The Green Bay Packers are excited that offensive tackle David Bakhtiari is healthy and ready to start training camp on time. The two-time All Pro and three-time Pro Bowler is the anchor of the Packers offensive line. When he’s healthy, Bakhtiari remains an elite player but keeping him on the field has been an issue in recent seasons. So, the team has to get used to the new normal for Bakhtiari.
David Bakhtiari’s Injury History
Bakhtiari suffered a serious knee injury before the 2020 season finale. He missed the 2020 playoffs and was limited to part of one game in all of 2021. Last season, the former Colorado star started training camp on the PUP list and missed the first two games of the season. He only played part of two more early-season games as he gradually recovered from complications from the surgery needed to repair the knee.
In 2022, Bakhtiari played in 11 games. He missed four games late in the season due to an emergency appendectomy that was completely unrelated to the knee injury.
When he played, Bakhtiari continued to be one of the better offensive tackles in the game. According to Pro Football Focus, Bakhtiari is still an elite pass blocker and a very good run blocker. Bakhtiari did not allow a sack all season and only allowed 10 pressures in almost 600 snaps.
David Bakhtiari’s New Normal
But the key for the Packers will be keeping Bakhtiari healthy and ready to play this season. The knee will need to be monitored and Bakhtiari will continue to miss practices throughout training camp and most likely during the regular season. Last year, Bakhtiari proved he doesn’t need to practice every day to play at a high level in games.
At his training camp opening press conference, head coach Matt LaFleur spelled out what lies ahead for his starting left tackle in training camp and probably beyond.
“He’ll definitely be modified, quite a bit,” LaFleur admitted. “It will be fluid. Just the communication with him, the medical staff, myself, the coaches. We know what type of player he is; he’s proved himself. Any time you have a veteran player with that much experience, then you’re willing to do that. You want the best for David, because when he’s out there and playing, we’re a better football team. It’s going to be fluid.”
The goal for the Packers is to keep Bakhtiari available for as many games as possible during the regular season. This season, keeping Bakhtiari in the lineup may be more important than ever.
The Need Is Greater
The Packers have a lot of young and experienced players on offense, starting with quarterback Jordan Love. The former first-round pick out of Utah State is entering his fourth NFL season, but he’s started only one game thus far and has thrown only attempted 83 passes in his pro career with many of them coming in garbage time.
The Packers drafted Love as Aaron Rodgers’ heir apparent in 2020. Now that Rodgers has been traded to the Jets, the Packers are giving Love a two-year window to prove he should be the next long-term quarterback of this franchise. Giving him enough time to throw the football will certainly help the team evaluate what Love can do.
The Packers are also inexperienced at the wide receiver and tight end positions. No wideout on the roster has more than one year of NFL experience. Certainly, players like Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs, Samori Toure and Jayden Reed have talent and potential, but they are unproven at the NFL level.
The situation is similar at tight end. Rookies Luke Musgrave and Tucker Kraft are expected to play major roles with Josiah Deguara, who is utilized primarily as a fullback or H-back also seeing playing time.
Giving Love more time to find an open receiver will be critical, especially early in the season as these young players learn the offense and develop chemistry with Love and each other.
What If He Can’t Go?
Continuity along the offensive line is critical in the NFL. Having Bakhtiari and left guard Elgton Jenkins both in the lineup gives the Packers two elite players on the left side of the offensive line.
The team has several options along the offensive line if Bakhtiari can’t play or practice. Zach Tom and Yosh Nijman are presently battling for the right tackle spot in training camp. One of them would be most likely to take over at left tackle if Bakhtiari needs to rest his knee with the other starting on the right side.
For now, the Packers are hopeful Bakhtiari will be able to play this season. But the “fluid” situation will have to be monitored all season and quite possibly for the rest of Bakhtiari’s football career. But if he can continue to play at his usual high level, it will be worth the effort.
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