In the second half of the 2022 season, Green Bay Packers wide receiver Christian Watson became a dangerous weapon and the focal point of the team’s passing attack. The team was hoping Watson would take a step forward in his second NFL season. Unfortunately, Watson has seemingly regressed from his strong finish of a year ago. But it’s still far too soon for the Packers to give up on Watson who still has the potential to be a star in this league.
Packers WR Chrisitan Watson Had a Strong Finish to His Rookie Year
Watson had a rough start to his rookie campaign. The 6’4”, 210-pound speedster dealt with injuries in training camp but was ready to start the season. On the Packers first offensive play from scrimmage, Watson ran a deep pattern and Aaron Rodgers hit him in stride. Watson dropped the ball.
After the drop, Rodgers was reluctant to throw to Watson. Through the first nine games of the season, he had just 10 catches for 88 yards and no touchdowns.
But in Week 10 against the Cowboys, Watson had a breakout game. He caught four passes for 107 yards and three touchdowns. From that point on, Watson became the most dangerous deep threat in the Packers offensive arsenal. He finished the season with 41 catches for 611 yards and seven receiving touchdowns. He also ran for two touchdowns on jet sweeps and end arounds.
The team was looking forward to seeing what Watson would do in year two of his career.
Injuries Again Hamper Watson’s Development
This season, Watson again had to deal with injuries that sidelined him in training camp and early in the year. He missed the first three games of the 2023 campaign and was limited after returning from a hamstring injury.
Watson has now played six games in 2023 and has just 14 catches for 236 yards and one touchdown. He has not caught more than three passes in any game and has more than 37 receiving yards in just one game.
The big issue with Watson has been his failure to use his size and leaping ability to make contested catches. He also needs to refine his route running. This season, Watson has just two contested catches in 12 opportunities.
Basically, Watson is still learning the little things that differentiate the elite receivers from the pretty good.
“I think he just needs to go out there and play fast, play decisive, and play confident,” Packers head coach Matt LaFleur said. “Because he’s a guy that has all the ability. He’s a big guy that can run, and we need him to show that every opportunity on tape.”
The Dropoff in Production by Packers WR Christian Watson This Year
There is no doubt that Watson has the raw talent to be a star in this league. In addition to his physical tools, he also has a strong work ethic and a high level of football intelligence.
But this season, he is struggling. In his rookie season, his catch percentage was 62.1 according to pro-football-reference.com. So far this season, that number has gone down to 42.4.
Watson has been disappointed by his own lack of productivity this season. “It’s frustrating, for sure, just with the expectation I have for myself, the goal that I have for myself,” Watson said. “Just want to find ways to try to make more of an impact, but at the end of the day, I’m only one out of 11 people on the field, so we just find a way to get it done as a team.”
Where Christian Watson Fits with Past Packers Receivers in His Development
Watson’s struggles in his second season are not unusual for NFL wide receivers. Davante Adams, for example, saw his catch percentage and average yards per catch fall in his second season with the Packers in 2015. Adams took a big step forward in his third year in the league, catching 75 passes for 997 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Jordy Nelson also saw his game take a big step forward in his third NFL season. By the playoffs in 2010, Nelson was a major part of the Green Bay offense. In the second playoff game in Atlanta, Nelson caught eight passes and scored a touchdown. In the Super Bowl, Nelson caught nine passes for 140 yards and a touchdown. The following year, he gained 1,263 yards and 15 touchdown passes.
Like Adams and Nelson, Watson is a second-round draft choice.
Other Issues Delaying Watson’s Development
There are other factors involved in the less than speedy development of Watson. The second-year receiver has a new and inexperienced quarterback to play with this season in Jordan Love and a receiving corps that features only rookies and second-year pros. That has also hampered Watson’s growth as he has the pressure to be the team’s number one receiving weapon this year.
Also, Watson is making a big jump from a small school like North Dakota State to the NFL. These factors all increase the amount of time it will take for Watson to feel comfortable and reach his full potential.
It is far too soon to give up on Christian Watson. He has too much talent and intelligence and too good a work ethic to think he won’t eventually reach his potential. The hope is he finishes this season strong and can take his game to another level in year three of his NFL career.
Follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers
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