A pretty interesting debate came up during my last post, namely how to grade offensive linemen. My personal opinion is that grading on the same play limits the variables that influence a offensive lineman’s performance, i.e. getting beat on a long developing play is less damning than on a short play, getting beat on 1st and 5 is different than getting beat on 3rd and 5 etc. etc. However I can see the other side of the coin that says it’s more important to factor in who the linemen are blocking. Obviously blocking Erik Walden doesn’t mean as much as blocking Clay Matthews. I will say I see both sides of the argument and in an effort to analyze left tackle David Bakhtiari more, I’ve decided to run another “Word Of Muth” style article this time showing him giving up a sack in the 2nd preseason game against the St. Louis Rams.
The Packers are just outside the redzone on 3rd and 5 at the Rams 22 and are obviously are looking for the touchdown. The Packers come out in a 311 package (3WR-1TE-1RB) with tight end Jermichael Finley lined up inline next to left tackle David Bakhtiari and running back Eddie Lacy lined up to the right of quarterback Aaron Rodgers. As we are again focusing on offensive line play, all that’s really important is that Bakhtiari is lined up against Robert Quinn and Don Barclay is lined up against Chris Long. While Lacy ultimately chips Chris Long, Finley immediately goes out on his route and therefore is not important to the blocking scheme.
Interestingly, Bakhtiari has chosen to start with a very tall 2-point stance; compare the location of Bakhtiari’s helmet to Barclay’s (they are both listed at 6’4″) to get an idea what I’m talking about. Obviously the taller a linemen starts, the less power from their legs they are able to generate, so either this is simply a mistake on Bakhtiari or he’s confused/worried about something and has popped his head up to see what’s going on.
With his assignment being Quinn lined up at the wide 9 technique (basically heads up from Jermichael Finley), Bakhtiari knows he has to kick out hard in order to meet Quinn before he gets enough depth to flatten out and head straight for the quarterback. My initial impression is that Bakhtiari is expecting a full on speed rush, which in my opinion is a logical conclusion; it’s 3rd and 5, Quinn lined up at the wide 9 and has good speed to turn the corner.
Quinn actually heads straight towards Bakhtiari instead of trying to go by him and starts with his left arm. I’m guessing at this point Bakhtiari is probably readjusting for a bull rush and instead of punching goes for the hand fight, trying to slap Quinn’s left arm away from getting into his frame.
Unfortunately Quinn isn’t going for a bull rush and slapping Quinn’s hand away only makes matters worse as it allows Quinn to get his arm over Bakhtiari’s shoulder. I’m not entirely sure what Bakhtiari’s attempting to do with his left arm, he kind of punches Quinn on the right shoulder, either he just whiffed on the punch or he’s attempting to block Quinn’s swim move (though it’s debatable if he knows it’s coming) somehow by stopping Quinn’s right arm.
Quinn finishes off Bakhtiari with the swim move, which is very reminiscent of how Newhouse got destroyed by Calais Campbell in the last article. However this time, left guard Josh Sitton is dealing with his own man and can’t help Bakhtiari. I will say even at this point, Bakhtiari’s technique isn’t nearly as muddled as Newhouse’s was. His base is still good, and his head isn’t at Quinn’s waist.
Here’s the whole thing in gif form (taken from Turf Show Times)
Overall, a couple things struck me from this play. First off, as I had mentioned before Bakhtiari is not the next coming of Orlando Pace or Chad Clifton in his prime. He’s a 4th round rookie who is going to see a bunch of new stuff in the NFL and he’s going to get beat every once in a while until he gains experience. I don’t follow college football as closely as I do the NFL, but I have a feeling Bakhtiari hasn’t seen many defensive ends with Robert Quinn’s speed aligned in the wide 9 technique back in Colorado. What I will say is that Bakhtiari was just physically beat, Quinn simply had a better pass rush than Bahktiari’s pass block. Overall, his technique was still pretty decent; he shows good balance and a good base until Quinn gets past him, upon which he makes a last ditch attempt and lunges. You could make the argument that he made a mental mistake and overplayed the speed rush and thus let Quinn get by on the inside, but I still think that’s a reasonable assessment of the situation.
Second, I do think Eddie Lacy might be partially responsible for the sack; perhaps its just 20-20 hindsight but I would think that the weakness of the line would be on the left and not on the right. On the right side TJ Lang is initially open and could theoretically help Barclay like he did Newhouse in the week before (obviously it’s Lang’s responsibility to take the late blitzing linebacker but Lacy couldn’t have known that staring off and goes straight for the chip anyways. On the other side, Sitton is responsible for his own man (which is fairly standard for the Packers offense, Sitton rarely gets help) and thus can’t help really Bakhtiari, which again Lacy should know. Add to that Chris Long is playing closer to the traditional 6/7 technique as opposed to Quinn who is playing the wide 9 technique where a chip would definitely help. Of course this is all conjecture, Lacy might in fact be leaking out to the flat as a safety valve if he feels Barclay has a good hold on Long.
In summary, I don’t really think much worse of Bakhtiari because of the sack. Comparing Newhouse from preseason week 1 and Bakhtiari in preseason week 2, both were beat by a swim move and both would have resulted in a sack (had TJ Lang not saved Newhouse) but Newhouse looked a lot worse than Bakhtiari. Going back to a famous Aaron Rodgers tenant: making a physical mistake is unavoidable over the course of a game, but making a mental mistake is unacceptable (hence all this hubbub between him and his former wide receivers). Bakhtiari ultimately guessed wrong but made the right call and Robert Quinn was just physically better than Bakhtiari on that play.——————
Thomas Hobbes is a staff writer for Jersey Al’s AllGreenBayPackers.com.