There were a lot of players that earned a game ball from the Green Bay Packers 30-28 victory over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday night. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers displayed why he is the defending NFL MVP. Rodgers went 23 of 33 for 261 yards with two touchdown passes and zero interceptions. Along with that, he led the Packers to the game-winning field goal as time ran out. Then there was wide receiver Davante Adams. The standout receiver caught 12 passes for 132 yards with one touchdown reception. Two of those passes came on the final drive that set up the game-winning field goal. He did this after taking a major hit late in the game. Of course, you can’t forget about kicker Mason Crosby. The veteran kicker went three for three on-field-goal attempts, which includes the game-winning 51-yard field goal. All three players were major contributors to their victory. But there was one person, who isn’t getting much attention, that deserves a game ball. The plan that offensive line coach/run game coordinator Adam Stenavich implemented for the Packers offensive line helped lead the Packers to victory.
Adam Stenavich is Becoming One of the Best Offensive Line Coaches in the NFL
Prior to being hired by head coach Matt LaFleur in 2019, Adam Stenavich had never been in charge of an NFL offensive line. He was an assistant offensive line coach for the 49ers from 2017-2018, but never the person fully in charge. His lack of experience made his hiring a risky one. Especially when you figured in who he was replacing.
From 2007-2018, James Campen was the man in charge of the Green Bay Packers offensive line. During that span, he earned rave reviews from his peers for the work he had done with the Green Bay Packers offensive line. When LaFleur took over as the head coach, many expected that he would keep Campen for his staff. But surprisingly, LaFleur went in a different direction.
Stepping in for Campen wasn’t going to be an easy task for Adam Stenavich. Along with his inexperience, he was also following one of the better offensive line coaches in the NFL. But he has done it, and he has done it very well.
The Green Bay Packers offensive line has been one of the better offensive lines in the NFL the past couple of seasons. However, for all of the things he has done well what Adam Stenavich did on Sunday night might have been his best.
Playing with the Hand You Were Dealt
For this past Sunday’s game, Adam Stenavich was missing his best two offensive linemen. Starting left tackle David Bakhtiari is on the PUP list, still recovering from a 2020 season-ending knee injury. Bakhtiari’s replacement at left tackle, Elgton Jenkins, was inactive for Sunday due to an ankle injury he suffered in the Packers victory over the Detroit Lions in week two.
With Bakhtiari and Jenkins out, it was expected that Adam Stenavich would move starting right tackle Billy Turner to the left side. Turner saw time on the left side in 2020 so it seemed like he would make the move once again. But Stenavich and LaFleur had other ideas.
Instead of moving Turner from a spot that he has excelled at, as they did in 2020, they decided to keep Turner where he was. Instead, in a surprise move, Stenavich and LaFleur called on former undrafted free agent Yosh Nijman to take Jenkins’ spot. It was a decision that shocked many.
Nijman would be making his first start in the NFL. But he wasn’t the only inexperienced Packers offensive lineman starting on Sunday night. Jon Runyan Jr., the Packers starting left guard, was making just his second start in the NFL. Along with Nijman and Runyan Jr., rookie center Josh Myers and starting right guard Royce Newman were making just their third starts in the NFL.
On paper, it appeared that Adam Stenavich was fighting an uphill battle. To go along with just having Turner as his only experienced offensive lineman, the Packers offensive line would be facing one of the best defensive lines in the NFL.
Providing Help for Nijman
Stenavich’s game plan was to make sure they limited the number of times Nijman would face Bosa one on one. The game plan had a rocky start, with Bosa blowing up on Nijamn early on in the game. But as the game went along, Stenavich called on help from other players to help out with Bosa. The most help came from the Packers top two tight ends.
Robert Tonyan and Marcedes Lewis were utilized quite often on helping Nijman with Bosa. At times, Tonyan would “chip” Bosa before heading out on his pass patterns. Tonyan’s chipping was quite effective, and on one occasion, led to Bosa getting put on his backside.
There is a reason that the Packers re-signed the aging Lewis this past off-season. While Lewis isn’t the pass-catcher he once was, he is still one of the best blocking tight ends in the NFL. Nijman was the benefactor of Lewis’s ability. On more than several plays, Lewis was asked to help out with Bosa. As shown in this clip, Lewis was able to handle Bosa one on one. There aren’t many offensive tackles that are able to do that. There are even fewer tight ends who can get that job done. But Lewis showed he could get the job done.
Making Things Simple
The scaled-down game plan not only benefitted Nijman, but also the rest of the Packers offensive line.
Billy Turner took care of his business and he did it very well. Turner’s performance on Sunday night might have been one of his best as a Packer. He took care of business on his own, which helped out the rest of the inexperienced offensive linemen.
With Turner handling his side, it freed up Myers to help out Runyan Jr. and Newman when necessary. It wasn’t often that they required help, but when they did, Myers was there to do so.
Adam Stenavich deserves a lot of credit for how the Packers offensive line performed on Sunday. Not only did he help the Packers to a victory, but it also should help Stenavich gain recognition throughout the NFL. If the offensive line continues to play as they have been, it wouldn’t be surprising to hear his name for offensive coordinating positions. Maybe even for possible head coaching openings.
Main Photo: Embed from Getty Images