Playing nearly every one of the Green Bay Packers’ offensive snaps during the preseason, Yosh Nijman did more than just earn a roster spot.
He also earned the coaches’ trust — to the point that head coach Matt LaFleur and his staff were willing to start Nijman against the San Francisco 49ers and edge rusher Nick Bosa on Sunday night.
Playing without five-time All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari (on the physically unable to perform list while coming back from last year’s season-ending knee injury) and Pro Bowl left guard-turned-left tackle Elgton Jenkins (inactive with an ankle injury suffered during last week’s victory over the Detroit Lions), the Packers could have gone with experience and shifted veteran right tackle Billy Turner to the left side and started veteran Dennis Kelly at right tackle.i">>
Instead, offensive line coach Adam Stenavich went with Nijman in the Packers’ 30-28 victory over the 49ers at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California — and the soft-spoken Nijman delivered.
“Earlier this week, I was talking to Steno, and I said, ‘Who do you want there?’ And he said, ‘Yosh.’ (And I said), ‘Yosh? Really?’ He said, ‘Yeah.’ I said, ‘All right, let’s do it,’” quarterback Aaron Rodgers recounted after absorbing just one sack in the game.
“Yosh, he’s a very soft-spoken quiet guy, great young kid. 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 gam. And, we gave him some help, because you’ve got to — Bosa’s such a stud. But there were times where he had no help, and I thought he held up real well.”
Nijman, who had played only during his third training camp in Green Bay played nearly every offensive snap the Packers had in preseason at left tackle — 157 of 176 snaps (89.2%) against the Houston Texans, New York Jets and Buffalo Bills — after Stenavich told him he needed to be more than just a developmental prospect and instead evolve into a reliable backup.
“I was very excited about Yosh and how he played this preseason. (I) kind of challenged him to see if he could take on the role of being a guy we can count on. I thought he did a good job,” Stenavich said following the preseason finale. “For him, it’s just understanding the different nuances of the system and being able to translate that on the field, blocking different looks, reacting to different scenarios. That’s the biggest thing he’s had to learn, is just how to handle himself. Even though a play might be one way versus a certain front, it’s completely different versus a different front. It’s just learning how to play fast versus multiple looks.”