The Road Ahead Won’t Get Any Easier for David Bakhtiari


David Bakhtiari (69) during the game against the Seattle Seahawks at Lambeau Field. Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports photograph

When the Green Bay Packers looked at the first stretch of their 2013 schedule, they had to be concerned about starting a rookie fourth-round pick at left tackle.

In the Packers’ first three games, David Bakhtiari has met his fair share of challenges. In his NFL debut facing the team he grew up rooting for as a kid in Northern California, Bakhtiari was asked to protect Aaron Rodgers from one of the top pass rushers in the league. Aldon Smith‘s 38 sacks in the past three seasons is more than any other player currently in the league during this time, and he really tested the Packers rookie.

However, Bakhtiari played admirably against the Niners’ edge rusher. On the stat sheet, he was credited for giving up 1.5 sacks against Smith, but both Coach McCarthy and offensive coordinator Tom Clements said the first sack was not the rookie’s fault.

On the Packers’ first drive of the game, Bakhtiari made a cut block on Smith. According to McCarthy, the play was supposed to be quick step back and throw, but the receivers ran the wrong routes, causing Rodgers to hold on to the ball longer than planned and consequently getting sacked. McCarthy also reiterated that the back was suppose to be there to pick up Smith off the edge, but missed his assignment and went out of the pass in the flat instead.

David Bakhtiari. Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports photograph

Long story short, Bakhtiari was only responsible for half a sack in his first NFL start.

The 6-4, 300-pound tackle had his best game this season at home against Washington. Bakhtiari squared off against Pro Bowl linebacker Brian Orakpo all game and didn’t allow a sack and helped pave the way for Green Bay’s first 100-yard rusher in nearly three years.

Bakhtiari did struggle a bit against Cincinnati’s Michael Johnson in the week three loss. According to Rob Reischel of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Bakhtiari give up a sack and five pressures in the game. On the Packers’ final play of the game, the rookie tackle missed on a cut block and failed to keep Johnson from batting down Rodgers’ pass.

The Packers’ fourth-round pick from Colorado has had his fair share of ups and downs so far in three starts. But that’s what we must keep in mind, Bakhtiari has only played in three NFL games and he’s shown enough promise so far that we should feel encouraged the rookie will continue to improve as the season progresses.

However, despite starting his NFL career blocking three Pro Bowl pass rushers in a row, one look at the Packers’ remaining schedule will tell you things won’t get any easier for Bakhtiari and the Packers’ pass protection.

Jared Allen. Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports photograph

21-year old rookie will face his next big challenge in week six against Terrell Suggs in Baltimore. He will then be tested again two weeks later when the Packers go to Minnesota and the young tackle will have to block Jared Allen all game. Things don’t seem to let up for the rookie left tackle as he’ll face Allen again a few weeks later, not to mention Chicago’s Julius Peppers and New York’s Jason Pierre-Paul in the mean time.

Things won’t be easy for Bakhtiari this season, but if the first three weeks are any indication of the rookie’s growth, he’ll be fine.

After Bryan Bulaga went down early in training camp, things looked dire for the Packers on the left side of the line. With pass protection already a major concern for Green Bay going into this season, Bakhtiari’s performance has been a real bright spot.

He may still face his fair share of struggles going forward, but Green Bay has to feel good with how the rookie has stepped up this season.