David Bakhtiari blocks Aldon Smith during the Packers playoff loss at home against the 49ers. Raymond T. Rivard photograph

Green Bay Packers: Year 2 for David Bakhtiari

Many say that the biggest jump in performance for NFL players comes between their rookie and second year – that’s good news for Green Bay Packers left tackle David Bakhtiari.

Coming out of nowhere as a fourth round draft pick for the Packers in 2013, Bakhtiari was thrust into the starting role on Aaron Rodgers‘ blind side and competed well, despite some glaring areas that are in need of improvement.

In a comparison to other rookie tackles across the league, the good folks over at Pro Football Focus (subscription required) provide us with a look at how Bakhtiari compared in a recent study.

David Bakhtiari enters his second year as the Green Bay Packers' left tackle. Raymond T. Rivard photograph

David Bakhtiari enters his second year as the Green Bay Packers’ left tackle.
Raymond T. Rivard photograph

Author of the comparison study,  says that Bakhtiari held up pretty well against other high profile rookies:  Eric FisherLuke JoeckelLane JohnsonD.J. FlukerJustin PughJordan Mills and LaAdrian Waddle.

Here is how Palazzolo describes Bakhtiari’s bottom line:

Unlike the previous offensive tackles profiled, Bakhtiari came to the league with little fanfare, yet he slid into a starting role at left tackle after OT Bryan Bulaga went down in the preseason due to injury. While Bakhtiari’s overall grade came in middle-of-the-pack among the fellow rookie offensive tackles, digging a little deeper into the numbers shows a capable pass protector with some upside if he can improve in the right areas.

Surprisingly, Bakhtiari was one of the top pass protectors out of this rookie group. Though he struggled against the bull rush, he was solid against some of the best pass rushers in the game – a promising fact.

Here are the numbers:

Pass Blocking

Grade: +2.8
Pass Block Snaps: 674
Total Pressures: 39
Sacks: 8
Hits: 4
Hurries: 27
Pass Blocking Efficiency: 95.2

However, when you look at Bakhtiari’s numbers in the run game, reality sinks in. He was dead last in comparing his performances in the run game against the other rookie tackles from the 2013 season.

Here are his numbers and Palazzolo’s comments about Bakhtiari’s run blocking statistics:

Run Blocking

Grade: -15.0
Run Block Snaps: 464

As impressive as Bakhtiari was in pass protection, he was equally disappointing in the running game as his -15.0 easily ranked last among his fellow rookies. He was often controlled at the point of attack and he simply gave up too much backfield penetration.

Bakhtiari, in an interview not long after the season ended, had this to say about himself:

“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.”

Bakhtiari has also received the needed vote of confidence from head coach Mike McCarthy who said a couple of months ago that his plan was to keep the second-year tackle on the left side and move veteran Bryan Bulaga back to the right side where he played his first three seasons in the league.

One thing is for sure – if Bakhtiari can clean up his play against the bull rush and improve his run blocking skills, he could be in this league for years to come.

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