By Jon Meerdink
Pop quiz: who is the youngest player on the Packers’ roster?
If you guessed David Bakhtiari, you are either a wealth of Packers-related knowledge or stunningly good at Googling things. Don’t give yourself too much credit if you fall in the latter camp, though. I feel like the post title and picture might have given it away. But I digress.
David Bakhtiari wasn’t perfect in 2013, but he was everything the Packers could have asked for as a 22 year old rookie. Bakhtiari, who won’t turn 23 until the end of September, slid nearly seamlessly into the void at left tackle created by Bryan Bulaga‘s nearly disastrous knee injury. To be sure, the offensive line wasn’t what it could have been had Bulaga been in place and healthy, but Bakhtiari was at least a passable replacement. Considering the alternative was Marshall Newhouse…yeah, let’s not go there.
With 2013 in the books, though, and Bulaga hopefully returning healthy for 2014, where does that leave David Bakhtiari? There are two obvious choices, and both, for once, are good. (The fact that the Packers have multiple GOOD options at a position is something of a miracle in and of itself. For the last few seasons, it has seemed far more typical that the Packers find themselves shorthanded at a spot rather than with enormous depth, but that’s exactly where they are in terms of tackles heading in to 2014. But I digress.)
First, the Packers could pencil Bulaga in as the starter at left tackle, then shift Bakhtiari back to right tackle and have him hash it out with Don Barclay, a stout starter in his own right. This would reset the offensive line ot where it was basically at the start of the 2013 training camp, where Bakhtiari and Barclay already had been battling at right tackle when Bulaga went down.
Secondly, Bakhtiari could stay at left tackle and Bulaga could flip back to right, where he’d spent all of his career prior to his lost 2013 season. This approach might put the Packers best five lineman on the field immediately with no need for a position battle, and Bakhtiari could continue the chemistry he’d begun to develop with Josh Sitton on the left side. It would be inconvenient to switch Bulaga back to the right, but he should have enough positional familiarity to pick up the reins pretty quickly.
The second approach would also allow Don Barclay more flexibility to fill in as needed along the offensive line. Injuries forced him into duty as a guard at times, which is fine, but losing him at tackle left a hole almost too big to fill. This approach would give a little bit more flexibility.
Either way, the Packers may find themselves in a good position for this season. It’s never ideal to have a 22 year old as your starting left tackle, but when he’s a highly intelligent, determined, and skilled individual with 16 NFL starts under his belt, you could do a lot worse.
Plus, mad respect for the Instagram game, David.
David also appreciates quality NFL blogging: