Yosh Nijman was starting for the first time on Sunday night for the Green Bay Packers. Jon Runyan Jr. was making his second-ever start. Josh Myers and Royce Newman, both rookies, were making their third career starts. There was a lot of chaos following the Packers’ instant-classic, walk-off 30-28 win over the San Francisco 49ers, but don’t forget about this offensive line when doling out praise.
Elgton Jenkins’ availability was a huge question hanging over the Packers going into Week 3. After not practicing all week, he was inactive against San Francisco. It left Matt LaFleur in a pickle as he rolled out a super-inexperienced offensive line against a 49ers defensive front that had feasted in the first two weeks of the season.
Green Bay’s makeshift O-line couldn’t have played any better.
Nijman was a bit shaky on the first drive, but chalk that up to early-game nerves as the Packers were starting their third-string left tackle. Rodgers was only sacked once on Sunday night, and the quarterback pressure numbers were also less than stellar for the 49ers.
Myers and Newman have really started to settle in. Runyan Jr. has straight-up swiped the left guard spot, which at one point was Lucas Patrick’s before he missed Week 2 against the Detroit Lions. And while all the young guys are moving the needle, Billy Turner keeps hanging out at right tackle without getting any kudos for how well he’s held things down.
Remarkably, a team starting four different offensive linemen since their last matchup against San Francisco could do so well protecting the reigning MVP. It’s downright jaw-dropping when you consider that the four newcomers had a combined five starts entering the contest.
“When we switched sides of the field in the fourth quarter he (Nijman) was walking by me and I’m just turning everybody up I’m going crazy. He looks at me and goes, ‘Man it’s just a blessing to play with you guys, I really enjoy this.’ And I’m just like…it kind of slowed me down for a second and I just got real appreciative for having a teammate like that… He reminds me a little bit of Aaron Jones from a personality standpoint because early in his career he would do something and come back in the huddle and I’d be screaming, ‘Let’s go! I need that from you every time let’s go!’ And he’d be, ‘Yes sir.’ And I’m like, ‘Aaron you don’t have to call me sir in the middle of the game.’ But Yosh, he’s a hell of a player with a great heart, just a great teammate all around, I’m proud of what they did up there.”
LaFleur’s scheme really gave the line a boost. When Rodgers needed extra time to freelance and wait for deeper routes to develop, he got it for most of the night. However, it was evident early on that the plan was to quickly get the ball out of Rodgers’ hands against the 49ers. The numbers were undeniable when he let loose in under 2.5 seconds.
It helps to have a quarterback-head coach duo that works together in such a great rhythm, and the Packers needed Rodgers and LaFleur to be on the same page Sunday night. It alleviated a lot of the pressure on the offensive line with No. 12 going 16-for-18 when releasing the ball in less than 2.5 seconds. The last domino that needed to fall was the wide receivers getting separation fairly early on in their routes, which they did. Nobody was better at it on Sunday night than Adams, one of the best in the business.
If Green Bay’s offensive line can play this well in back-to-back games with no David Bakhtiari and no Jenkins, it will turn a thin-looking unit into a group with plenty of options when they hit peak health some point down the road.
Mason Crosby was as clutch as ever when he drained the 51-yard game winner. And Rodgers was the cool customer. He’s always been down one point with no timeouts and 37 seconds left, getting the Packers in field goal range. But none of those moments happen without stellar play from the big boys up front, who kept Rodgers upright and did their job tremendously all the way up through the final snap of the game.
The praise is well deserved for Crosby and Rodgers. Just don’t forget about that top-tier offensive line in a big moment when there was plenty of doubt going around.