For one, with Jenkins early in the week still having a chance to start, Head Coach Matt LaFleur wasn’t too keen on moving Billy Turner from right tackle to left tackle during practice, only to possibly move him back to right tackle for the game if Jenkins’ ankle would allow him to play.
But the other reason was the greater factor.
“I also think Yosh earned it,” LaFleur said Monday. “Shoot, he had a really good preseason and he did it against good competition.”
Indeed, Nijman held up against the starting defensive linemen from both the Jets and Bills in August, and that gave the coaching staff confidence. Still, it was an awfully daunting assignment to give a young left tackle his first NFL start on the road against a premier pass rusher like the 49ers’ Nick Bosa.
Nijman, the former undrafted prospect from Virginia Tech now in his third year in Green Bay, wasn’t left to go one-on-one with Bosa all night. He got help in the form of chip blocks from tight end Robert Tonyan and running back Aaron Jones, while several of the pass concepts the Packers employed were predicated on Aaron Rodgers releasing the ball right away.
But Nijman also had to hold his own on plenty of occasions, and by night’s end, Bosa had just four tackles and a QB hit on the stat sheet.
“It took him a second or so, I’d say, to settle in, but we were getting the ball out early, very quickly,” LaFleur said. “Once he settled in, I thought he did a really nice job.”
Nijman also didn’t get rattled by a facemask penalty on the game’s opening drive that pushed the offense out of the red zone and forced the Packers to settle for a field goal. He adjusted his technique and kept plugging away.