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Packers OT Nijman Put Athletic Gifts Together in Training Camp

Note: This feature was published on Aug. 24 and updated on Sept. 24 with the possibility Yosh Nijman will start at left tackle for the Week 3 game against San Francisco on Sunday.
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – It took until his third training camp with the Green Bay Packers, but the raw materials possessed by Yosh Nijman have come together to produce a capable offensive tackle.

Nijman went undrafted in 2019 despite a quality resume. At Virginia Tech, he was a 32-game starter at both tackle spots. At the Scouting Combine, he showed elite traits. At 6-foot-6 3/4 and 314 pounds, Nijman ran his 40 in 4.88 seconds and his 20-yard shuttle in 4.50 seconds. Among the 2019 class of offensive tackles, he ranked second in Relative Athletic Score.

Nonetheless, Nijman spent most of the 2019 season on the practice squad and most of the 2020 season on the bench (14 garbage-time snaps on offense and 81 snaps on special teams). In training camp this summer, he started at left tackle in all three preseason games and fared well against quality competition. For the most part, the Jets in the second preseason game and the Bills in the third preseason game played their starters for the first half.

“Yosh has done a good job,” general manager Brian Gutekunst said during camp. “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.”

In 88 pass-protecting snaps in the three preseason games, Nijman allowed only one sack and one additional pressure, according to Pro Football Focus. The sack was the sack-strip late in the first half against Houston, a play in which quarterback Jordan Love was at least partially to blame with his too-deep dropback. He moved people in the running game, too.

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That performance allowed Nijman to win a roster spot. And, with David Bakhtiari rehabbing last year's torn ACL and Elgton Jenkins nursing an ankle injury, it potentially has made Nijman a consideration to start the Week 3 game at San Francisco.

“I feel like football is a little more natural to me,” Nijman said after a training camp practice in August. “I’m still learning every day and learning from my older teammates, my coaches, doing self-reflection. I think the turnaround’s a little bit faster to me as far as recovery. Been working on finding new ways to recover throughout the day so I can be prepared for practice and for gamedays.”

Offensive line coach Adam Stenavich last month said the key for Nijman has been “learning how to play fast vs. multiple looks.” The playbook shows how a play is supposed to be run but it doesn’t necessarily take into account how the defense is lining up and attacking that play.

To that end, it was a great preseason for Nijman. He played 157 snaps in the three games. Obviously, like everyone else last year, he played zero.

“Every snap” is important, he said. “I kind of see it as almost as if I’m playing a regular-season game. Preparation’s the same as if it was the regular season, mind-set’s the same. Any opportunity I can go out there and put my talents on the field for the team, I’m going to do that and my mind is toward doing that.”