.

Has anyone heard if Bak's knee injury is the sort that takes a year to heal, or in other words, is he in danger of missing a large portion of next season too?

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DTomasLazauska's picture

January 03, 2021 at 11:22 am

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