On Tuesday, the Green Bay Packers announced that veteran offensive tackle David Bakhtiari had been placed on the PUP list. That means the veteran is still not ready to practice after suffering a serious knee injury prior to the final game of the 2020 season.
Here are five things that result from the announcement that Bakhtiari is still not ready to practice with the team after undergoing a third procedure on the knee this offseason:
1. The Packers Will Not Have Their Two Best Offensive Lineman At Training Camp
Bakhtiari is not the only offensive lineman who is starting training camp on the PUP list. Elgton Jenkins is also not ready to practice with the team after suffering a season-ending knee injury against the Vikings last November.
Yes, Jenkins’ status was expected, but it means the Packers will start training camp without their two best offensive linemen and the only two on the current roster to earn Pro Bowl honors.
This means the Packers are starting training camp without their two best linemen. Also, the remaining players do not have much of experience. Jon Runyan, Jr. has one season as a starter under his belt as does Royce Newman. Josh Myers started six games in his rookie season while Yosh Nijman has eight career starts.
Behind those two players are a lot of talented but inexperienced and/or unproven players.
2. The Packers Will Rely More On Their Rookies
The Packers drafted three offensive linemen this year in Sean Rhyan, Zach Tom and Rasheed Walker. The good news is that the rookies will likely get additional reps in training camp (when Walker is ready to practice) and in preseason games until Bakhtiari returns to practice. The not so good news may be that the one or more of these first-year players may now be thrust into the starting lineup when the season starts which they may or may not be ready for.
Rhyan and Tom are both versatile players who can both play multiple positions. Rhyan was expected to be looked at primarily at guard but now may get a longer look at tackle in Bahktiari’s absence. Tom can play any of the three interior positions along the line and may be thrust into action sooner if Royce Newman or Cole Van Lanen have to move to tackle until Jenkins and Bakhtiari are ready to play.
It also becomes more likely that GM Brian Gutekunst will try to add a veteran tackle as insurance before the season starts.
3. Yosh Nijman Has to Step Up
Last season, Nijman saw his first extensive action on offense when he started eight games when both Bakhtiari and Jenkins were out of the lineup. He did a solid job although the coaching staff decided not to start him in the team’s playoff loss to the 49ers, a decision which didn’t exactly work out the way the Packers had hoped.
The offense had to adjust when Nijman was in the lineup and the coaches used tight ends and running backs to help chip edge rushers on Nijman’s side at times to help protect Aaron Rodgers. This meant fewer opportunities to catch the ball for Robert Tonyan and more, quick, three-step releases for the offense. Overall, Nijman did a respectable job and gained valuable experience.
If Bakhtiari was available to start training camp, Nijman would be in a battle for the right tackle spot or be the backup left tackle. Now, Nijman becomes a favorite to hold down one of the two starting tackle jobs and his importance to the offensive line has increased.
4. The Offense Will Have Adjust
Just like last season, Matt LaFleur will likely have to adjust his playing calling if Bakhtiari is not available to start the season (we still don’t know if he will be although the team said they were “cautiously optimistic”).
If he isn’t available, the Packers will have to again rely on more quick-release passes and scheming receivers open. While quarterback Aaron Rodgers may miss Davante Adams even more in that situation, the change in play calling may force Rodgers to trust his younger receivers and the play calling and speed up the transition for the new wideouts. Or, if Rodgers fails to make that adjustment, it could create more problems for this transition.
Either way, Rodgers will likely face a different set of plays and the entire offense will have to adjust on the fly.
5. Bakhtiari’s Future Is Unknown
The other question which remains unanswered is whether Bakhtiari will be able to resume his career and if he does, whether he can return to playing at an All Pro level. The idea that the team is cautiously optimistic he will be ready for opening day is eerily similar to what we heard last year. It is possible that Bahhtiari is ready for opening day or at some point early in the season. But it’s also possible he is not.
Last season, the former Colorado star played the first half of the season finale in Detroit. He was on the field for 27 snaps the entire season. We are now approaching 20 months since Bakhtiari first injured his knee.
The Packers have a large financial investment in Bakhtiari who carries a cap hit of just over $13.4 million this season according to a little over $29 million in 2023 according to overthecap.com.
If Bakhtiari cannot return or cannot play at a high level, this will be costly to the Packers organization.
It is too soon to panic when it comes to Bahktiari’s future. But there is ample room for concern as we approach the two-year mark since the initial injury and Bakhtiari is still not back on the field.
You can follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers