Green Bay Packers

Christian Watson Is A Breakout Waiting To Happen

Photo Credit: Mark Hoffman/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

The Green Bay Packers must be a frustrating team if you’re a fantasy football player. Besides Aaron Jones, who dominated the Chicago Bears in Week 2, you never know which player is likely to carry the offense. It might be a fool’s errand to predict the offense’s top player each week, but that’s a good problem to have.

Green Bay may not have Davante Adams anymore, but their offense is still sixth in DVOA through two weeks. Week 1 was painful, but the Packers are hitting a stride that looks more like what we expected entering the season. Aaron Rodgers is spreading the ball around. In Week 2, nine receivers saw targets, and he didn’t target anyone more than four times. He’s also relying on the run game more. Matt LaFleur is getting crafty with his offense, trying different concepts and getting his young players designed snaps. That’s how the Packers’ offense will win games — by playing the best matchups and opportunistic football.

Jones is the best offensive weapon Green Bay has, but he won’t be able to carry the load alone. We’ll need to see the receivers share the burden and stress enemy defenses to make Jones’ (and A.J. Dillon‘s) life easier. He might not be there yet, but second-round pick Christian Watson has the skills to add another dimension to this offense.

The threat of what he can do is already in the minds of defensive coordinators.

On paper, Watson is an ideal Matt LaFleur wide receiver. He’s an athletic monster with almost incomparable physical traits. He could beat Sonic the Hedgehog in a foot race, he’s a skilled blocker and willing to do the dirty work in any aspect of the game. Coming from the FCS, Watson’s level of competition was always a concern. He was also going to need time to adapt to NFL-level threats. Then a knee injury robbed him of crucial training camp and preseason time, so he entered the season particularly raw.

That didn’t stop Rodgers from throwing a huge shot to him on the first play of Week 1, though. Watson showed his otherworldly speed against Minnesota’s best, something not every rookie can do.

But Watson dropped the would-be touchdown, and Packer Nation was sad. So far, Watson’s NFL highlight is a what could have been play rather than any major contribution. A botched snap attempt against the Bears where the snapped ball hit Watson in motion didn’t do his perception any favors. However, Rodgers and LaFleur said it was an error by Josh Myers rather than Watson.

After two weeks, Watson has five receptions for 45 yards and one rush for seven yards. Most of his usage has been in motion and jet sweeps, and his receptions have mostly been behind the line of scrimmage. Still, he’s made the most of his opportunities. Sure, the missed touchdown sucks, but who here hasn’t dropped a surefire touchdown in front of a national audience?

It might not be obvious, but Watson is already doing a lot to keep the offense rolling even when Rodgers isn’t targeting him. Defenses respect his speed, and he already has two of the top-20 fastest ball-carrier plays. The threat he provides forces linebackers to line up a certain way, allowing the offense to make plays in the other direction.

Watson gained nine yards off of a jet-motion play. On the next play, Chicago’s linebackers went to cover Watson, leaving Sammy Watkins open for a first down. That strategy will only evolve as Watson does more with the ball.

The sooner Watson gets more opportunities for big plays, the better. He’s already tied for second on the team in targets, with seven. He’s a breakout waiting to happen. And while we need patience, it would also be super cool if that breakout happens this week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Bucs are the top threat in the NFC, and the Packers haven’t done well against them recently. In four games at Raymond James Stadium, Rodgers has thrown multiple interceptions thrice, been sacked 14 times, and averaged a mere 64.2 passer rating. In 2020 alone, we saw one of Rodgers’ worst regular-season games followed by one of the biggest playoff heartbreakers. Sunday’s game is the ideal time for a secret weapon like Watson to break out.

The Bucs will be without DL Akiem Hicks, which is a massive break for Green Bay’s run game, but a savvy defensive mind like Todd Bowles will still find ways to limit Aaron Jones. Watson doesn’t need to become “the guy” three games into his NFL career, but if he could pull off a few big plays, that would be neat.

Watson might not be what Packers fans expected just yet, but these things are always a work in progress. Plus, I think he can be really good because it fits my pre-draft narrative. Despite what the numbers say, Watson is already significantly contributing to the offense. His very threat is enough to manipulate defenses. And despite the alleged lack of trust Rodgers has with the rookies, he’s seen the second-most amount of targets in the passing game. Watson is a breakout waiting to happen. Ideally, that will be this week against Green Bay’s biggest threat in the NFC.

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