Packers pay off investment in Yosh Nijman

GREEN BAY – For years in Green Bay, initial one-on-one repetitions between the offensive line and defensive front have often set the tone for practice.

It’s where David Bakhtiari once battled Clay Matthews and Kenny Clark first faced Corey Linsley for a couple of snaps before giving way to other young linemen looking to hone their skills and perhaps catch the attention of the coaching staff.

Yosh Nijman has seen both sides. The once undrafted free agent, who struggled to reach the 53.6-foot-7, 314-pound tackle, has now moved to the playmaking role responsible for stalling the top-rushing tandem of Rashaan Gary and Preston Smith in a one-on-one battle .

And Nijman did not back down.

In fact, the third-year veteran showed just how far he’s come on Monday by taking two competitive reps against Gary, a 23-year-old on the rise who has been one of the best performers in camp.

“He just keeps getting better and better every year,” Gary said. “I’m getting stronger, understanding the different levers, the different perspectives I look at him. I told him (on Monday), ‘You’re getting a lot better with your hands.’

Both 2019 NFL draftees, Gary and Nyman have seen a lot of each other at practice over the years, despite coming to Green Bay under completely different circumstances.

Gary was the first of two first-round picks (12th overall) by the Packers that year, while Nyman was one of 11 college free agents the Packers signed after the draft.

After his rookie season on Green Bay’s practice squad, Nijman made the Packers’ 53-man roster in 2020, but saw just 95 snaps (14 offensive, 81 special teams) in 16 regular season games.

It wasn’t until Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins were suspended last year that Nijman got serious. The 26-year-old proved to be a reliable force at left tackle in eight regular-season starts, drawing praise from defensive end Aaron Rodgers for his commitment, poise and skill.

“I was just waiting for an opportunity,” Nyman said. “Like anything in life, you work and wait for your opportunity. When you get your opportunity, all the work you’ve done – all the hard work – you’re going to test it with the confidence you have in the work you’re putting in.”

Aside from Nijman’s size, the Packers’ personnel department saw plenty of natural ability and athleticism in the former Virigina Tech tackle when they signed him in 2019.

Offensive line coaches Adam Stanavich and Luke Butkus simply honed Nijman’s fundamentals and let the young man’s work ethic take it from there.

After being thrown into the fire by Stanavich last year, Nijman has taken off as an emergency option at left tackle. Although Green Bay’s loaded defensive front has presented unique offensive line challenges this summer, Nijman has answered the call.

“You have to give him a lot of credit because he’s worked his tail off to get to where he is now,” general manager Brian Gutekunst said. “When you go there, you can watch a big guy move like he does and you’re intrigued.

“I’m excited for him. He’s really worked his way into a guy that’s going to have a long career.”

It’s been Nijman’s most active training camp to date, alternating between the two tackle positions with the No. 1 offensive tackle as the Packers look to build their starting five on the offensive line for the 2022 season.

Coincidentally, with Bakhtiari and former Pro Bowler Elgton Jenkins recovering from significant knee injuries, Nijman was the most experienced offensive lineman on the practice field in both age (26) and games played (33).

“I feel like it slowed the mental game with him,” said Jenkins, a second-round pick in 2019. will only be better than where he is now.”

While the Packers hope to bring back Bakhtiari and Jenkins in the near future, Nijman is just focused on finding his groove and using the 800-plus snaps he’s now played to become a complete player.

And wherever the Packers need him, Nijman will be ready.

“It becomes a little bit of muscle memory in terms of playing the games and what to do and how to prepare for it,” Nyman said. “It will definitely give me confidence going into this year.”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.