GREEN BAY – Jahri Evans is used to being counted on.
At 34, Evans is the oldest member of the Green Bay Packers’ offensive line. But while starters all around him drop like flies due to injury, he has played all 408 offensive snaps, filling the guard spot once owned by T.J. Lang.
Evans has had center Corey Linsley to his left the entire season, but to his right, he has played with Bryan Bulaga, Kyle Murphy, Justin McCray and Olrick John.
“Jahri, he’s been excellent for us,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “He’s been a good fit from Day 1. (He) brings a lot of experience, a lot of professionalism, an excellent football player.”
He also brings a slight chip on his shoulder with him into the New Orleans Saints game Sunday at Lambeau Field.
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Evans played 11 seasons in New Orleans, anchoring their right guard position since the day quarterback Drew Brees arrived in town while also earning six Pro Bowl selections. He missed just seven games over the course of those 11 seasons, starting his first 114 before an injury finally sidelined him.
Despite his contributions, the Saints twice have moved on from him, the first in February 2016 after he refused to take a pay cut. Evans hooked on with Seattle, but they cut him at the end of training camp — a decision general manager John Schneider later said he regretted.
The Saints’ plan to replace Evans didn’t work and so they re-signed him just before the regular season started. He started all 16 games and from most accounts acquitted himself well.
But the Saints decided to move on again, choosing not to re-sign him after his one-year deal expired.
In came the Packers, who signed Evans to a one-year, $2.25 million deal that included a $200,000 signing bonus. The Packers signed Evans as a stopgap after letting Lang go to Detroit in free agency and kept their fingers crossed he would hold up.
He has made it far enough to face his old team.
“Nah, not really,” Evans said this week when asked whether he has something to prove.
Then, he thought again.
“Obviously, I want to win. Obviously, I guess I do definitely want to show them that I can still play, I’m still an elite player. I think once I get this one, I’ll have beaten every team in the NFL. So, it’s an important one for us, important for our team going forward.”
Evans isn’t the dominant player he once was, but he hasn’t been a weak link in any way. Unofficially, he has been partly responsible for two sacks and has allowed four pressures, which isn’t bad given the turmoil on the offensive line this season.
The Packers had their starting offensive line together for the first time against Minnesota on Sunday, but it lasted only 15 plays. Guard Lane Taylor injured his ankle and was followed to the bench later by Bulaga (concussion) and left tackle David Bakhtiari (hamstring).
It looks like the only one who will miss the Saints game is Taylor, who has yet to practice this week, so the line should be in better shape.
“Just the moving parts up front, it’s been kind of tough, moving guys in, moving guys out, getting familiar with our guys, our movement,” Evans said.
Part of the reason Evans signed with the Packers was to have a chance at winning a Super Bowl. When quarterback Aaron Rodgers suffered a broken collarbone against Minnesota on Sunday, the Packers’ title chances dove precipitously.
Considering Brees had missed just two games over the past 10 seasons, playing with an inexperienced quarterback is something new for Evans. He has a wealth of information he can offer Hundley, but he has decided not to force it given all that is on Hundley’s plate.
He has let his fellow linemen know a little bit about New Orleans’ defensive personnel.
“Brett can make plays, he’s capable of doing some good things out there, so I think they’ll probably try to load the box sometimes and give different looks,” Evans said of the Saints. “They just give you so many different fronts, different looks up front, whether it’s blitzing, whether it’s personnel, linebackers on the edge blitzing rather than D-linemen.
“They just have a lot of different packages for certain players with certain strengths. So, I see them throwing a lot of packages at us, especially if we are thin up front on the O-line, guys that don’t have a lot of experience just to create some confusion and create one-on-one battles up front.”
The Packers are counting on Evans showing them he’s up for the challenge.