Things could have gone quite poorly for the Green Bay Packers in Week 3 without two of their top offensive lineman available. Instead, they left San Francisco with both a walk-off win and validation about one of their developing young talents.
The Packers gave third-year offensive lineman Yosh Nijman a spot start at left tackle during Sunday’s 30-28 victory over the 49ers, turning to the third man on their depth chart with both Elgton Jenkins and David Bakhtiari sidelined with injuries. Naturally, there were concerns about how the frontlines would hold up considering right tackle Billy Turner was the only player with more than two years of experience in the lineup.
Nijman, however, didn’t play like a tackle who had only seen 15 offensive snaps prior to his first career start. While he received a poor grade from Pro Football Focus that largely hinged on the two penalties called on him, Nijman held his own against a gifted 49ers defensive front and finished the game without surrendering a sack or pressure despite regular head-to-head matchups against defensive end Nick Bosa.
“I’m so proud of those guys,” Rodgers said in Sunday’s postgame of his offensive line. “They really played well, they battled, especially Yosh. We talked earlier this week … I was talking to (offensive line coach Adam Stenavich), ‘Who do you want there?’ And he said, ‘Yosh.’ (And I said), ‘Yosh, really?’ and he said, ‘Yeah.’ And I said, ‘Alright, let’s do it.’ And Yosh … he’s a very soft-spoken, quiet guy, a great young kid. Dave (Bakhtiari) always talks about how good his feet are. He said he’s got the best feet for any lineman, but I’m just really proud of the way he battled. I mean, he’s going up against one of the top three premier pass rushers in the game for most of the game. You know, we can him some help because you’ve got to, Bosa’s such a stud, but there were times where we had no help and I thought he held up really well.”
The latest Packers news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Packers newsletter here!
Nijman’s Demeanor Helped Earn Him Opportunity
It wasn’t just Nijman’s protection that impressed his Packers teammates and coaches. As head coach Matt LaFleur mentioned in his postgame presser, part of their decision to start Nijman over other options, such as veteran right tackle Dennis Kelly, came down to his demeanor and their comfortability with laying such a big challenge at his feet.
“Certainly, he’s a guy that is so even-keeled that if there was anybody that wouldn’t be fazed by what he was going to encounter, it was Yosh,” LaFleur said.
Packers wide receiver Davante Adams would probably agree with that sentiment following his on-field interaction with Nijman at the start of the fourth quarter. Here’s the story he told reporters about Nijman during Sunday’s postgame in San Francisco:
When we switched sides of the field in the fourth quarter, he’s walking by me and I’m just turning everybody up, I’m going crazy and he looks at me and says, ‘Man, it’s just a blessing to play with you guys, I really enjoy this.’ It kind of just slowed me down for a second and I was just real appreciative for having a teammate like that. He reminds me a little bit of Aaron Jones from a personality standpoint. Early in Aaron’s career, he would do something and would come back to the huddle and I’d be screaming, ‘Let’s go! Dude, I need that from you every time, let’s go!’ And he’d be, ‘Yessir.’ And I’d be like, ‘Aaron, you don’t have to call me sir in the middle of a game.’ But Yosh is a helluva football player, has a great heart and is just a great teammate all around.