Take heart, Packers fans. By my reckoning, losing Bryan Bulaga is no worse than the fourth worst thing that could have happened to the Packers in the preseason. The three things worse than that are, in order:
- Aaron Rodgers losing one of his limbs
- Clay Matthews defecting to Minnesota
- Randall Cobb contracting some sort of fatal disease
So really, this isn’t that big of a deal. Or so I’m telling myself. Okay, so maybe it’s kind of a big deal.
But either way, it’s done now. Bryan Bulaga is not an option any more. He will not be playing a single down for the Packers in 2013. Yes, that’s bad, but the quicker the team (and its fans) moves on, the better off everyone will be.
Bulaga’s likely replacement in the starting lineup will be David Bakhtiari, a fourth round pick out of Colorado. You’ll remember we briefly talked about him on draft day, but now that he’s going to be playing a much bigger role, we should get to know our newest friend a little better.
At 6’4″ and about 300 pounds, Bakhtiari is a little on the small side for a tackle. He’s currently the lightes one on the roster, but scouting reports indicate that he tends to make up for his lack of ideal size with technique, as described in this excerpt from his NFL.com scouting profile:
Consistent low posture and first contact through his hands is there. Strong grip and latch to control when obtained. Frequently limits inside moves and very aware of slowed footwork when opponent is setting up a second move. He drives forward in these situations, specifically with the inside armbar to cut off the shorter path.
CBSSports.com adds that Bakhtiari has “ Long arms and strong hands allow him to latch on to defenders as they attempt to cross his face when he is in pass protection,” not to mention ”ood understanding of angles to cut off defenders who appear to have him beat.”
Then there’s the feedback in Green Bay. So far it’s nothing but rave reviews for the rookie, at least according to last week’s great piece by Bob McGinn at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Bakhtiari got nearly unanimous praise, starting with Mike McCarthy:
“He’s off to a real good start,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “You could see it in the spring. Very bright kid. Like his feet.”
Then there’s Aaron Rodgers, whose blind side Bakhtiari may be responsible for protecting:
“I think he looks the part,” said Rodgers. “He has all the tools. He has a long frame and good body control. He keeps a good pad level. He’s got a ways to go, but he’s got a chance.
Mike Daniels had a lot to say, too:
“The first day I did go against him and he rolled me back about 6 yards,” defensive end Mike Daniels said of a drive block by Bakhtiari. “He’s a long guy. Strong kid. You can tell he’s been well-coached.
“He reminds me of (Josh) Sitton. He’s got that real nice, cool personality, but when he gets on the field he turns into a psychopath.”
In this case, being a psychopath is a good thing, and it relates to one of the most often praised aspects of Bakhtiari’s game: his “nasty streak.” In offensive lineman terms, it means you go after your blocks and pursue your marks, rather than letting a play come to you. NFL.com made note of Bakhtiari’s willingness to be “nasty,” saying he “flashes a mean attitude to finish off plays” and “takes opponents down that have lost their balance,” describing him ultimately as “an attacker rather than a passive blocker.”
But as Bob McGinn pointed out, when he asked about Bakhtiari’s mean streak, seven of 13 NFL talent evaluators described him as “a finesse blocker, soft” or otherwise lacking strength.
So, to recap, the Packers are replacing a three year starter with a guy who has slightly below average size, good technique, and who has earned high praise from nearly everyone. He’s generally thought of as having a mean streak, but some have offered concerns about his ability to carry that streak to the next level.
That, my friends, is David Bakhtiari. And though you may not have guessed it last week at this point, a good chunk of this season is suddenly riding on his shoulders.
For more information, look here:
And after you’ve read all that, check out this video and apply what you’ve learned. What do you think of Bakhtiari’s technique?