The Green Bay Packers selected three wide receivers in the 2022 NFL Draft to retool their receiving corps after the departure of Davante Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling. They added Christian Watson in the second round, Romeo Doubs in the fourth and Samori Toure in the seventh round.
Now, 13 games into the season, head coach Matt LaFleur and the rest of the coaching staff should finally get their first chance to have both Watson and Doubs ready to play together and play major roles in the offense for the first time.
The early part of the season was rough for Watson. He missed all three preseason games due to an injury he suffered during OTAs. That cost him valuable time in training camp and slowed his progress when it came to learning the offense and developing chemistry with quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
He did play in Week 1 and famously dropped what would have been a sure touchdown on a long pass on the Packers first play from scrimmage of the season against the Minnesota Vikings.
He missed all of Weeks 3, 6 and 7 with an assortment of injuries and was slowed by those injuries in several other games. After the team’s first nine games of the season, he had only 10 catches and was playing roughly 25 percent of the team’s offensive snaps. Watson looked like a disappointment and was still struggling to understand the offense and his role in it.
Meanwhile, it was Doubs who surprised some observers by being the most dynamic of the rookie receivers early on. He stood out in training camp by making impressive plays nearly every day that got the attention of fans and coaches alike. He also showed what he could do in the preseason and stood out in each of the team’s three games in August.
When the regular season got under way, Doubs was the one who had the biggest impact. The Packers lost veterans Sammy Watkins, Randall Cobb and Allen Lazard to injuries at various times early in the season and that gave Doubs the chance to play more often.
In Week 3 against Tampa Bay, Doubs caught eight passes for 73 yards and his first career receiving touchdown. Through the team’s first nine contests, the former Nevada star had 31 catches for 314 yards and three touchdowns.
LaFleur was impressed with Doubs’ early season performances. “He was a guy that showed up consistently being able to separate vs. man coverage that we were getting,” LaFleur told reporters the day after the win over the Bucs. “I thought he did an outstanding job. He’s got the body-movement skills, he’s got the explosiveness, he plays on his insteps, gets both feet in the ground, and that allows him to get off bump coverage. And the game is not too big for him. I think you see it. I feel it every time we go out there: a guy that’s just showing more and more confidence, and I think that’s a big part of being able to play to your potential.”
But Doubs suffered an ankle injury against the Lions and hasn’t played since. He returned to practice prior to the Packers win over the Bears in Chicago but wasn’t ready to play in the game. He is practicing this week and LaFleur has already indicated that he expects Doubs to play on Monday night barring a setback in practice this week.
While Doubs was injured, Watson came alive and assumed a bigger role in the offense. In the four games that Doubs missed, Watson caught 15 passes for 313 yards and seven receiving touchdowns. He also ran for another score on a 46-yard end around. Watson finally showed the talent that made him such a highly regarded prospect.
So now, for the first time, the Packers offense should have both Doubs and Watson healthy, available and familiar with the offense. Both players have also earned the trust of their quarterback.
“Those are certainly two guys that we’re excited about and definitely want to get out there just in terms of just their playmaking ability,” LaFleur said. “I think you’ve seen the more these young guys play, the more confidence they’re getting, the better they’re going to play, and they’ve got some juice, too. I think that’s certainly been a noticeable difference the last couple games with Christian out there.”
When GM Brian Gutekunst selected these two players in the draft, the hope was that they would represent the future of the team at this position. Watson was the big-play deep threat with elite speed and size while Doubs was more of a middle of the field option with surer hands and more consistency. The two should compliment each other’s skill sets with Watson clearing out space underneath for both himself and Doubs by going deep while Doubs’ consistency and sure handedness keeping the chains moving and preventing teams from only focusing on Watson.
Add the presence of veterans like Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb and some additional contributions from Toure down the stretch and the Packers passing game could have a very bright future whether it’s Rodgers or Jordan Love throwing them the ball.
The Packers should get their first real glimpse of that potential Monday night against the Rams. The future starts now.
Follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers
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