Green Bay Packers: Yosh Nijman’s Potential Now on Full Display

GREEN BAY, WISCONSIN - OCTOBER 03: Yosh Nijman #73 of the Green Bay Packers is introduced prior to a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Lambeau Field on October 03, 2021 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
GREEN BAY, WISCONSIN - OCTOBER 03: Yosh Nijman #73 of the Green Bay Packers is introduced prior to a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Lambeau Field on October 03, 2021 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images) /

For the longest time, it felt like Yosh Nijman was a Green Bay Packers urban legend. We had heard a lot about him and his potential, but we hadn’t seen much of him or knew where he was at in his development.

What did the Green Bay Packers have in Yosh Nijman?

Nijman was on the field for over 2,500 snaps during his four-year career at Virginia Tech and was signed following the 2019 draft as a UDFA. During that span which covered 1,287 pass-blocking snaps, Nijman allowed eight sacks and 60 pressures—with only 23 of those coming during his final two seasons.

Standing 6’7” – 314 pounds, Nijman has the size at tackle that NFL teams covet, and he comes with elite athleticism as well, posting a RAS of 9.81 out of 10.

"“To be honest with you, he is probably the most explosive person on this team,” said fellow tackle Billy Turner. “Pound for pound, the way he moves and the way he’s able to move is second to none. He’s a specimen.”"

But from a skill-set standpoint, while the potential was certainly there, he was raw, was nowhere near being game ready, and needed time to develop—something that the Green Bay Packers were willing to give him.

The 2019 season was essentially a red-shirt year for Nijman that was spent on the practice squad. In 2020, he was on the 53-man roster, but it was clear that he wasn’t ready for regular season action. Despite several injuries and movement along the offensive line, he remained on the sidelines, playing just 15 snaps during mop-up duties.

I have wondered if Nijman was on the roster last season in part because Brian Gutekunst and Co. were concerned that another team would pick him up off the practice squad—or perhaps he never would have made it that far had he been cut when setting the initial 53-man roster.

This year really felt like a make-or-break season for Nijman. From the outside looking in, we really had no clue where he was at in his development because we just simply hadn’t seen him play or even seen him at practice. But after three years, if he was unable to be relied upon as a backup, you did have to wonder if it was time to move on.

Nijman’s first preseason game against Houston did get off to a bit of a rocky start with some rough reps in pass protection. But he would settle in and allowed just one sack and two pressures over his 88 pass-blocking snaps during the three preseason games, per PFF ($$). He was also the Green Bay Packers’ second-highest graded offensive linemen during the preseason as well.

"“Yosh has done a good job,” general manager Brian Gutekunst said during camp via SI. “I think he’s gotten better each year. A lot of credit to him for his work ethic and patience and resilience. I think he’s playing his best football right now and I’m excited to see where he goes. Obviously, he’s got a lot of physical traits that we look for, he’s played a lot of left tackle the last two games which is really good to see, and I think he’s had a nice training camp so far.”"

Nijman had certainly showcased that he was deserving of a roster spot, but would he be ready for live regular season action? Again, we did not know.

When it was reported that Elgton Jenkins was going to miss the Green Bay Packers Week 3 matchup with San Francisco, many of us assumed that the tackle positions would be occupied by some combination of Turner and Dennis Kelly. However, to our surprise, Green Bay chose Yosh to go up against Nick Bosa and the talented Niners defensive front.

"“We talked earlier this week about, I was talking to Steno, and I said, ‘Who do you want there?’ And he said, ‘Yosh,’” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said after that game via SI. “(And I said), ‘Yosh? Really?’ He said, ‘Yeah.’ I said, ‘All right, let’s do it.’ He’s a very soft-spoken, quiet guy, great young kid. And Dave (Bakhtiari) always talks about how good his feet are. He said he’s got the best feet for any lineman. I’m just really proud of the way he battled.”"

Including that game, Nijman has made five appearances this season at left tackle for the Green Bay Packers, four of which were starts. According to PFF, he has allowed just two sacks and 10 pressures over his 175 pass-blocking snaps.

Now, sure, there has been help with tight end chips, utilizing the quick passing game, and leaning on the run, but over the course of that many snaps, there are going to be plenty of times where Nijman is on an island and has to win his matchup—something he’s done against some very good defensive fronts and individual players.

Los Angeles and Pittsburgh both rank in the top-6 among pass rush units by PFF, and we all know how disruptive Minnesota, San Francisco, and Cincinnati can be as well.

"“He’s been going against some premier pass rushers and the good thing about Yosh is it really isn’t too big for him,” said Nathaniel Hackett following the Rams game via “When one guy comes in, they all kind of bond together, they work together and they help each other out. It makes it so they go out there and not skip a beat. Yosh has done such a good job. I can’t give him enough credit for going out there. I think on the 10th play of the game he had a pancake."

Nijman has proven that he can be relied upon off the bench at one of the most important positions in the game. With Jenkins out and David Bakhtiari still unavailable, he will continue to hold down left tackle for the time being.

Although for the 2021 season, Nijman will be a backup/replacement player, perhaps a larger role will open up for him in the coming year or two. While not too long ago we wondered if he could ever handle those responsibilities, we have now seen that he can.

"“I think every time that a guy goes out there and is able to perform at a high level, you just see their confidence build,” Head Coach Matt LaFleur said via “I think Yosh has all the traits you look for in an offensive lineman. He’s big, he’s athletic, he can bend, he’s strong, powerful, everything. It’s just about putting it all together on a consistent basis.”"