They never imagined he’d be one of only two Packers offensive linemen who hasn’t had to miss time because of an injury. How bad would things be if Evans and center Corey Linsey had been unable to play every snap, as they’ve done through six games this season?
Evans, 34 and in his 12th NFL season, has been a stabilizing force in an unstable situation. The Packers have started a different offensive line combination in each of their six games this season, and they haven’t had one group play together for even 90 plays this season.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, no five-man unit for the Packers has played more than 89 snaps together this season. That group, from left tackle to right tackle, was Kyle Murphy, Lane Taylor Linsley, Evans and Justin McCray. Murphy went on injured reserve on Sept. 26 and subsequently underwent foot surgery.
There are a total of 44 O-line units league-wide with more snaps than the Packers’ most-used group.
“Jahri, he’s been excellent for us. He’s been a good fit from Day 1,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “[He] brings a lot of experience, a lot of professionalism, excellent football player, so as you look at the offensive line, the cohesiveness of those guys playing together, it’s so important. The moving parts we’ve had due to injury, I think Jahri and Corey being steadfast in there, there’s a lot of stable production.”
This week, three of the Packers’ five offensive line starters are on the injury report. One of them, Taylor, hasn’t practiced yet this week because of an ankle injury. The other two, left tackle David Bakhtiari (hamstring) and right tackle Bryan Bulaga (concussion), have been limited practice participants.
And yet there’s Evans, cast off by the Saints after last season, ready to show his old team that he still can play when New Orleans comes to Lambeau Field on Sunday.
“I guess I do definitely want to show them that I can still play, [that] I'm still an elite player,” Evans said.
“Obviously there's people in that building that don't think I'm the same player that I was, and that's fine. It comes with age. I feel like I'm still an elite player in this game and I prepare like that. I try to show that in every play. It's going to be fun.”
Evans’ experience could be especially valuable now without quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the Packers huddle. With Brett Hundley to make his first NFL start on Sunday, he’ll have a right guard with 175 regular-season starts to his credit.
“Jahri’s a stud, love Jahri,” Saints quarterback Drew Brees told reporters this week. “Every guy in this locker room does. He was such a big part of our success in the past 11 years. Wish him nothing but the best. It will be funny to see him in a Green Bay uniform after being here his whole career. But he’s the best.”
The Packers will need the line to play even better for Hundley. Through six games, Rodgers and Hundley have been pressured on 32 percent of their dropbacks, sixth-highest in the NFL, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Hundley was pressured on 45 percent of his dropbacks last Sunday against the Vikings after Rodgers broke his collarbone.