Green Bay Packers cornerback Kevin King out, left tackle Josh Nijman in against San Francisco 49ers
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - In hindsight, perhaps it shouldn’t have been surprising the Green Bay Packers started Yosh Nijman at left tackle.
On paper, the matchup looked frightening, pitting Nijman in his first career start against San Francisco 49ers star edge rusher Nick Bosa. Nijman, a former undrafted tackle, is in his third season with the Packers. He played in all 16 games last season, mostly special teams. Nijman had only 14 snaps on offense.
Bosa had his moments Sunday night, batting a pass and drawing a facemask penalty against Nijman. And that was just the first drive.
But Nijman made the Packers’ 53-man roster precisely for this situation: his potential to fill in at left tackle if needed for an emergency. The Packers were without Elgton Jenkins because of an ankle injury. Jenkins had been replacing All-Pro David Bakhtiari, who still is recovering from his torn ACL.
Down to their third-string blocker on the blindside, the Packers indeed had an emergency.
They could have slid Billy Turner from right tackle to left, replacing him with veteran Dennis Kelly. If it’s fair to wonder why Nijman has a roster spot for any other reason than to be the Packers’ emergency left tackle, the same can be asked about Kelly. The Packers signed him midway through camp to give them veteran depth at right tackle, and perhaps unintendedly the flexibility to slide Turner to left if necessary.
An offensive line with Turner at left tackle and Kelly at right might have given them their best five. It also would have weakened the offensive line at both tackle spots, instead of just one. The Packers decided to keep their starting group intact, other than the most important position on their offensive line.
They were able to withstand the change because of a quick passing game that relied on Rodgers to read the defense and get rid of the football. It mostly worked, with Rodgers completing his first dozen passes for 140 yards and a touchdown.
King illness shuffles secondary
An illness made cornerback Kevin King a late scratch for Sunday night's game, forcing the Packers to reconfigure their secondary.
King, early in his fifth season, had debuted as a slot cornerback last week against the Detroit Lions. Instead, the Packers used Chandon Sullivan predominately in the slot, with Jaire Alexander and rookie Eric Stokes on the perimeter. They also relied more on base defense to load up against the 49ers run game.
Sullivan’s promotion to the slot paid earlier dividends. He had a pass breakup against Mohamed Sanu to force a punt on the first series. Sullivan briefly left the field after taking a shot in friendly fire in the first half. Linebacker Ty Summers delivered a blow on 49ers tight end George Kittle, and Sullivan was on the other side. The momentum smashed through Kittle into Sullivan, but he returned before halftime.
King’s illness was not related to COVID-19. The team would have to designate him as such, and it did not.
Tight end Josiah Deguara was active for the first time since he dropped out of the Packers opener with a concussion.
Along with King, Jenkins was among four inactives for the Packers. Jenkins was ruled out Saturday because of an ankle injury. He played all 65 snaps against the Detroit Lions last Monday, some of which presumably were on the bad ankle. However, Jenkins did not practice this week, and was unable to recover in time to play against the 49ers.
Safety Vernon Scott and outside linebacker La'Darius Hamilton were also inactive.