The Green Bay Packers have been dealing with injuries along the offensive line to start the 2022 season. However, the offensive line was finally fully healthy thanks to the return of left tackle David Bakhtiari.
Bakhtiari had been sidelined with a torn ACL and the following procedures on his knee since New Year’s Eve of 2020. Although the veteran tackle had played sparingly in the regular season finale last year against the Detroit Lions, he hadn’t been able to return in full capacity.
Technically, Bakhtiari still wasn’t able to do that, either. The 30-year-old traded drives with Yosh Nijman at left tackle against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which was extremely unorthodox, but was explained by head coach Matt LaFleur as a conditioning concern more than anything.
Bakhtiari finished the game with 34 snaps played, and based on what we saw on the field in Week 3, he almost looks like his old self.
As a run blocker, Bakhtiari wasn’t timid when attacking defenders. On one of the first plays from scrimmage, Bakhtiari attacked Tampa Bay edge rusher Joe Tryon-Shoyinka to push him out of the way and create a clear rushing lane for Aaron Jones.
One of Bakhtiari's first snaps from Sunday.— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) September 26, 2022
Like the foot quickness and how he kept his feet moving through the block to create a huge running lane for Aaron Jones. pic.twitter.com/XDVWZ0ozHC
Foot quickness is an important trait in a left tackle, and Bakhtiari had no problem keeping his feet moving through contact to win his one-on-one battle against an athletic edge rusher.
Bakhtiari was a key part of the running game, and that could be a huge boost going forward when the Packers aren’t playing elite defenses like Tampa Bay’s. This rep is a nice example of Bakhtiari being able to steer the defender and use his anchor to wall off the defender and keep them from generating any push to constrict the rushing lane.
Good job here to steer his defender and wall them off to clear the way for Jones. pic.twitter.com/DmLAJ4Ba3y— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) September 26, 2022
That anchor was one of Bakhtiari’s most notable traits in pass protection. In the red zone, Tryon-Shoyinka tried to test Bakhtiari’s comfort level in his first game back by translating speed to power on a bull rush.
Bakhtiari did a great job handling the bull rush, dropping his anchor by widening his base and getting his feet behind him to dig his heels in to prevent the pocket from collapsing.
Bakhtiari moved well out there.— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) September 26, 2022
Nice job getting into his anchor, widening his base and getting his feet behind him. pic.twitter.com/pHxIA8PQHY
While the pass sets looked clean and Bakhtiari cleared the way in the running game, it wasn’t a perfect night from the veteran left tackle. It appears that he’s still getting comfortable with his lateral agility, and he got beat on an inside move once that forced Rodgers to escape the pocket.
Something to monitor going forward with Bakhtiari.— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) September 26, 2022
The pass set looks good, but Bakh struggles cutting back on the inside move.
Imagine this is something he needs to get comfortable with again given the nature of ACL injuries. pic.twitter.com/1a4nQArK7z
It’s a bit surprising that the Buccaneers didn’t try to attack Bakhtiari inside more often considering the extent of his rehab. It could be something that Bakhtiari just needs to get more comfortable handling after being out for the better part of the last two years, but it’s still something that fans should keep an eye on.
Overall, it was great to see Green Bay’s top offensive lineman back out on the field. PFF credited him with a 78.7 pass-blocking grade and held him responsible for just one pressure, presumably on the inside move.
If Bakhtiari can continue to get comfortable and stay out on the field for an entire game, then the Packers will go back to having one of the more complete offensive line units in the NFL.