So this week’s amateur adventures in film is a little delayed, but that might be appropriate if you bear with me. I was at a slight loss to what I was going to write about when I remembered listening to The Ringer’s Robert Mays waxing lyrical about the play of left tackle David Bakhtiari early in the season and sure enough I took a look at his game against the Atlanta Falcons from week fourteen.
Now the interesting things for me is that looking at offensive linemen is to an extent always an exercise in trying to decipher the undecipherable. There are a lot of nuances that are hard to judge on film if you are not an expert, even if you try to watch for changes in set and how they approach each play. The real thing to look at is how the player does in pass protection and run blocking but even then you don’t know the protection scheme or what was meant to happen on a particular play.
Now watching Bakhtiari the major thing that struck me was his balance and how in control he looked. It reminded me of another AAF post I did on Joe Thomas where I was struck by a similar thought. With good pass protection, particularly by a tackle there is a balance and control about a player. Now it has to be said that doesn’t mean that Bakhtiari didn’t give up ground when bull rushed, but he basically always stayed in front of the pass rusher and was able to direct them away from his quarterback. There was one snap where the Falcons defender was able to break contact and come across Bakhtiari and eventually get a sack but part of the ability of Aaron Rodgers has to make life hard for his offensive line as often he will move out of the pocket so the linemen can’t always be sure of the point they are blocking too. However, Bakhtiari never looked troubled by this and often Rodgers would get rid of the ball before Bakhtiari has even engaged the Falcons defender he was facing. Partly this was a function of quick passes, but the other major comment I would have about Bakhtiari is that he seems to be incredibly patient when blocking and seems very happy to wait before getting his hands on the pass rusher but yet he doesn’t miss. You might have thought that this approach would lead to trouble but the defender never seems to be able to put a move on Bakhtiari despite not being engaged, Bakhtiari just waits until he feels the need before laying a hand on the defender. In fact one of my favourite plays was when Bakhtiari waited until his defender was half way through a spin move and simply engaged the defender’s back and stoned him dead facing the wrong way!
In the run game Bakhtiari is not exactly running over people, but that is a pretty rare thing in the NFL and all he really needs to do is turn his assigned man and seal the edge. However, Bakhtiari has the athleticism to keep up with the play when the whole line blocks right or left on run plays.
I wish I could write more on the nuances, but what I can say is that David Bakhtiari was left to cover a man on the left side of the defence on his own, pretty much never got beaten, and had the most amazing timing with the way he engages his defender. I want to learn more about line play and Bakhtiari would seem to be a good player to come back to. It would be well worth your time paying attention to Aaron Rodgers blind side the next time you watch the Packers.