The future of the Green Bay Packers receiving corps should prominently feature two rookies: Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs. Not surprisingly, the duo has developed a unique chemistry between them as they navigate the challenges of being rookies in the NFL.
Historically, rookie receivers have struggled in the Packers offense. There are many reasons for this. There is the usual adjustment from a college playbook to the more complex pro playbook. The players in the NFL are also bigger, faster and stronger than college players. Then there is the need to gain the trust of quarterback Aaron Rodgers who is slow to trust first-year players and has a complex series of hand signals that are not a part of the Packers official playbook. That requires extensive work from rookies to learn all 30 or so of them according to a recent article in The Athletic.
But Watson and Doubs have both been productive in their rookie seasons and have helped each other’s development since being drafted by the Packers in April. Amazingly enough, they have only been on the field together for about 50 plays due to injuries both players dealt with at different times this season.
Thus far, Doubs has 31 catches for 314 yards and three receiving touchdowns. Watson has 25 catches for 401 yards and seven receiving touchdowns. He has also scored two touchdowns on running plays.
The duo like and respect each other and push each other to play better. “I think that Doubs is a huge playmaker,” Watson said. “So just having another guy out there who we know can make plays and we know who’s going to be a game changer is going to be huge for us.”
The connection between the two rookie wideouts predates when they were both drafted by the Packers in April. “I kind of had a connection with Romeo ever since the Senior Bowl,” Watson said. “I think that was a huge grind for both of us. So, obviously, we were learning a lot from each other then. It kind of transitioned right over to OTAs too when we both got here. So, obviously, I’m really close with Romeo. I’ve been able to grow with him throughout this process as well. So, I think the connection is there, for sure.”
Doubs has missed the last four games due to injury. But that hasn’t stopped him from rooting for Watson and admiring what his fellow rookie has accomplished in his absence.
“Christian’s been balling,” Doubs said. “I can’t wait to be out there with him because we’ve been looking forward to that opportunity, so I can’t wait to see it happen.”
“I know with Christian, it was a pretty rough start for him and just to see what he’s doing now, it’s amazing, not just for me but for the entire organization because we all knew what he could do. It was just when that time came,” Doubs added.
Doubs doesn’t mind Watson getting all the attention either. “As long as we win, that’s really what matters the most,” Doubs said. “Hopefully, he continues to keep doing that. I mean, it’s amazing to see what he’s doing right now, not only physically but mentally.”
Early in the season, Doubs was ahead of Watson mentally, in part because Watson missed much of training camp due to an injury he suffered at OTAs. Doubs worked hard in training camp and preseason and got off a quick start for a rookie. After Doubs got hurt, Watson stepped up and has been a play maker the last four games.
Head coach Matt LaFleur knows that Watson’s recent success can help make things easier for his other receivers and help open up the offense. “I know they’re definitely worried about him on every play as well,” LaFleur told reporters. “I mean, the guy has scored a lot of touchdowns lately and obviously got big play potential, great speed and he’s really starting to come along nicely. Again, very, very intelligent, so it definitely opens up our creativity with how to use him offensively and just the ability to put him—whether you want to put them at the X, the F or the Z, whether you want to motion him. I mean the guy is not like most rookies I would say.”
The Packers have four games left on their schedule starting with Monday night’s game at Lambeau against the defending Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams. With both Doubs and Watson now available and more comfortable in the system, the Packers offense may be able to be even more effective than it was since Watson started to excel four games ago.
That could go a long way towards helping the Packers run the table and keeping their playoff hopes alive.
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