The return of Green Bay Packers left tackle David Bakhtiari was one that had stayed foggy for quite some time. Bakhtiari suffered a torn ACL in December 2020 and had appeared in just one game since the injury before Sunday.
While Bakhtiari was on a pitch count and rotated with left tackle Yosh Nijman against Tampa Bay, his return was not only a sigh of relief but a sight for sore eyes with how he performed.
Bakhtiari allowed just one quarterback pressure according to Pro Football Focus on 17 pass-blocking plays and his pass-blocking grade of 78.7 from PFF ranked first among Packers offensive lineman. The All-Pro left tackle played 35 snaps (56%) to Nijman's 27 snaps (44%).
It's one thing for Bakhtiari to return and just get back on the field, it's another thing for him to hold his own against one of the best pass rushes in football in his first game back.
The Buccaneers had a league-high 10 sacks entering their tilt against the Packers but mustered up just one against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay offensive line Sunday.
Going forward the plan has to be to get Bakhtiari back at left tackle permanently with no time share but for now Green Bay is taking it slow and steady. The split reps in a regular-season game was not something Bakhtiari had done before but something all parties gave the thumbs up on.
"At the end of the day, we trust the head coach and me and Yosh just bought in," he said.."It was something that, full disclosure, we weren't the biggest fans of. Give credit where credit’s due, coach stuck to his guns, called it, we looked at each other and said we were going to make the most of this. It was a positive for both of us."
What this means for Nijman is another mystery. The easy answer is to slot him in as the backup left tackle but Nijman has proven to be one of the best five linemen on Green Bay's roster.
Would head coach Matt LaFleur consider sliding Nijman to right tackle and move Elgton Jenkins to the right guard spot? That's a question that hasn't been directed towards the head coach, yet.
Nijman has plenty of supporters on the team and it's a list that starts with Bakhtiari.
"I tip my hat to Yosh -- constant consummate pro. Watching his growth, so much appreciation for him stepping in. Obviously, this has been a tumultuous time for me, and seeing him grow and flourish, I’ve been very, very pleased with. I couldn’t be happier to have someone to work back and work with at left tackle. Sure, this is a lot of awesome things coming on my end but I’m just very — you can’t not talk about me being out there today without Yosh.”
Bakhtiari's return is massive for Green Bay and can't go unstated. If he can get back to somewhere even close to where he was before the injury this offensive line will be more than equipped to handle most defensive fronts.
Other takeaways from Sunday's snap counts
-- With Sammy Watkins and Christian Watson on the shelf, the wide receiver spot was pretty thin Sunday. Allen Lazard and rookie Romeo Doubs topped the charts at wideout with Lazard logging 56 snaps (90%) and Doubs 55 (89%). Next in line was Randall Cobb at 25 snaps. Even on a day without Watkins or Watson, Amari Rodgers still only played three snaps on offense shining a light on just how far down on the totem pole he is.
-- Can we get a round of applause for cornerback Keisean Nixon? The 2019 undrafted free agent played 88% of the snaps on defense for Green Bay once Jaire Alexander left with a groin injury. Nixon forced a crucial fumble that defensive tackle Jarran Reed dove on and also caught a Pat O'Donnell punt on the fly at the 1-yard line to bury the Buccaneers deep in their own territory. Nixon wore the hat of corner and "flyer" (not gunner, according to special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia) and wore them both splendidly Sunday.
-- Rookie defensive tackle Devonte Wyatt played sparingly with just seven snaps on defense. Wyatt is obviously behind Kenny Clark and for now and still behind Reed (40 snaps) by quite some margin on the depth chart.
-- Tight end Robert Tonyan continues to see his snaps tick up as he returns from a torn ACL suffered last October. After seeing 22 snaps on offense in Week 1, Tonyan had 27 in Week 2 against the Bears and 36 snaps against the Buccaneers. It's a great sign for an offense that needs as many reliable pass-catchers on the field as they can get.