A great mystery has plagued the Green Bay Packers offensive line this season. It is one of great puzzlement. That is the case of the missing Yosh Nijman. He’s there, but he’s not there. He can play, but yet he’s not starting. With the struggles this offensive line has seen this season so far, especially at the Left Tackle position, it’s confusing why the Tackle with 21 career starts since 2021, is on the sidelines. To solve this mystery, I asked for the best. I was given Chief Inspector Jacques Clouseau of the French Surete. The investigation had begun.
Inspector Clouseau launched his investigation by entering the Packers facility on stilts wearing an inflated muscle suit posing as a free agent lineman in on a tryout. He informed me it was important to his process to “blend in.” However, I believe the Packers weren’t buying it from the start but were going along with it. The great inspector was instantly given a uniform and taken into the Don Hutson center for practice. He was lined up one on one with Rashan Gary where he was bull-rushed to the ground like a rag doll and medical staff took him off the field. Clouseau was done, and I was on my own.
A solid lineman
In 2021, due to injuries on the offensive line, Yosh Nijman found himself starting at tackle for eight games. In these eight games, Nijman logged 590 offensive snaps, only had 3 penalties called, and only allowed 3 sacks. Not too bad for an undrafted lineman coming in in relief. The following year, Nijman found himself in the game more often with 13 starts, 756 offensive snaps logged. He was penalized a little bit more with 10 and allowed 5 sacks.
When longtime starter David Bakhtiari returned from injury however, Nijman found himself losing his starting job to rookie Zach Tom as well as the returning Bakhtiari. It wasn’t necessarily that Nijman had regressed, but that Tom and Bakhtiari were just better options at the moment.
Entering the 2023 offseason, Yosh Nijman was a Restricted Free Agent. Being a valuable swing-tackle, the Packers placed a 2nd-round tender on Nijman. Rumors started to fly of whether or not Nijman would or should be traded. But those all remained fan fiction as Nijman remained a Packer after the preseason and would be available come week 1 kickoff. It appeared Nijman was beat out by Zach Tom for the starting Right Tackle position, but the decision seemed to have a little more spite behind it than a simple post-position battle decision.
“Some guys rise to that competition and some guys don’t”
Before the start of the season, when Packers offensive coordinator Adam Stenavich was asked about Nijman, he gave a less-than positive answer. “Right now, he’s a backup tackle for us,” Stenavich said. “That’s where he’s at and football is a very competitive sport and some guys rise to that competition and some guys don’t, so that’s basically what I have to say about that.”
Woof. A simple “Zach Tom we believe was just a bit better than Yosh in camp, so he was awarded with the job” could’ve sufficed. It definitely seemed like Stenavich was not happy with Nijman for whatever reason. But at that time, this was just a quote, and the belief was still that Nijman would be the swing-tackle this season.
However, when David Bakhtiari was unable to go in week 2 at Atlanta, Rasheed Walker took his place, not Nijman. That’s okay right? Maybe they just really wanted to see what they had in Walker. But as time wore on, it became evident that Walker wasn’t doing quite as well as hoped. He was whiffing on a lot of blocks and allowing pressure on Jordan Love often. Walker had some bright spots, but maybe still wasn’t quite ready. Enter Yosh Nijman right? Surely, they’ll either move Zach Tom to Left Tackle and put Nijman at right, or perhaps Nijman at left right? He’s been fairly solid for us for several years, he has the experience, put him in. Wrong.
Nijman hadn’t seen action on offense the entire season until Josh Myers went down against Denver in Week 7. Zach Tom had moved over to Center, and Nijman replaced him at right tackle. This only lasted four plays though before Myers returned and the line returned to previous form.
What happened between Yosh Nijman and the coaching staff to cause this rift?
I’ve cracked a few jokes the last few weeks as to why a former decent starting option that was given a second-round tender has been seemingly shunned. Perhaps Nijman insulted Adam Stenavich’s hairline, he kicked a puppy, doesn’t like Mark Murphy’s sledding hill, no one really knows.
Some have suggested that perhaps the Packers really want to trade Nijman and don’t want any injury to befall him before then. Well, then Stenavich really dropped the ball in calling Nijman’s work ethic into question and we’d be lucky to get anything above a 6th or 7th round pick. Nonetheless, they’d be a little foolish not to at least showcase him a little bit with the injuries to the line and boost his price.
If there wasn’t some big detail we’re all missing, you’d think with David Bakhtiari’s future being in question and Rasheed Walker not seeming quite ready to be a reliable starter, we’d see Yosh Nijman starting at Tackle. You put a high pick tender on him for a reason. You didn’t want to lose him. If you didn’t have some belief in him, you would have perhaps put a 3rd round tender on Nijman to get something instead of nothing.
We may never find out what occurred in the Packers locker room that has caused this distrust of Yosh Nijman. But personally, I’d like to see it resolved so that we can put the best line possible in front of Jordan Love. It’s not about winning football games but giving your Quarterback the best opportunity to succeed. And keeping Nijman on the bench while Rasheed Walker struggles is not giving Jordan Love that opportunity. Either trade Nijman before the deadline, or let him start, there’s no advantage to having him ride the pine.
Greg Meinholz is a lifelong devoted Packer fan. A contributor to PackersTalk as well as CheeseheadTV. Follow him on Twitter at @gmeinholz. for Packers commentary, random humor, beer endorsements, and occasional Star Wars and Marvel ramblings.