Pass protection shapes up as priority for running backs that Packers could target in draft

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INDIANAPOLIS - Thursday was all about the prospects at the 2022 NFL combine. With coaches and general managers now firmly entrenched in meetings and workouts, the players chasing a dream took center stage.

Offensive linemen began the day, a position the Green Bay Packers could feasibly target early in the 2022 NFL draft. Yet it was the running backs who spoke the most about meetings with the Packers. 

Rutgers running back Isaih Pacheco went into great detail about his 15-minute meeting with the Green Bay coaching staff. The gist of the meeting, he shared, was pass protection. 

“It was pretty cool,” Pacheco said. “They were showing me their pass protection and everything so I kinda took advantage of it and sat down and understood it in less than 15 minutes so it’s kind of a good start.” 

Former Rutgers RB Isaih Pacheco during an interview at the NFL Combine on Thursday, March 3, 2022 in Indianapolis.

The Packers lean heavily on their backs for pass protection, allowing quarterback Aaron Rodgers to work toward the sideline more. Second-year man AJ Dillon became a crucial piece in the Packers' pass game for that reason.

Pacheco, who finished his senior season at Rutgers with 647 yards (averaging 3.9 per carry) and five touchdowns, knows he doesn’t mimic Aaron Jones (except for in his love for fashion) but could see himself fitting into the scheme in many ways. If nothing else, he hopes he left the Packers with the impression he could do whatever was necessary. 

“My running style is a little bit different than Aaron Jones' and I’m pretty sure if they drafted me I could contribute to it,” Pacheco said.

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 “I feel as though, the Packers, they wanted me to explain how their pass pro worked and they taught me within 15 minutes. If I was able to explain back and pick up the right guy in the pass protection, it would be a lot more easier for them to understand how do I learn. 

“And that’s what I really got out of it was just being able to throw back who was who on the sheet from the play of the linebackers. Being able to explain the defensive front. And I was able to do that and spit it back to them really quick and show them that I can be a player able to learn the game quick.”

 Another back who met with the Packers was Florida product Dameon Pierce. The small-stature back (5-10, 215 pounds) is suited to play in cold weather, and as such has met with a handful of Northern teams. That’s OK for the Georgia native. 

“I ain’t really picky about where I go. I’m just glad to land anywhere. Whoever wanna take me, I’m ready to go,” Pierce said. “Once that adrenaline getting rushing, you ain’t gonna feel that cold so like hey, I’m playing football at the end of the day. Once I get that first hit out of the way, I’m good.” 

Of his meeting with the Packers, Pierce said his tape had already done the talking on his play. His 15 minutes were all about getting to know each other. 

“They just really want to get to know me as a person. The’ve seen the tape, they’ve liked what they've seen on tape obviously. All my interviews have been more of them trying to get to know me on a personal level.”

Bakhtiari restructure results in less cap savings than reported

The Packers did not add voidable years to the end of tackle David Bakhtiari’s restructured contract and so the salary-cap savings aren’t as great as reported. 

 A source had indicated two voidable years were added, but another source who saw the contract said there were no voidable years. Thus, the Packers shaved Bakhtiari’s cap number to $14.48 million, which is a savings of about $7.7 million and not $9.2 million as first reported. 

As a result, the Packers are $31 million over the cap, according to the league data. 

The Packers have $25.2 million in outstanding salary-cap charges on Bakhtiari beyond this year. His salary-cap numbers are $30 million in '23 and $34 million in '24. 

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