GREEN BAY - With their right tackle position in flux, the Green Bay Packers are signing 6-7, 314-pound practice squad lineman Yosh Nijman to the 53-man roster, a source said Tuesday.
The Packers have an open roster spot after their move to place guard/center Cole Madison on injured reserve last week. Madison tore his ACL in practice and is scheduled for season-ending surgery.
When starting right tackle Bryan Bulaga injured his knee early in the loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday night, coach Matt LaFleur went with Alex Light as his replacement. Things didn’t go well, however, and LaFleur said Monday he was considering options for how to get the offensive line in order.
“We’ve got some other thoughts potentially to make sure that we put our best five out there,” LaFleur said.
Light is an undersized tackle and fits better on the left side where his speed and agility are better used. Light had a terrible time trying to block 49ers end Nick Bosa, who was moved over to Light’s side to take advantage of the matchup.
LaFleur said a week of practice would better help Light prepare for the New York Giants this Sunday, but it’s possible he has a different combination in mind.
Starting an undrafted rookie with no NFL experience would be a giant leap of faith, but Nijman was impressive in training camp and showed in 105 preseason snaps that he could play with speed and power. His 34-inch-long arms and 10-inch hands give him a natural pass-blocking advantage, but he is still raw and inexperienced.
Nijman started out as a defensive end at Virginia Tech but became the school’s starting left tackle in 2016. He played there again in ’17 before moving over to the right side last year, where he started 11 of 13 games.
Evident during his time in training camp was Nijman’s strength and aggressiveness. He has unique athletic ability for his size, benching 225 pounds 27 times while posting the second-fastest short-shuttle time at his position at the NFL combine last spring.
The Packers paid him a $7,000 signing bonus as an undrafted free agent.
During training camp he played both left and right tackle, but he probably projects more as a right tackle given his strength and potential run-blocking ability. The biggest challenge for Nijman will be dealing with the speed of NFL stunts and twists and the many different defensive looks he’ll see.
The Packers could also play him at guard, but they already have backups there with Lucas Patrick and Adam Pankey.
Another option LaFleur has is to move right guard Billy Turner to right tackle and fill in the right guard spot with Patrick, Pankey or Nijman. Turner played some right tackle earlier this season but has started all 11 games at right guard.
To replace Nijman on the practice squad, the Packers are signing former Syracuse left tackle Cody Conway, a source said.
After failing to get drafted, Conway signed with the Tennessee Titans. Midway through camp he suffered an unspecified injury and was placed on injured reserve. He was waived through an injury settlement and began taking part in workouts last month.
The 6-6, 307-pound Conway started 33 games for the Orangemen.
At his pro day, he ran the 40-yard dash in 5.14 seconds, had a vertical jump of 29 inches and bench-pressed 225 pounds 25 times. He has 32 3/8-inch arms and 9 1/2-inch hands.