David Bakhtiari has said it several times.
If he can beat Clay Matthews, he can beat anybody.
Bakhtiari, the rookie left tackle, and Matthews, the Pro Bowl outside linebacker, have battled daily in the one-on-one pass-rushing drill. Bakhtiari, surprisingly, has done much more than hold his own. In fact, he’s undefeated against Matthews in about a half-dozen reps, including two at Wednesday’s practice. After the first rep, some of the other offensive linemen teased Matthews about the rookie fourth-round pick being in his head. On the second rep, Matthews did his “Predator” pose in response to the ribbing, but it appeard Bakhtiari had pushed Matthews where he wanted him.
“Very good. Very good,” offensive line coach James Campen said about Bakhtiari, who has been thrust into a marquee position with Bryan Bulaga’s torn ACL. “At times, you forget that you’re talking to a 21-year-old kid. He’s very mature in his professionalism. I would think that he probably got some schooling from his brother (Eric, a journeyman outside linebacker). ‘This is how you act, this is what you do when you go home.’ He knows the right question to ask that has some meaning or substance scheme-wise. He’s a very bright kid. He’s very much like Bryan was. Very mature. He handles himself well.”
Other than a few hiccups in the run game, Bakhtiari had a superb preseason debut. He didn’t allow a pressure in 19 snaps of pass protection.
He’ll be challenged on Saturday night at St. Louis, which features a defensive right side of first-round picks Robert Quinn (end), Michael Brockers (tackle) and Alec Ogletree (linebacker).
“I think anytime you have a chance to go against a great player, someone who has played at a high level like Clay Matthews has since he’s been here, particularly the last couple years, it’s definitely going to help David,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “It’s something when we do the drills, it’s by design. There’s a reason why those guys line up against one another. It’s trying to get them ready to play each and every week. He’s going to have a great challenge this week in St. Louis, especially down there on the turf. Their defensive line, we were impressed with them last year and definitely we’re looking for them to be better than they were, so this will be a big test for the offensive line.”
New injuries: WR Randall Cobb (bicep), RB James Starks (illness).
McCarthy said it would be a “stretch” for Cobb to play on Saturday at St. Louis.
Old injuries: WR Charles Johnson (knee), S Sean Richardson (neck), CB Casey Hayward (hamstring), CB Tramon Williams (knee), OL J.C. Tretter (broken ankle), LT Bryan Bulaga (knee), OT/G Andrew Datko (concussion); OT Derek Sherrod (leg), TE Andrew Quarless (quad), WR Jordy Nelson (knee), DE Datone Jones (ankle), DE Jerel Worthy (ACL).
Back from injuries: G T.J. Lang (back), NT Ryan Pickett (personal), TE Ryan Taylor (knee).
After missing the previous two days, Lang was back with the No. 1 offensive line in a limited capacity. He typically took the first snap at right guard before Don Barclay moved from the right tackle to right guard and Marshall Newhouse stepped in at right tackle.
“Our initial plan was for him to do some individual and do some of the half-line drill,” McCarthy said. “I had a chance to speak with him after that. He felt great. He really wanted to go. So, we let him to do the team.”
Running backs Eddie Lacy (hamstring) and DuJuan Harris (knee) did more than on Tuesday but didn’t do much in team periods. “Health is the priority,” McCarthy said when asked about Saturday’s game.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.