The Green Bay Packers face an almost must-win situation on Sunday when they host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Lambeau Field. But this young team will have its depth sorely tested because they enter the game extremely thin due to injuries at a critical position on offense: wide receiver.

The Packers Injuries at Wide Receiver Before Monday Night

The Pack entered their Monday night matchup with the New York Giants without Christian Watson, their most dangerous downfield threat at wide receiver. Watson aggravated his hamstring late in the Packers win over the Chiefs the previous week and did not play against New York.

The loss of Watson hampers the Packers downfield passing game because defenses must respect his speed and that creates time and space for other targets underneath. Even if Watson isn’t catching the ball deep himself, he is often helping the offense by his mere presence.

The Packers Suffered More Injuries at Wide Receiver Against the Giants

The Packers lost two more receivers during the Giants game. Rookie second-round pick Jayden Reed left the game early to be evaluated for a concussion. The injury took place on the failed two-point conversion with 1:33 left in the game. Reed tried an end around on that play and was stopped a yard short of the goal line.

The Packers official injury report on Wednesday listed Reed as a limited participant in practice with an ankle injury. He did not suffer a concussion but the extent of his ankle injury is uncertain as is his availability for Sunday’s game.

Fellow rookie Dontayvion Wicks also left the Giants game early. Wicks was the team’s top downfield threat in Watson’s absence.

The fifth-round pick out of Virginia suffered what is believed to be a high ankle sprain in the fourth quarter of the Giants game. While the Packers haven’t indicated how long Wicks will be out, high ankle sprains typically take weeks to recover from. Wicks did not practice on Wednesday and it unlikely to play against Tampa Bay on Sunday.

This means the Packers will likely be without three of their top four receivers this week in a critical game. They are also still without starting tight end Luke Musgrave although Tucker Kraft has played well in his absence.

Who Is Still Available for the Packers at Receiver?

The Packers still have Romeo Doubs available, and he will become the team’s top receiver this week. The second-year man leads the team with 49 catches this year and seven receiving touchdowns. Quarterback Jordan Love tends to look for Doubs on third down situations anyway and his role is likely to increase on Sunday.

The other two receivers available on the active roster are Samori Toure and Malik Heath. Toure has seven catches for 84 years this season. He has been unable to carve out a significant role this season but has a chance to prove he deserves more playing time if he plays well this week.

The other available wideout on the active roster is Heath. The undrafted free agent out of Ole’ Miss caught his first NFL touchdown in the closing minutes of the Giants game. He had an outstanding training camp and won a position on the team. Now, he will have a bigger role on Sunday.

Possible Replacements at Wide Receiver

The Packers presently have three candidates on the practice squad who can be elevated to the active roster for the game or added to the 53-man roster.

Seventh round pick Grant DuBose is on the practice squad. He has yet to play this season. Injuries limited him in training camp and hurt his chances to make the team. This may be his big chance to show what he can do.

Bo Melton is also available to the Packers. He played in one game for the Pack this season and saw two snaps on offense and six on special teams. The Rutgers product was not targeted by Love on any pass plays. He was a seventh-round pick of the Seahawks last season and spent most of the 2022 campaign on their practice squad.

The Packers just signed Thyrick Pitts to the practice squad this week. The rookie out of Delaware has good size at 6’2” and previously spent time in training camp with the Bears and was briefly on the Patriots practice squad. He may not know the offense well enough to play a significant role this Sunday.

How the Injuries at Wide Receiver Changes the Packers Offense

The Packers offense will be different against the Bucs because of these injuries. Look for Kraft and the team’s running backs to play a larger role in the passing game.

The team will also be less likely to use end arounds and jet sweeps with their speediest receivers unavailable.

Passing deep will also be more difficult without Watson and Wicks, who are the team’s biggest deep threats.

Matt LaFleur should be scheming more receivers open and relying on the running game and short passing game to move the football. It will certainly be a challenge for Love and the healthy receivers to find ways to put up enough points to win the game. There will be more pressure on the defense as well to keep the Bucs off the scoreboard as well.

This young team is facing another big challenge. We’ll see how they respond.



Follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers

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