In an interview this week with jsonline.com, Bakhtiari isn’t about to give up his left tackle position easily. After the short-lived experiment with moving veteran Bryan Bulaga to the left side last summer fell apart when Bulaga blew out his knee in the family night scrimmage, Bakhtiari was quickly inserted at the position and never looked back.
Though his play was at times spotty, for a rookie protecting the blind side of Aaron Rodgers, arguably one of, if not the best quarterback in the league, Bakhtiari showed vast improvement from week-to-week and across the expanse of the entire season.
He’s earned the position and his play has left the Packers coaches with somewhat of a conundrum on how to address it. Do they continue with their previous plan of moving Bulaga into the left tackle position and bump Bakhtiari back to the right side? Do they move Bakhtiari inside so that they could slide T.J. Lang to center?
With the loss of center Evan Dietrich-Smith to free agency, the Packers will either have to draft a center or do some shuffling along their line – or they could simply insert last year rookie J.C. Tretter into the center position. That’s a huge jump for a rookie who sat out his entire first season after breaking his leg in the first drills of OTA last spring.
Big questions will remain to be answered, but that didn’t stop Bakhtiari from saying outright that he was the team’s left tackle until somebody tells him otherwise.
“The only thing I know is I played the last game at left tackle and I haven’t had anybody tell me anything otherwise,” Bakhtiari told the Journal Sentinel. “I’m going to come in like I’m the left tackle. I’m going to take it on like I did last year and just try to keep whoever they want to throw at Aaron, keep them off his backside.”
And For Bakhtiari, last season’s success is simply the start of bigger and better things for him in the future:
“For me, I thought it was a very good rookie season — as a rookie. If I look at myself like a rookie, hell of a season. As a player, I thought had a good, decent year. But I’m always harsh on myself. I don’t care if I was a rookie or not. Now, I’m not a rookie anymore. No one’s going to keep that tag on me.
“I just need to keep a higher level of expectation that I have to protect 12 back there and keep him up and make sure I’m playing the game at an extremely high level. I know if I keep people off him, he’s going to make plays and score points for us.”
As an excellent choice to man the left side, Bakhtiari will join a unit this coming season that should be stacked with talent. The big question is the injury situation – if this team stays healthy, there will be plenty of bodies that Mike McCarthy can plug in. Don Barclay, like Bakhtiari, was solid on the opposite side and though it appears the
Marshall Newhouse will be gone, the team still also has 2011 first round selection Derek Sherrod waiting in the wings. Because he sat out the bulk of two seasons, Sherrod might still be considered a rookie. His potential has got to be bright considering the Packers have stayed with him through his leg injury and have had the patience to see what he can do once he’s healed.
But when all is said and done with the Draft (where Ted Thompson always likes to draft offensive linemen), the Packers should be set along the offensive line. After averaging 113.5 yards on the ground last season and playing through nearly half the season without their best quarterback, this line was a bright spot for the team. And with Bulaga, Tretter and Sherrod set to come back this could be one of the most solid units the Packers have had in years.
And David Bakhtiari will be a part of that. One season under the belt and one season of built-up confidence should make him even better. When you consider the likes of Kansas City’s Eric Fisher, Jacksonville’s Luke Joeckel and Philadelphia’s Lane Johnson, who all went first, second and fourth overall in last year’s draft, you can consider just what the Packers found in Bakhtiari. He was the 109th selection is last year’s draft. Another feather in Ted Thompson’s cap.
You gotta love what the guy says and how he feels about his future. His confidence will only help the team in the long run.