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Yosh Nijman is making good on his move to right tackle for the Packers

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GREEN BAY − Yosh Nijman is making himself some money this season.

The third-year tackle moved from the left side to the right four weeks ago and is proving to be a bona fide NFL starter at that position.

That includes a solid performance Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys’ edge defenders, Demarcus Lawrence and defensive-player-of-the-year candidate Micah Parsons. Nijman mostly went against Lawrence and played well enough to say that, while Lawrence had his moments, Nijman won the battle.

At this point, Nijman has played well enough on the right side that the Packers can project him as a starter next year, including as an option at left tackle if they cut David Bakhtiari in the offseason and don’t draft or find someone who’s ready to play that spot immediately.

One quality that stands out about Nijman is he doesn’t make mental mistakes. Another is his imposing size (6-foot-7 and 314 pounds) as a run blocker, which is the strongest part of his game. He’s a big who’s still athletic enough to pull and be a lead blocker on sweeps.

The Packers’ decision to stick with the run against the Cowboys, and their ability to run it well (Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon combined for 203 yards rushing on 37 carries) went a long way toward helping all their linemen in pass protection, Nijman very much included. It’s tough for defensive linemen to tee off on a pass rush when they’re getting pounded on the ground like the Packers did to the Cowboys.

On Sunday night, Nijman didn’t so much stand out with blocks that sprung big plays as he simply had solid play after solid play, helping the Packers grind out favorable downs and distances.

Like on the Packers’ second offensive snap, a second-and-6, when Nijman effectively reach-blocked Lawrence and pinned him inside on an outside zone run by Jones. Parsons played an off-ball linebacker on that snap and filled the gap outside Lawrence, but Jones had enough space to get around Parsons and turn the corner. Jones picked up 4 yards, so it wasn’t a great play, but it was effective. And Nijman’s block was key because he kept Lawrence from getting any push, so Parsons, even with his explosiveness, wasn’t able to get outside far enough to turn Jones back inside.

A few plays later, again on second-and-6, the Cowboys had a stacked box (eight players), but the Packers ran into it anyway. Nijman’s kick-out block on Lawrence helped create an alley for Dillon to cut up field for another 4-yard gain. Those aren’t big runs, but they’re effective at moving the chains and, over the course of the game, that kind of running consistency can slow the pass rush, as it did Sunday.

Later in the first quarter, Nijman had maybe his most impressive block, on a second-and-2. Parsons was lined up wide, well outside Nijman’s right shoulder, and the Packers called a toss to Jones to that side. There was no way Nijman could make a full-fledged reach block on the play, but he got a solid enough piece of Parsons to tie him up and allow Jones to take the pitch and turn the corner for 17-yard run.

Now, Lawrence is a quality edge player and had his moments against Nijman as a pass rusher. Along with the strip sack in the second quarter, he beat Nijman badly on a rush in the third quarter, though Nijman at least had the wherewithal to grab Lawrence and take a holding penalty rather than give him a chance to put a hard hit on Aaron Rodgers. But aside from those two plays, Nijman held up well in protection against a guy who had five sacks entering the game.

The Packers knew they had a decent player in Nijman to start the season, that’s why they went with him at left tackle to start the season while Bakhtiari worked back from ongoing knee issues. But if they wondered whether Nijman could be a bona fide NFL right tackle, that’s been answered.

Rookie Kingsley Enagbare gaining an edge

Rashan Gary’s season-ending ACL injury has left a big hole in the Packers defense. There’s simply no way they can replace the talent lost there.

But fifth-round draft pick Kingsley Enagbare keeps improving little by little each week and at least for one game kept the starting spot opposite Preston Smith from being a disaster because of Gary’s absence.

Enagbare might even be a slight upgrade over Gary as a run defender. Gary is by far the more explosive of the two, but he has a tendency to rely on his speed to try to make big stops. Sometimes it works, but it also occasionally proves costly when gives up the edge and allows a big run outside of him because he fails to set the edge in search of bigger play.

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Enagbare, on the other hand, plays within his limitations and was very sound as an edge run defender against the Cowboys. He played his position by the book Sunday night, and when he was called on to hold the edge, that’s what he tried to do.

The Packers will need Enagbare to be just as sound this week against Tennessee when they face maybe the best running back in the league, Derrick Henry.

Enagbare is also an OK pass rusher and had one of the Packers’ six hits on Dak Prescott. Overall, he’s clearly a better player than the Packers' other backups at outside linebacker, Johnathan Garvin and LaDarius Hamilton.

Extra points on Kenny Clark, Jarran Reed and Darnell Savage

  • The player who’s going to most miss Gary most is defensive tackle Kenny Clark. With Gary out, Clark is the Packers’ best pass rusher, but offenses don’t have anyone else they must double team. Clark is going to see double teams on most passing downs for the rest of the season.
  • Defensive tackle Jarran Reed had his best game of the season against the Cowboys. He had three hits on Prescott, including one that ruined the Cowboys’ fourth-and-3 in overtime. After Preston Smith forced Prescott to slide up the pocket, Reed got ahold of Prescott’s legs and forced the quarterback into a desperation throw. The high pass was over Tony Pollard’s outstretched arms and incomplete, which gave the Packers good field position for their game-winning drive.
  • Darnell Savage played OK in his first game after moving from safety to nickel cornerback. He gave up several completions to CeeDee Lamb, but that’s life in the NFL. Every cover man gives up completions, and Lamb is a fast, quick, talented receiver. But Savage also had a pass breakup that he might have intercepted in the first quarter if receiver Noah Brown hadn’t grabbed one of his arms.
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