The Green Bay Packers rookie class is made up of do-ers.
We all look at Eddie Lacy as the runaway most valuable rookie … it seems like a slam dunk. Eddie has done it all and met just about every expectation the team and its fans had leading into the season.
Lacy has brought an attitude, a toughness that hasn’t existed in years. Lacy’s 4.0 yard-per-carry through the first half of the season could be more had he not lost a couple games after being concussed by Brandon Meriweather of the Washington Redskins in week 2. He has contributed 446 yards on 112 carries, scoring three times.
But there’s one other rookie who, as a fourth round draft pick, has brought his game to an entirely different level. David Bakhtiari jumped the depth chart after Bryan Bulaga went down with a knee injury one week into training camp. Bakhtiari was originally thrust into the competition for either the right or left tackle position last summer. But when it became clear that Don Barclay was probably going to be the starter at right tackle and there was an immediate need for a replacement for Bulaga, Bakhtiari stepped in.
From the beginning, he seemed like a natural fit. His balance, footwork and quickness has been superb and he has continued to get better as the season has progressed.
Last weekend was his crowing moment. Matched up against perennial Pro Bowler Jared Allen, Bakhtiari didn’t just come to play, he came to dominate … and he did.
In his career, Allen has 121.5 sacks and has recorded 11 sacks in all of the past six seasons.
Not only did Bakhtiari keep Allen from getting a whiff of Aaron Rodgers, but he kept Allen from recording a single tackle.
“David’s playing very well,” Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. “We’re obviously very conscious of Jared Allen, and I think Jared’s having an excellent year. So we’re very conscious how we set the run game and our protections. But David did a heck of a job.”
He swallowed Allen, but he wasn’t the first Pro Bowler he has kept at bay this season. Remember when he lined up opposite Aldon Smith of the San Francisco 49ers? Smith got an early sack, but was mostly silent during that season opener.
Michael Johnson and Geno Atkins, two of the best in the business. That was Bakhtiari’s worst game to date, but then again he’s not the first left tackle to have issues with Johnson, who led the Bengals that day with 1.5 sacks and seven tackles.
Things didn’t get much simpler in game four against the Detroit Lions. Matched up against the right side of Detroit’s defensive line, Willie Young and Ndamukong Suh, Bakhtiari again had a solid outing – he held Young to two tackles and no sacks.
He did the same against the Cleveland Browns and Desmond Bryant – 2 tackles.
Then came his performance against Allen.
Lacy has been gaining all the headlines. He’s been inflicting nearly as many bruises as yards, while Bakhtiari has been going about his business – doing the heavy lifting without much fanfare.
When a coaching staff puts a fourth round draft pick on the franchise’s blind side, you’ve got to be a pretty special player.
We figure that improvement will continue as the entirety of the offensive line continues to gel. Expect Bakhtiari to be a part of it all.