The Green Bay Packers might be facing their biggest challenge of the season this Sunday as they take on the Philadelphia Eagles, currently the top seed in the NFC. While the Eagles have struggled the past two weeks, they have the most complete roster in the NFC and keep adding. Recently, they brought in veterans Linval Joseph and Ndamukong Suh to bolster their trenches.
On the other hand, the Packers continue to look increasingly lost as the season goes on. Barring a historically amazing winning streak rivaling the “run the table” stretch, the Green Bay front office’s eyes should be on the future. With Aaron Rodgers‘ playing status being revalued every season, the Packers have an interesting roster-building puzzle on their hands.
Offensive tackle Yosh Nijman is one of the few bright spots this season and someone who should absolutely be in the team’s long-term plans. In the past season and a half, Nijman went from third-string left tackle to a consistently good starting right tackle. With most of next year’s roster decisions up in the air, re-signing Nijman should be a priority.
Nijman is the type of prospect the Packers typically love: a massive, athletically-gifted trench player in need of some polish. At 6’7”, 314 lbs., Nijman is a massive man. The former Virginia Tech Hokie saw limited snaps in his first two years in Green Bay before getting a big opportunity in 2021.
Nijman looked at home in the lineup and faced some of the league’s best edge rushers unscathed. Green Bay’s third-string performed better than many teams’ first-string options. Rodgers was pleased with his new blindside blocker, telling Nijman, “I almost forgot about the side of the line.”
Rodgers also dubbed Nijman “The World’s Biggest Robot” after the latter did the robot as a touchdown celebration.
Unfortunately, the Packers got cute with their offensive lineup in their playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers and put Nijman back on the bench, and they lost.
But Nijman got another chance in the spotlight with Bakhtiari and Jenkins still recovering from their injuries. Nijman started at left tackle for Green Bay’s first two games until Bakhtiari returned to the lineup. The two tackles would split snaps until Bakhtiari could handle full games.
Jenkins returned to the lineup as the starting right tackle, but the results weren’t what the team hoped. Jenkins didn’t look 100% back to his old self, and many analysts thought he might play better at guard.
Green Bay finally agreed and realized Nijman is one of their five best linemen, giving him the starting right tackle spot in Week 7. Despite only playing on the left side since entering the league (though he should have gotten more opportunities at RT in training camp), Nijman became a consistent and quality starter on the right side.
By mid-November, Nijman led the NFL in Pass Block Win Rate and was second in Run Block Win Rate. Nijman has a respectable 65.2 PFF grade and was the third-highest-ranked offensive player against the Tennessee Titans, with a 66.5 rate. On 520 snaps, Nijman has committed six penalties and has given up just one sack.
It took the Packers coaching staff longer than it should have to realize Nijman is one of the top five. But once the change was made, Green Bay’s investment paid off with an excellent starting tackle.
The Packers don’t have many long-term answers when it comes to offensive tackle. Bakhtiari has gone through hell and is still one of the best tackles in the game when healthy, but his status will be uncertain from week to week. Jenkins is still shaking the rust off after his injury, but he may be best suited to stay at guard. Zach Tom looks like a legitimate NFL starter, but the Packers will need to decide the best spot to play him. Right now, Nijman is the team’s best long-term option at tackle.
Unfortunately, Nijman’s current deal expires at the end of the season, and his next deal won’t be as affordable. Despite his humble start, Nijman’s recent success will be noticed by the rest of the league. It would make sense for the Packers to re-sign Nijman soon. Whether he’s protecting Rodgers, Jordan Love, Bryce Young, or Scoish Velociraptor Maloish, Nijman should be locked down for the future.
The 2022 season hasn’t turned out the way the Packers hoped. Most of the team is playing below expectations, but Yosh Nijman is one of the few players playing better than last season. Having an ascending young player at a premium position is worth celebrating, and Green Bay should re-sign the big robot as soon as possible.