The 2022 Packers season appears to be slipping down the drain. In a dismal showing against the Lions, Green Bay failed to reach ten points, falling to 3-6 on the year. A rash of severe injuries knocked out WR Romeo Doubs, OLB Rashan Gary, and CB Eric Stokes – the latter two likely for the rest of the season.
The Packers offense, far from the lofty heights of 2020, is perhaps the unit most responsible for Green Bay’s recent struggles. Aaron Rodgers is not playing anywhere near his previous MVP levels, and his supporting cast has put a comedy of errors on tape. All is not disappointment and disaster, however. There are still a few bright spots amongst Green Bay’s offensive roster. One such player is Yosh Nijman. According to PFF, the mammoth tackle has only allowed one sack on the year while playing both left tackle and right tackle. After filling in repeatedly at LT in 2021, he appears to have take a step in 2022. What is he showing on film?
Ever since being slotted in as the starting right tackle, Nijman has impressed in multiple facets of the game. His size and athleticism give him an edge in run-blocking, especially on run calls that get him out in space like this pin-pull design. As one of the pullers, he gets around the edge and bulldozes his way through multiple defenders to help Aaron Jones get close to the first down.
Nijman’s athleticism shows up in other aspects of the run game as well. Tasked with a difficult reach block on the 3t defensive lineman here, he does an excellent job securing the DL’s chest and flipping his hips to seal off the defender.
In this next clip, the Packers are running split zone. The edge defender Nijman has to block ends up slanting inside, so the tackle passes him off and climbs to the second level, engulfing Alex Anzalone and helping clear the way for a chunk run.
In this last run-blocking example, Matt LaFleur has called GY Counter. Nijman initially steps outward as if intending to kick out the edge defender (Von Miller), but this is a ruse likely meant to hold Miller a millisecond longer and prevent him immediately crashing down the line. Nijman then climbs to the second level and engages the scraping linebacker, clearing a massive lane for the back.
Nijman has also put some impressive pass pro reps on tape. Here, he gets a good first step out of his stance into a 45 degree set, maintaining a half-man relationship with the edge rusher – this means he keeps his outside leg approximately down the middle of the defender’s crotch. Doing so allows him to defend speed moves around the pocket while staying in position to protect against inside counters. Nijman also shows off a fantastic understanding of hand usage. He keeps his hands low and close to draw the swipe attempt, flares them out to stay clean when the rusher attempts the swipe, delivers a powerful two-handed punch to create separation, then locks on to the shoulder pad and the edge of the breastplate in order to maintain control of the rusher. This is an excellent rep.
In this clip, Nijman shows off another example of great hand usage. His initial hand placement is outside, on the rusher’s shoulder pads. Without inside hand placement, Nijman is left vulnerable to the edge rusher’s power move. Nijman quickly resets first his outside hand, then his inside hand into the rusher’s chest. He simultaneously lowers his center of gravity and widens his base, putting himself in a much more powerful position that enables him to stop the bull rush in its tracks. He stays latched on until his opponent trips over the pass-protecting RB and ends up on the turf and out of the play.
This last clip, coming against elite rusher Von Miller, is highly impressive. Nijman again uses a 45 degree set, adjusting to Miller’s widened alignment with a larger kick step. He keeps his hands down so that Miller can’t use any swipes, chops, or similar pass rush moves. Seeing Nijman’s chest exposed, Miller attempts a long-arm move.
This is where Nijman’s impressive length comes into play. Knocked off-balance a bit, Nijman crosses his feet. However, he gains purchase on Miller’s shoulder pad with his inside hand, creating enough separation to reset his base. Miller swipes away that inside hand and Nijman’s successive outside punch, but Nijman is able to replace his hands again and maintain enough leverage on Miller’s shoulder to ride him up and around the QB. Pass pro isn’t always pretty, but here Nijman shows off independent hand usage, good foot movement, and an ability to adjust on the fly to protect his quarterback.
Although he filled in adequately in 2021, Nijman’s game was far from perfect. However, he seems to have taken a step in 2022. Even while switching to RT, where he rarely played in the past, he has been very impressive. His hand usage, footwork, and overall protection toolkit seem improved. Nijman’s athleticism always pointed to a high potential ceiling. With what he’s shown this year, he could very well be a long-term starter in the NFL.
The young lineman will be a restricted free agent this offseason. Green Bay can certainly retain him for next year. However, could it be in the team’s best interest to sign him to a long-term contract? The Packers might be rebuilding in 2023. Given David Bakhtiari’s expensive contract and his tumultuous injury recovery, he might not be a Packer for much longer. If so, there could be a hole at tackle. Nijman might be a valuable piece as Green Bay looks to reset and compete for years to come.
Whatever the future looks like, Nijman will be an enjoyable player to watch through the rest of 2022. He faces a stiff challenge this Sunday, with Green Bay set to face DeMarcus Lawrence, Micah Parsons, and the rest of a fierce Cowboys pass rush. Will he be able to continue shining on Green Bay’s line? Only time will tell.