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Why the Packers benched Rasheed Walker

One play seemed to be the reason why Green Bay moved Yosh Nijman into their left tackle spot.

Green Bay Packers v Washington Commanders Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

When the Green Bay Packers opened up practice in the spring, the assumption was that Yosh Nijman, who had signed a $4.3 million, one-year contract with the team, was going to be the Packers’ swing tackle during the 2023 season. Surprisingly, though, second-year seventh-round pick Rasheed Walker edged Nijman for the position, which made Walker the injury replacement for David Bakhtiari at left tackle when Bakhtiari was placed on the injured reserve for his knee injury.

Since Week 2, Walker has been receiving nods at left tackle, despite some up-and-down play. Over his first two starts of the season, the Packers’ pass protection played about as well as you could possibly expect. Then came the matchup against the Detroit Lions in Week 4, which seems to have been a tipping point for the unit. Since then, the 2023 Packers offensive line has looked nothing like the groups of the past, allowing consistent pressure from just about every individual on the line of scrimmage.

Many wondered if the recent three-game slide would eventually push Nijman back into the starting lineup going into last Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Vikings. Instead, Walker was the starter at left tackle again — but he only played 18 snaps, as he was benched for Nijman in-game.

So what happened? Why was Walker finally benched? Here’s the play:

Many will point to Walker having an illegal man downfield penalty on the first drive of the game as one reason why Walker was sent to the bench, but that penalty was not his fault. It was a run-pass option play where quarterback Jordan Love was supposed to get the ball out quickly if he were to pass the ball. The problem? No receiver ran a route, which led to a scramble drill while the offensive line was simultaneously asked to run block in case Love handed the ball off to a back.

Instead, it was the play above — a sack that Walker allowed — that led to the switch. Despite having “chip help” from running back AJ Dillon, who lined up in a wing position on the play, Walker was unable to protect Love from a sack via the Vikings’ “wide-9” defender. Walker finished out the drive before Nijman was inserted into the lineup.

At the moment, the Packers haven’t said one way or another if it will be Walker or Nijman starting at left tackle against the Los Angeles Rams in Sunday. All we can point to is this play, really the only “mess up” Walker was allowed to make against the Vikings, as the straw that broke the camel’s back — at least in that particular matchup.