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If you’re tuning in to Thursday’s NFL game between the Green Bay Packers and the San Francisco 49ers, be prepared to ask the who-is-he question quite often. With seven players placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list and several other key players out with injury, it will be a game of players trying to make a name for themselves. The Packers will be extremely thin at running back, while the 49ers are starving for wide receivers. Who are Tyler Ervin and Dexter Williams, the two guys likely to carry the ball for the Packers if Aaron Jones misses his third straight game?

COVID-19 has decimated both the Packers and the 49ers

In a perfect world, the NFL would postpone Thursday night’s game between the Green Bay Packers and the San Francisco 49ers. The 2020 NFL season has been far from perfect and the game will go on. In what was to be a highly anticipated rematch between the two teams who played in the NFC title game in January, has turned into a bunch of backups playing for a job.

On Wednesday, the San Francisco 49ers shut down their practice facility after wide receiver Kendrick Bourne tested positive for COVID-19. Wednesday night, they received more bad news. Wide receivers Deebo Samuel, already out with a hamstring injury, and Brandon Aiyuk are also out. They, along with offensive lineman Trent Williams, were placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list for having been in close contact with Bourne.

The Packers received similar news. Rookie running back AJ Dillon tested positive for COVID-19 this week. Jamaal Williams, who has been starting at running back as Aaron Jones missed the last two games with an injured calf, must also sit out Thursday. Williams and linebacker Kamal Martin were in close contact with Dillon and were placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

Who is Tyler Ervin?

If starting running back Aaron Jones misses his third straight game with a calf injury, the Green Bay Packers are in trouble. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers will hand the ball off to a pair of relatively unknowns in Tyler Ervin and Dexter Williams. The Packers are usually very conservative with their injured players. Even if Jones can play, Ervin and Williams may see significant action.

Tyler Ervin could be Green Bay’s top running back Thursday and he’s not even a running back. Ervin carried the ball in college at San Jose State, but the Packers have turned him into a wide receiver and return specialist. Ervin was a fourth-round pick by the Houston Texans in 2016. The Packers acquired Ervin off waivers from the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2019.

In five games with the Packers this season, Ervin has six catches for 33 yards. He’s carried the ball four times for 43 yards. Between Ervin and Dexter Williams, Ervin is the more experienced and has just 10 touches this year.

Who is Dexter Williams?

Between Dexter Williams and Tyler Ervin, Williams is the more established runner and he has five carries in his two years in the NFL. Williams was drafted out of Notre Dame in the sixth round of the 2019 NFL draft. In his rookie season, Williams made the 53-man roster but carried the ball just five times.

This season, Williams has spent most of the year on the practice squad. He was called up in Week 7 when the Packers played the Houston Texans. He never carried the ball, however, and just made an appearance on special teams.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers said he likes what he sees in Williams. “I love Dex,” Rodgers said, according to “Dex has a really good attitude. He’s done a nice job of growing up in the offense and feeling more comfortable with the checks and his responsibilities in pass blocking and route running. It seems like he’s a little more settled this year and feeling more confident.”


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