The Green Bay Packers will have to make their upcoming playoff push without their top offensive lineman on the field.
According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari sustained a season-ending knee injury during Thursday’s practice and is feared to have torn his ACL. The 29-year-old is a veteran stalwart of the Packers’ offensive line and had just signed a record-setting contract extension with the team on Nov. 14.
Source: #Packers standout LT David Bakhtiari suffered a season-ending knee injury today in practice. The belief is that he tore his ACL. Just crushing.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) December 31, 2020
Packers insider Jason Wilde later backed up the report from Rapoport with his own sources and added that one player who was present when Bakhtiari was injured “was surprised by the news because he didn’t think it was serious at the time.”
While the Packers have not yet confirmed that Bakhtiari suffered a season-ending injury, he was added to Thursday’s injury report with a knee injury and listed as a limited participant.
Bakhtiari has been consistently graded by Pro Football Focus as one of the top offensive tackles in the NFL this season and has only been tagged with giving up one sack in 758 snaps. According to ESPN’s pass-blocking metrics, he also touts the ninth-highest pass-block win rate (93%) among league tackles in 2020.
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Packers’ Backup Plan Without Bakhtiari?
The Packers have already gone through a stretch of the regular season without Bakhtiari, as he missed three games from Weeks 7-9 with broken ribs. During his absence, the offensive line held their opponents to just two total sacks over three games; though, they did so against non-playoff teams such as Houston (4-11), Minnesota (6-9) and San Francisco (6-9).
Unfortunately, the Packers are uncertain whether they will have the same amount of help available. Backup tackle Rick Wagner would be the obvious replacement choice — likely at right tackle with Billy Turner taking over for Bakhtiari on the left — but he was only a limited participant in Thursday’s practice as he continues to battle a knee injury.
If Wagner cannot play, the Packers would most likely move Pro Bowl guard Elgton Jenkins to left tackle and use some combination of Lucas Patrick, Jon Runyan Jr. and Simon Stepaniak to fill out the interior around center Corey Linsley. Runyan has contributed quality reps in relief for the Packers this season, but Stepaniak could offer an unexpected look with him only just recently coming off the non-football injury list.