David Bakhtiari vs. Jared Allen: Previewing Packers-Bears in 2014

Adam Bettcher

We look back at the 2013 season to see what we can learn about the Packers' left tackle of the future and how he matches up with the Chicago Bears' newest pass-rushing specialist.

By now you have probably heard the news about the latest pass-rush specialist who signed with a division rival of his old NFC North team. No, I'm not talking about Julius Peppers right now. Instead, I'm talking about the newest Chicago Bears defensive end, Jared Allen. Allen signed a four-year deal worth $32 million overall and $15.5 million guaranteed to become a Bear for the foreseeable future.

Also in the news recently was the Packers' decision to keep rookie surprise David Bakhtiari at left tackle for the upcoming season. The fourth-round pick stepped in for the injured Bryan Bulaga and performed well enough at left tackle for the team to commit to him at that position moving forward.

Since Allen played right end in Minnesota (and likely will play there again in Chicago), these two players will likely be seeing more of each other this year. Therefore, we decided to take a look at Allen's performance against Bakhtiari in 2013 to see how the two handled each other.

Week 8

First up is the Packers' offensive explosion at the Metrodome in week 8, Green Bay's final game with a healthy Aaron Rodgers until the final week of the regular season. The Vikings had no answer on defense for the Packer offense, as Rodgers and company rolled up 44 points and 464 yards of offense. Let's take a look at the grades for Allen and Bakhtiari:

Player Overall Grade Pass Block/Rush Run Block/Defense Penalty Sacks Allowed/By QB Hits Allowed/By QB Hurries Allowed/By
David Bakhtiari +0.2 +1.1 -0.4 -0.5 0 0 1
Jared Allen -1.3 -2.0 +0.4 +0.3 0 0 1

In this game, Bakhtiari played all 77 snaps, while Allen played 62. You can see that in pass protection, Bakh handled Allen entirely, keeping him to just a single hurry while not allowing him to touch Rodgers. Allen had more success against the run, but the Packers' play-calling kept running backs Eddie Lacy and James Starks generally on the inside of Bakhtiari, only running six times to his outside (mostly tosses to the edge rather than off-tackle) with minimal success (9 yards). Their greatest success came running the ball between Bakhtiari and left guard Josh Sitton, averaging six yards per carry through that gap.

Week 12

The rematch in Lambeau Field saw a very different offense take the field. Scott Tolzien started the game before being pulled in favor of Matt Flynn at halftime. This led to a more predictable offense that featured the run more heavily. Still, Bakhtiari had a good showing in the passing game, but he struggled mightily against the run.

Player Overall Grade Pass Block/Rush Run Block/Defense Penalty Sacks Allowed/By QB Hits Allowed/By QB Hurries Allowed/By
Bakhtiari -1.1 +1.1 -2.9 +0.7 0 1 3
Allen +1.2 -0.6 +3.4 -1.6 0 3 4

This is a little bit of a remarkable stat line - Allen ended up with a negative pass-rushing grade, despite recording seven combined pressures. As you can see, however, Minnesota lined him up at various places along the defensive line, perhaps taking advantage of Marshall Newhouse, who started at right tackle in place of the injured Don Barclay. Still, the positive grade for Bakhtiari in the passing game suggests that he was able to handle Allen well when the two were indeed matched up across from each other. Further study of game tape will be needed to determine exactly how many of Allen's snaps placed him at the right end spot, however.

Those run grades, though, tell a very different story. It is plain to see that Allen crushed Bakhtiari in that phase of the game, as this was by far Allen's best-graded game against the run and was Bakhtiari's worst. Still, the team's overall production running to the left was not terrible, as Eddie Lacy totaled ten rushes for 54 yards (5.4 yards per carry) either to Bakhtiari's inside shoulder or to the left end. The grades show Bakhtiari getting beat regularly, but Lacy's vision and ability to make people miss (10 total missed tackles forced in that game and four on runs near Bakhtiari) helped make up for poor blocking from the Packers' left tackle.

Overall Impressions

It appears that in two games, Bakhtiari handled Jared Allen's pass rush very well, especially considering the youth and inexperience of the Packers' left tackle. He allowed no sacks and just a single hit on the quarterback over two games. The grades for Bakhtiari bear out what we believe him to be - a talented tackle who has good pass-blocking technique but who needs to bulk up and develop a better push in the running game. A full off-season in the Packers' strength and conditioning program should help him elevate his game to that point.

Allen, on the other hand, will likely replace the departed Peppers at right end in Chicago. However, looking back to his grades through the 2008 season, his track record is clear: he excelled in rushing the passer (until 2013, at least, when he received a pass-rush grade of -4.1) but has typically struggled defending the run. I will not say that one can ignore his performance against the run in Green Bay last year, but I will say that there were mitigating circumstances (namely Aaron Rodgers' absence) that may have contributed to his being more effective in defending the run.

At the very least, the grades for Bakhtiari and Allen in the passing game from their two 2013 matchups should make Packers fans optimistic that Allen will not be spending much time bothering Aaron Rodgers in the backfield in 2014, regardless of which colors he is wearing.

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