Poised Bakhtiari Continues to Shine

We highlight a series of plays, both run and pass, after fourth-round pick David Bakhtiari's strong showing against Arizona.

Matt Schaughnessy is not to be confused with San Francisco's Justin Smith or Aldon Smith (Game 1). Nor is he Washington's Brian Orakpo (Game 2) or Cincinnati's Michael Johnson (Game 3). He's probably not as good as Detroit rookie Ziggy Ansah (Game 4), and he's not in the same league as longtime NFC North nemesis Julius Peppers and Jared Allen.

Still, Friday's preseason game against Arizona was yet another step in the right direction for Green Bay Packers fourth-round pick David Bakhtiari, who in the span of a couple weeks has gone from just another rookie vying for a roster spot to protecting the blind side of the NFL's best quarterback as the injury replacement for veteran Bryan Bulaga.

"I didn't get touched tonight," Aaron Rodgers said. "We had a few dropbacks, I think five attempts, so I'm sure he was pretty good over there. It's nice when you're not worried about him, and tonight I wasn't worried about him. He's a confident kid. I think he's got a bright future for us."

Bakhtiari played the entire first half and was just as good as he's been on the practice field.

On the third play of the game, Bakhtiari couldn't sustain his block against Schaughnessy, resulting in a 2-yard gain. With the exception of a player here and there, it was nothing but solid play after that from a player who will be vital to the team's success this season.

"It was a good first game-like scenario. I'm happy where I was, but there's room to improve. I didn't feel overwhelmed, that's probably the best way to put it," he said.

As Rodgers said, he wasn't touched on his five passes. On the second possession, Bakhtiari was flawless in protection to help Graham Harrell convert on third-and-7. When Harrell scrambled for 7 yards late in the quarter, Bakhtiari blocked Ronald Talley for the football equivalent of eternity.

In the run game, he helped lead James Starks' 4-yard run to the 2 on the opening possession and had an excellent block on Starks' 8-yard run with about 3:30 to go in the opening quarter. Two plays later, he helped the tight end block the outside linebacker, then came off the block to pick up star inside linebacker Daryl Washington.

"It definitely makes me feel more comfortable and definitely makes me believe more in myself, but it's only one half of one preseason game," Bakhtiari said. "I still need to get a full game in and see how I can do through four quarters."

On Thursday, offensive line coach James Campen said Bakhtiari had been guilty of only one mental error during training camp.

"He's a young guy who has to learn and go through some things," Campen said. "To his credit, he has picked things up really nicely and done a good job for being book smart. But (he) is not only book smart but he transfers that onto the field. He's the type of guy who's very cerebral and can go out there, see it in the meeting, take the information, process it, and put it on the field. That's a good thing. If you don't know what you're doing, boy, it sure makes you tentative coming off the ball."

Left guard Josh Sitton was impressed following Friday's game.

"He was out there probably 100 percent with his assignments," Sitton said. "He seemed to be just fine. I'm positive that he can go out there and do it all year."

Bakhtiari said he had "more jitters in college" than for Friday's game, a sign that the rookie has uncommon poise. He'll need to show that self-confidence and continue his daily improvement if he – and the offense – are going to thrive amid the weekly gauntlet of blind-side pass rushers.

"For him, it's about experience and going against good pass rushers, and next week will be a good challenge with those guys they have in St. Louis," Rodgers said.

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.

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