David Bakhtiari on fast track to returning to Green Bay offensive line; Marquez Valdez-Scantling could play vs. Arizona Cardinals

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GREEN BAY - With their short-week game coinciding with David Bakhtiari ramping up his football activity, the Green Bay Packers are getting creative to accelerate their All-Pro left tackle’s return to the field. 

The most important element Bakhtiari needs to play is more practice reps, something that will be scarce this week. The Packers will not have a full practice before playing at the Arizona Cardinals, instead splitting Tuesday into two walk-throughs.  

Coach Matt LaFleur said Bakhtiari is on more of an individual practice regimen, allowing him to get more reps to meet his specific rehab needs. 

Packers offensive tackle David Bakhtiari (69) could be close to returning to action.

“That’s what some of that developmental work that we do post-practice is really intended for,” LaFleur said, “is just for guys – whether it’s that situation, or whether it’s maybe some of your younger players or practice squad players that aren’t getting the reps that you’d like them to get. You spend more time with them doing more individual-type activities, or you can do whatever you need to get done, I guess.” 

LaFleur would not rule out Bakhtiari for Thursday night’s game at the Cardinals, though it would seem unlikely he could play with so few practice reps. He only returned to practice last week, nine and a half months after knee surgery to repair his torn ACL. LaFleur said Bakhtiari’s status is day to day. 

Receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling might be activated from injured reserve before Thursday’s game, LaFleur said. Valdes-Scantling has missed the past four games with a hamstring injury. LaFleur said his speedy receiver is making progress. 

“Absolutely, there’s hope for that,” LaFleur said. “But it’s just, we’ll see. I know he was out there running today, and we’ll see how he’s feeling come tomorrow and as we progress throughout the week. I know he’s working hard. He wants to be out there. Certainly, we miss the element that he brings. 

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“I thought he was playing at a really high level before he went out, and he’s had a great attitude. I know he’s working hard.” 

It’s too early in the week to know if outside linebacker Preston Smith or cornerback Kevin King will play Thursday. Smith missed the first game in his career Sunday, snapping his streak of 102 consecutive regular-season games. LaFleur said after Sunday’s game the short week was at least in part a factor for Smith being inactive. 

King has missed the past two games with a shoulder injury. 

Dillon reminded to squeeze tighter

Before Sunday, AJ Dillon had just one fumble in 104 career carries. It came during last season’s NFC divisional playoff game against the Los Angeles Rams. The Packers were able to recover. 

So it was stunning to see Dillon fumble twice in three carries Sunday against Washington, losing one in the fourth quarter when safety Landon Collins fell on it. 

Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett didn’t sound like he was going to complicate things for Dillon when asked how to fix the fumbling issues. 

“Tell him,” Hackett said, “to hold onto the ball a lot tighter.” 

While the Packers won’t have much patience if the problem continues, Hackett said Dillon has overall done a fine job for the offense.  

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The second-year back has 232 rushing yards this season, almost equaling last year’s 242. He also has 10 catches for 90 yards and a receiving touchdown, far surpassing his rookie season’s production as a receiver out of the backfield. 

“No guy that fumbles ever meant to,” Hackett said, “and we need him. We need him to be great, and he’s done a really good job this whole year. I think it’s kind of for him to reflect, go back to it, analyze it, look at it, and do a better job of securing the ball. Because that’s the most important thing to win a football game in the NFL, is to be able to secure the ball, not turn it over. So he’s got to challenge himself, we’ll challenge him like we always do, and he’ll get back on track.” 

Field-goal unit seeking improvement

From a field-goal block to no breakdowns in kickoff coverage to another sterling day for punter Corey Bojorquez, LaFleur said the Packers' special teams had a banner day in their win against Washington. 

There was one obvious, notable flaw. In the second quarter, Washington blocked Mason Crosby’s 34-yard field goal. Thus continued a troubling theme over the past couple weeks. 

Since missing three straight potential game-winning kicks late at Cincinnati, Crosby has missed four of his past seven field goals. He made a 39-yarder late in the fourth quarter Sunday, but in the second quarter a combination of Crosby’s poor kick and poor protection took three points off the board. 

“There was some leakage,” LaFleur said, “but that ball I thought it was coming out pretty low, regardless.” 

On the play, offensive lineman Jon Runyan got knocked back in the middle of the Packers' protection. That enabled defensive tackle Tim Settle to block Crosby’s kick. 

“We had leakage in the interior protection and the kick came off low,” special teams coordinator Maurice Drayton confirmed. “We are going to continuously work on our operation. We’re going to get better, that continuous improvement model.” 

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