Word of Hobbes: Marshall Newhouse and David Bakhtiari

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One of the best football writers out there is Ben Muth; many people claim not to know much about offensive line play, but this man obviously is not one of them.  If you don’t follow or read his stuff, stop reading this article and head over there now,  you’ll thank me later.  In a little bit of a homage, I’ve decided to do a “Word of Hobbes” on the Packers preseason opener against the Arizona Cardinals.  I choose Aaron Rodgers’ 50 yard bomb to James Jones not because it was a big play, but because Rodger’s held on to the ball longer than he probably should have, thus forcing the offensive linemen to hold their blocks a lot longer, which exposes technique and athleticism.

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The Packers are in a 3-1-1 personnel group (3 WR-1TE-1RB), although since we are looking at offensive tackle play this is largely unimportant; perhaps the most important thing to note about the receivers is that neither the tight end nor the running back are responsible for any blocking assignment, both immediately go out on their routes without chipping or really trying to influence the defensive line.  So for all intents and purposes this is a straight 5 OL vs 4 DL battle. As this is the preseason, you aren’t going to see many complicated stunts or exotic blitzes, so really it’s a 1 on 1 battle with rookie left tackle David Bakhtiari vs. Matt Shaughnessy and right tackle Marshall Newhouse vs. Calais Campbell.  Also keep in mind Newhouse has the bigger issue on his hands as Campbell is a considerably better pass rusher than Shaughnessy and is also huge at 6’8″

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Immediately after the snap Campbell goes for a swim move, and Newhouse makes matters worse by completely whiffing on his initial punch with his right arm (which you can see is at Campbell’s left arm instead of on his frame).  Shaughnessy on the other hand opts to go with a pure speed pass rush, either hoping to outrun or outturn Bakhtiari to the quarterback.  However Bakhtiari easily matches Shaughnessy with his kick slide.  Also notice how much lower Bakhtiari and how much more his hips are sinked compared to Newhouse, who due to his whiffed punch now is up close with Campbell

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Ben Muth has his “yellow X of shame” and I’ll pay homage to him with my “Oh S**t” thought bubble of shame.  Just look at that terrible technique. From the bottom up: Newhouse’s feet are almost crossing which gives him no base or power to do anything, his right arm still hasn’t gotten back to Campbell’s frame and with Campbell closing the distance between the two of them, the best Newhouse can do now is grab him by the side of the stomach (which you can see in the next image).  Finally, Campbell’s got his right arm over Newhouse’s left shoulder and as a result it pushes Newhouse’s shoulders (and neck since they are attached) down so Newhouse is staring straight at Campbell’s feet without a clue of what’s going on.  At this point, right guard TJ Lang already knows no good is going to come from this and starts to peel off his combo block with center Evan Dietrich-Smith in order to prevent a disaster.  Keep in mind Newhouse gets beaten so fast Shaughnessy has gone about 1 yard since the last image and still hasn’t come in contact with Bakhtiari, who is still in his kick slide.

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At this point Campbell is only adding insult to injury, who now has both arms over Newhouse’s back (For all you Surviving Sunday fans it looks like Campbell is going to pile drive Newhouse).  On the other side Bakhtiari keeps his base low and turned well is is still straight on with Shaughnessy; if Shaughnessy decides to loop back in, Bakhtiari is in position to redirect and block him outright and if Shaughnessy decides to continue on his pass rush, Bakhtiari can probably just ride him out of the play.

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On the right side, Newhouse actually manages to recover pretty well and with the help of TJ Lang coming in manages to stop Campbell from reaching the quarterback.  It’s debatable if Newhouse could have recovered well enough to handle Campbell on his own; Aaron Rodgers has the option of sliding to his right at this point since Campbell has gone inside with Newhouse.  At this point Bakhtiari is beginning his punch as Shaugnessy has to turn the corner for any realistic shot at getting to the quarterback; note Bakhtiari is still lower than Shaughnessy and still has a nice base.  Also note so far Bakhtiari has kept his hands up through out the entire play, which obviously makes his punch faster, something that many rookies fail to do starting out.

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On the right side, so much for the recovery.  Even with help from TJ Lang, Campbell is still destroying Newhouse as you can see Newhouse’s helmet by Campbell’s waist.  I’m almost positive that Newhouse’s left leg is also off the ground and he gets thrown to the ground right after this image, luckily with Lang there to hold off Campbell no damage is done.  On the left, Bakhtiari makes his first mistake on the play, he misses his punch and desperately tries to lunge, which doesn’t do much as Shaugnessy has already turned the corner on him. Considering Shaughnessy doesn’t have the time to trying anything complicated like trying to beat Bakhtiari on the inside, Bakhtiari probably would have been best just to flip his hips and ride Shaughnessy out of the pocket.  Luckily, Bakhtiari has drawn out the pass rush long enough that Shaugnessy is already behind the quarterback, who has the added benefit of having the option to step up with his interior line giving him a clean pocket.

Overall, a couple of observations that are highlighted from this play

  • Marshall Newhouse is Marshall Newhouse; he is going to be beat, but at least he has nimble enough feet and enough experience to recover and more often than not get enough of the defender to give his quarterback a chance to slide or scramble.  Would you want him as your blind side protector?  No and that’s why the Packers swapped the entire offensive line to avoid Newhouse playing at left tackle.
  • Speaking of Sitton and Lang, bonus points for both of them as well as Evan Dietrich-Smith.  Sitton basically just stone walls his defender the entire play and Evan Dietrich-Smith has enough control of his man that Lang has the chance to slide back and save Newhouse. Lang of course gets the gold star of the group as he not only has the awareness to know Newhouse is getting beat but also the athleticism to get out there and stop Campbell from killing the quarterback.
  • There’s a lot to like about David Bakhtiari but he isn’t the next Chad Clifton yet that many in the media are making him out to be.  He made his own share of mistakes and something that I didn’t highlight was his mess of a run game (which then again fits right in with the rest of the Packers’ offensive line).  However, I think the most important thing to take out of all of this is that Bakhtiari looked like a offensive tackle playing offensive tackle (i.e. he passes the eye test), the game didn’t look too big for him and he did what he was supposed to do, something which can’t be said with all rookies, especially those taken in the later rounds.

The next coming weeks should be very interesting for David Bakhtiari; if he can build on his performance from the first preseason game into the next couple, he will be the starter at left tackle.  Even if he were to let his play slip slightly, I still would predict that the Packers will roll with him at left tackle during the regular season and hope that he takes his rookie lumps quickly.  As for Newhouse, schematically he’s never going to be the starting left tackle (as you’d have to switch Lang and Sitton again) so unless a spate of injuries occur, Newhouse and Don Barclay are going to fight it out at right tackle.  Add to that Newhouse let Graham Harrell get sack-fumbled later and Newhouse might not even make the team if Derek Sherrod ever gets off the PUP.

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Thomas Hobbes is a staff writer for Jersey Al’s AllGreenBayPackers.com.

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  • NorthStarr

    In fairness to Bakhtiari,
    Clifton, at the same stage of his career, wasn’t any closer than Bak is now to being the next Chad Clifton.

    • Thomas Hobbes

      Sure, I meant Clifton in his prime. If you didn’t watch the game, you would think that was Orlando Pace or something out there by the amount of gushing.

      • NorthStarr

        Well, that sounds like comparing Bakhtiari as a rookie negatively to Clifton in his prime, which, again, seems unfair.

        In fact, I would submit that Bakhtiari now appears to be CLOSER to Clifton in his prime than Clifton was as a rookie, and there is certainly nothing to suggest that Bak, in his prime, won’t be as good as or better than Clifton in his prime.

        Again, the only fair comparison to make now is Bakhtiari as a rookie to Cliffy as a rookie, and wait until Bak is in his prime to make comparisons to Clifton in his prime.

        • NorthStarr

          And, I think that this

          “I would submit that Bakhtiari now appears to be CLOSER to Clifton in his prime than Clifton was as a rookie”

          might have something to do with “the amount of gushing,” and justify it somewhat.

        • Thomas Hobbes

          I will say I feel like the media has oversold Bakhtiari’s stock; from all accounts he had a decent training camp, and when he didn’t make an obvious mistake in the passing game, everyone proceeded to give him flying colors, as if he was the next Chad Clifton (in his prime). I’m not saying one way or another Bakhtiari’s ability to get to Clifton’s level, but I will be surprised to see what people say if he gives up a sack in the preseason or looks sloppy.

  • http://www.lyrictrumpet.com Bearmeat

    Good break down. Thanks.

    Just food for thought: Remember how in 2002-2003 the “next big LT” was going to be Chad Clifton? But thanks to Warren Sapp, Clifton got hurt right before his contract was up and the Packers got him on a cheap “prove you’re over the injury” 5 year deal.

    So it could also be with Bulaga. He’s in his contract year. A great RT and was looking promising at LT. But by the time his contract negotiations come up, he won’t have played in over 18 months. Bad news for his pocketbook, but good news for the Packers salary cap. (long term)

    Looking forward to 2014 (I know, it’s way early, but still), a line of

    1’s: Bakhtiari/Sitton/EDS/Lang/Bulaga

    2’s: Sherrod/Van Routen/Tretter/? at RG and Barclay…

    That would be the deepest and best group the Packers have had since the heyday of Ahman Green.

    Alas, that could have been the case this year too.

    • Lucas

      Possibly having Tretter at starting C?

      • http://www.lyrictrumpet.com Bearmeat

        I know not everyone agrees with me, but I liked what I saw from EDS late last year at C. IMO Harris was a bump up from Green/Starks at RB, but the running game’s improvement from late November on wasn’t all on him.

        EDS was doing very well too.

      • Lucas

        Possibly…sheesh people.

    • Thomas Hobbes

      The only caveat is that Clifton ultimately regained his form after the injury, the second is that Bulaga’s two injuries pale in comparison to a broken hip; Bulaga’s camp is going to have a legitimate argument that neither of his injuries is ultimately career altering and therefore he should be paid market value. Perhaps you can argue that he is injury prone and drive down the price a bit but certainly the situation between him and Clifton is different enough.

      • http://www.lyrictrumpet.com Bearmeat

        I get that. But the fact is that Bulaga hasn’t played a game since October of 2012. And he looked decidedly average for the first 8 games of that stretch.

        In 2011, yes. Bulaga was elite. IMO that is enough for Russ Ball to have some leverage with Bulaga’s agent.

        But this is all hypothetical and WAY in the future. Let’s win Lombardi #5 before we get to this issue.

        • Thomas Hobbes

          I have a feelings Bulaga will be one of those players who the Packers lock up mid-season. I doubt Thompson or Ball are going to enter discussions with Bulaga on IR and they probably want to see what effect the two injuries have before really getting serious. On the plus side, the Packers may be able to get Bulaga at a Aaron Rodger 2008 contract bargain.

  • Adam

    Thank you for this informative and well written article!

  • Big T

    Left tackle is so damn important, anyone else think we should suck it up and fill the position with a stud. Maybe there aren’t any studs available…

    • Thomas Hobbes

      Actually left tackle seems to be losing some of it’s importance. With the evolution of the quick passing game, defenses featuring two pass rushers on each side and more scheme diversity on both sides of the ball, the blind side protector doesn’t have to be the same type of player as he was before. Take for example the Packers having their best tackle on the right side for the last two years or the Ravens winning the Super Bowl with Bryant McKinnie. Furthermore, Joe Thomas is perhaps the best left tackle in the league but that still hasn’t stopped the Browns from sucking. Would you like a stud at LT? Of course? Can you compensate when you don’t? The Packers went 15-1 with Marshall Newhouse after all.

    • Biggfootz

      If stud LT’s grew on trees, everybody would have one already. If not the best OL on any line, they’re generally one of the best because they have to deal with the best of the DE’s in the league on the QBs blind side unless he’s a lefty, (in which case both sides of each line could be flipped for that situation, in particular the D side).

  • Elo

    Great job Thomas!

    I’m hopeful that Bakhtiari will only get better. He’s seems like a very smart guy and has the potential to learn quickly.

    • Thomas Hobbes

      The Packers might have gotten a little bit of a steal based on how terrible Colorado was last year, it can be hard for talent evaluators to only analyze talent without factoring in production.

  • Big O

    all I know is we nead to find the right combo in that line because rodgers can’t take another year like last and if he goes down well i know no packer fan wants to even think about that!!

  • Stroh

    Does anyone even realize that on the 2nd picture, Campbell has a full yard on Shaunessey, who it says in doing a speed rush? And that by that picture, Campbell is already on Newhouse but it takes another couple pics before Bakhtiari even has contact w/ Shaunessy? Just a poor play to compare them… Bakhtiari doesn’t even make contact till about the 38 yd line, a full 6 yds behind the LOS. How freaking tough can it be to block an average, at best pass rusher, till he is 6+ yds past the LOS, yet Newhouse has Campbell and his extremely long arms on him almost immediately!

    Poor analysis IMO. Not even comparable situations for Newhouse or Bahktiari! This analysis blows!

    • Stroh

      Again, its about who Bahktiari did what against and on this play he didn’t have to do anything since Shaunessey practically ran himself out of the play before Baktiari even had to block him. I want to know how Bahktiari did vs Campbell and Abraham, not a relative stiff like Shaunessey!

    • Thomas Hobbes

      I agree, but it’s very hard to compare offensive line play on separate plays. How offensive linemen block is largely dependent on what play they are running. If it’s a quick screen, linemen are going to block differently from a slow developing play like the one above. Add to that different protection calls, different personnel and different defensive look and it becomes pretty hard to compare. I wouldn’t compare the two in terms of performance, I would compare them in terms of technique. Newhouse had worse technique compared to Bakhtiari.

      • Stroh

        How OL block is somewhat dependent on the play. But it is MORE dependent on who they are facing. Shaunessey is an easy block due his limited explosiveness of the LOS. Campbell who is bigger shows just on this play that he is as explosive and he also has long arms that allow him to generally have the advantage vs a lot of OL. Shaunessey shows nothing to interest me in grading Bahktiari. What matters is how he would block someone like Campbell or Abraham (who even at 35 is probably more explosive than Shaunessey). Grade him on how he did vs the players that challenge him, not a relative stiff. Its the only way to know what he’s really made of! Again its who he did what against, not how he did vs a nobody.

        • Thomas Hobbes

          I think you’re being a little harsh. I think the important thing to see up front is that he looks like a professional football player, something you can’t always say with all rookies starting out. Also, keep in mind that even if Matt Shaughnessy isn’t the same caliber pass rusher as Calais Campbell doesn’t diminish the fact that Bakhtiari displayed good technique. Bakhtiari can’t control who he goes up against, but regardless if its Clay Matthews or Erik Walden, Bakhtiari still needs to display good technique and awareness. So far I would say he’s doing well in both regards.

          • Stroh

            I’m not being harsh of Bahktiari, just being a realist. He’s going to be blocking a lot of great DE and OLB this year. So how he is able to handle those players is the only real test. Shaunessey is a below average pass rusher IMO, so how Bahktiari did against him is pretty irrelevant to me. Its not too hard to show good technique when your not being challenged. He can’t control who he’s going against now, but it also makes the analysis of how he did against Shaunessey irrelevant. He’s doing well enough, but I’ll withhold judgement on him till I see him perform against good or better pass rushers. That’s how everyone judged Newhouse, why should it be different for Bahktiari?

            • Thomas Hobbes

              Perhaps it’s not as hard to show good technique when you’re not being challenged, but good technique is good technique; Bakhtiari could have fallen on his face at the snap, he’s a 4th round pick I don’t think anyone expected to play right out of the gate. Aaron Rodgers likes to say that he can forgive players for physical mistakes but not mental ones. In this case, Newhouse made a mental mistake at the beginning by showing poor technique (his initial punch) and Bakhtiari showed poor technique at the end (again with his punch) but Newhouse snowballed his poor technique with even more poor technique while Bakhtiari only messed up at the end.

            • Biggfootz

              If anyone missed it I would add that in the first days of training camp Bahk held his own against Matthews and stonewalled Perry on a bull rush up the middle, both from the RT spot at the time; which is relatively high caliber NFL competition to compare his early potential against.

          • Batavia Greg

            Don’t worry, Thomas. Some people just like being difficult. “Non illegitimi carborundum.”

            • Thomas Hobbes

              I don’t really mind; Stroh’s comments often make me think about things a different way and it’s lead to articles and analysis. Usually we’re pretty civil in our debates, unless I troll him :D

              • Batavia Greg

                Isn’t it just the opposite? He trolls you or anyone else he disagrees with just to provoke a response. He must have a very empty life. Often, he can be insulting or just plain crude (for example, saying your analysis “blows”). Personally, I no longer reply directly to him. I’ve learned not to feed trolls.

              • Biggfootz

                Yeah well I’d say Stroh is fairly knowledgable and makes some good arguments, (often for the sake of being argumentative and even somewhat combative as well). It’s like he has to get the last word always which gets annoying after awhile but he also makes us rethink things sometimes. And yes he can get rude. If I’m not mistaken, he once went online at one of these websites to argue w/a 49er fan that there was no way the PACK would lose last yrs home opener to SF. We all know how that went. Am I right about that Stroh? I was’nt so sure we could beat them then but like our chances out there this yr in the opener.

      • Batavia Greg

        Excellent article, Thomas. I thought that you were quite clear in your article that this particular play illustrates good versus horrible blocking technique. You were not grading overall performance. You pointed out the mistakes both Bakhtiari and Newhouse made, although Newhouse’s technique was generally worse in comparison. Good analysis.

        • Stroh

          Hell Bahktiari couldn’t do much wrong. He didn’t have to attempt to block the guy until he basically ran himself out of the play. Sure Newhouse struggled w/ Campbell, a lot of OT do! Campbell is the best 34 DE in the NFL and is a damn good pass rusher almost anywhere you put him on the DL.

          • Thomas Hobbes

            There’s always a ton that can go wrong, especially with a rookie. You saw how Derek Sherrod looked at guard.

          • Biggfootz

            Newhouse tends to struggle w/just about anybody who is very good at all. He was largely responsible for most of the Rodgers sacks last yr but it was after all on the blind side. I blame that on the coaches putting him at LT but again they had few options on that side last yr either. This yr the depth and potential should be improved but Bakh will have his moments both good and bad. Let’s hope he can limit the latter. That it will be a learning experience is a given. Let’s just hope he never goes down and keep hoping for the return of Sherrod or Datco if they can ever get over their setbacks.

  • http://packermadness.com Michael

    Hopefully this line mess will get straightened out, and our HOF QB only has to worry about winning championships.

  • http://butlerrf@msn.com old time packer fan

    We shall see, depending on who plays against who. The rams have a few talented pass rushers that, while they’re playing should give the Pack a test. But remember, it is a preseason game. NO MORE INJURIES!!