Rookie Green Bay Packers sensations like Eddie Lacy and David Bakhtiari are going into 2014 pre-season activities with one goal in mind: To further themselves by putting undeniable distance between their rookie and sophomore seasons.
Avoiding the “sophomore slump” is on the mind of every second-year player, especially for those who enjoyed a certain level of success out of the gate.
The Family Night scrimmage last year could have resulted in devastation when starting left tackle Bryan Bulaga tore his ACL; but the 6-4, 300-pound “too small” rookie Bakhtiari stepped seamlessly into the starting role and never missed a beat.
The offensive line for the Green Bay Packers hasn’t really been a unit of strength or depth in recent memory. Injuries have hit both the offensive and defensive line hard the past few seasons, leaving our all-star quarterback Aaron Rodgers exposed to undue punishment. Rodgers had been one of the most-sacked quarterbacks in the NFL, which is what prompted a line switch at the beginning of the 2013 season. With Bulaga poised to anchor the blindside, his absence could have been a major blow to the Packers’ offensive development. However, Bakhtiari proved that depth does exist on the offensive line, and that depth is only getting stronger this offseason.
With the past six months to prepare, Bakhtiari has made some changes … to his body. It’s difficult to picture a 300-pound man “bulking up” to provide added strength to the offensive line, but it’s happening. While Bakhtiari wouldn’t commit to any concrete number, offensive line coaches are speculating that he’s put on 7-10 pounds of pure muscle, adding that he’s stronger, faster and more agile.
Bakhtiari has admitted that he “played well for a rookie” – but that last season is finished and new opportunities loom ahead. If his offseason extracurricular activities are any indication, he’s prepared to challenge himself in whole new ways in 2014.
Along similar lines, the Green Bay Packers offensive line itself has done some “bulking up” over the offseason. Many of the Packers’ walking wounded are returning to full duty, some for the first time in years. Former first-rounder Derek Sherrod is rounding back into football form after missing two years due to a broken leg. Bryan Bulaga, coming off that early ACL injury, is moving back to his original RT position, as Bahktiari proved to be a formidable addition to the left side.
Don Barclay is continuing his agility tour, proving that he can play multiple positions along the line, as needed. With the loss of center Evan Dietrich-Smith to Tampa Bay, J.C. Tretter (also returning from IR) is ready to prove that he can be the center of the future for the Packers.
It has been speculated that this season could be the strongest, most stable showing for the Green Bay Packers offensive line. If that is the case, Aaron Rodgers and all of Packers Nation can breathe just a little bit easier as we usher in the 2014 NFL season.