GREEN BAY - Just because Green Bay Packers left tackle David Bakhtiari had trouble blocking Los Angeles Chargers end Joey Bosa doesn’t mean he’ll have the same trouble with San Francisco’s Nick Bosa.
But you can bet every weakness Joey exploited will be passed on to his little brother for his match-up with Bakhtiari on Sunday in Santa Clara.
“Sure, I would expect that they talk,” Bakhtiari said. “He’s probably talked to him. ‘What was it like playing against him? What were your ways you attacked him? What were you successful with.'
“At the end of the day, it’s just self-scout.”
By that, Bakhtiari means spending time watching that forgettable game in Los Angeles, in which he allowed a sack and a half, two quarterback hits and a pressure. Bosa, who also lined up over right tackle Bryan Bulaga some, had four tackles, including one for loss.
The first 10 games of the season for the Packers’ veteran left tackle have been a mixed bag.
On one hand, he has allowed a team-high 10 quarterback knockdowns and committed a team-high 10 penalties, including five holding calls and an illegal hands to the face.
On the other hand, he has allowed just 2½ sacks while going up against a who’s who of pass rushers that includes Chicago’s Leonard Floyd, Minnesota’s Everson Griffen, Denver’s Bradley Chubb, Philadelphia’s Brandon Graham, Dallas’ Robert Quinn, Detroit’s Trey Flowers, Carolina’s Mario Addison and Bosa.
In Nick Bosa, the No. 2 pick in the 2019 draft, Bakhtiari will be facing the NFC defensive player of the month, who has seven sacks, an interception and a forced fumble in his first seven games. He has gone three straight games without a sack, which might be a sign teams are paying more attention to him.
Bakhtiari, however, will probably draw a considerable amount of one-on-ones with Bosa because coach Matt LaFleur trusts him to handle the other team’s best pass rusher. During the bye week, Bakhtiari said he had a chance to evaluate the first 10 games and learn from the things he and the offensive line have been doing poorly.
“We have to self-scout ourselves, see what we put on tape,” he said. “This is what we were doing, so we’ve got to fix it.”
As for Bosa, it won’t be exactly the same as facing the rookie’s brother.
“They’re different guys, but you can’t discount the fact that they’re brothers,” Bakhtiari said. “They’re two guys who play defensive end and they kind of do the same thing. You can see some similarities.
“You can also see some things that are different. Joey’s a little bit taller. He’s a little longer. Nick is a little more packed, stout. He likes to play power a little bit more.”
Evaluating big gains
During the bye week, defensive coordinator Mike Pettine and his staff had time to break down all the explosive plays the defense has given up this season.
And there are a lot of them. The Packers are tied with the New York Giants for the most plays of 40 or more yards allowed this season.
It’s a trend Pettine would like to see end.
“The biggest thing for us, you just study the explosives and you’re just taking notes of, ‘Why did this happen? Was it something schematic? Was it something technique-wise? Was it a personnel issue?’
“Sometimes it’s just, ‘Hey, it was a good play by them.’ That’s going to happen a certain percentage of the time, too. So, it was good being able to just kind of sit back and look at different perspectives and see it all together. I thought there were some good things to come out of it at all positions.”
Pettine said it comes down to eliminating the two or three plays in which a player loses focus or gets sloppy with his technique. He said it is something he has stressed particularly with the younger players.
49ers getting healthy for Packers
On Thursday the Packers had 52 of their 53 players participate in practice, with tight end Marcedes Lewis getting a veteran off day. Right tackle Bryan Bulaga was limited under that veteran rest designation as well. Backup guard Cole Madison tweaked a knee, and he only practiced on a limited basis as well. Kick returner Tre Smith and linebacker Ty Summers had also fully cleared concussion protocol since leaving the Carolina game early on Nov. 10, though they had been practicing.
Tight end Robert Tonyan, out since Oct. 6 with a hip injury, practiced fully for the second straight week.
“I think it was a big week for him, really for a lot of our guys to have the bye week to get back and he’s looked good out there,” LaFleur said. “We’ll see come Sunday.”
The 49ers got some good news as Pro Bowl tight end George Kittle returned to the practice field on a limited basis after missing the last two games with knee and ankle injuries. Also returning to practice for the 49ers to some degree were wide receiver Deebo Samuel (shoulder) and Emmanuel Sanders (ribs). Defensive tackle D.J. Jones (groin) practiced fully.
San Francisco was still without running back Matt Breida (ankle), defensive end Dee Ford (quadriceps/hamstring), tackle Joe Staley (finger) and kicker Robbie Gould (right quadricep).
“Every day I check it,” LaFleur said of an opposing team’s injury report. “I think early in the week you’re just kind of, it doesn’t mean as much as it does when you see it the day before the game, so you kind of take it with a grain of salt and try to make your best guess whether somebody is going to be up or down.”
General manager Brian Gutekunst drafted tight end Jace Sternberger in the third round because he thought he could develop into a pass -catching threat.
So, was Sternberger surprised when his assignments in his first two NFL games were to block?
“I kind of knew going into it that a lot of my reps were going to be blocking,” Sternberger said. “It was more of an, ‘OK, this is your chance to prove you’re physical.’ I really had an extremely large chip on my shoulder Sunday night.”
Sternberger was referencing the 15 snaps he played against Carolina in Week 10. On multiple occasions he came through with key blocks on running plays, including one that helped spring running back Aaron Jones for a touchdown in the first quarter.
Considering he played just one season at Texas A&M and caught 48 passes for 832 yards and 10 touchdowns, the last place anyone expected him to be was in the face of a 280-pound defensive end. But Sternberger felt he was prepared for the moment.
“I wouldn’t say I’ve always done this, but the thing is I haven’t done it very long,” Sternberger said. “I would just say my technique has gotten so much better, but that’s all credit to our tight end room because that’s just the standard Marcedes (Lewis) and Jimmy (Graham) carry, and it’s like I can only live up to that.
“So, I had some good blocks but for our tight end room that’s what’s expected. I’m really just doing my job.”
Now that Sternberger, who spent the first eight weeks of the season on the physically unable to perform list with an ankle injury, has shown he’s not a liability blocking, the next step is for him to contribute as a pass catcher.
“I’m just waiting for my opportunity,” he said, pausing, before adding, “catch my first pass.”