Green Bay Packers

Green Bay’s Week 3 Win Showed the Importance of Both Rookie Receivers

Photo Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The Green Bay Packers‘ first three games have shown how vital their rookie wide receivers are in properly implementing their offense. That was especially true in their close win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 14-12, on Sunday.

Yes, I know Christian Watson didn’t play in Florida. But that’s part of the premise, and I’ll get there. Ultimately, Watson and Romeo Doubs are the most explosive receivers on the roster. Even if there might be some growing pains, the Packers need to use their rookies extensively because nobody on the team has more talent.

Romeo Doubs

With Watson and Sammy Watkins out for the game, the fourth-round rookie needed to assume a more significant offensive role. Doubs delivered. Allen Lazard was mainly a big slot, as his skillset indicates he must be. Therefore, schematically, Doubs was a true WR1. The numbers further clarified it. He had eight receptions, 73 yards, and one touchdown. That was more than his previous two weeks combined in all categories.

A Packers rookie wideout hadn’t received eight passes in the same game since Sterling Sharpe in 1988. Doubs’ ability to make an immediate impact is impressive, especially considering he is a mid-round selection without the same physical traits as Watson or other top picks. But Doubs is smart, has a precise release off the line of scrimmage, and is a polished route-runner.

Those characteristics make him a good fit with Aaron Rodgers, who likes intelligent and precise weapons.

The Packers couldn’t have won the Bucs game without Doubs, and that’s notable, considering he’s just on the third regular-season game of his NFL career. As he develops, his near future seems to be bright.

Christian Watson

Last week, I wrote about how important Watson would be for this matchup. Marquez Valdes-Scantling was Green Bay’s best WR in the NFC Championship game two years ago, and offenses need a deep threat to face Todd Bowls’ aggressive defense.

Watson didn’t play because of a hamstring issue, and Green Bay’s lack of speed and playmaking ability was evident throughout the game. That was particularly true when Bowles adjusted his defense after the first two drives. Tampa’s head coach stopped sending extra bodies into pressure, kept his secondary intact for the most part, and the Packers’ offense had no more answers.

Without its second-round rookie receiver, Green Bay had no other players to stretch the field – especially vertically but also horizontally with end-arounds and jet sweeps. There was only one big play after that, the fade to Lazard late in the fourth quarter. The lack of deep threat allowed the Bucs to play near the line of scrimmage, which had a cascading effect on the offense. The run game was inefficient, there were only a few play-action passes, and the team couldn’t score in the second half.

Watson had the big drop against the Minnesota Vikings and wasn’t targeted with a deep ball against the Chicago Bears. Still, he showed the capacity to affect defenses vertically in both games, and that ability tends to keep the opponent honest. No other Packers receiver has the same explosiveness to generate that threat.

It was always unrealistic to expect that Watson and Doubs would have monster statistical seasons immediately. That’s generally not what happens in the NFL, and Aaron Rodgers tends to prioritize players he trusts – vertical weapons, usually. But Watson and Doubs are showing important tools that Matt LaFleur and his assistant coaches can use to build a new version of the passing offense.

The best aspect for the long-term viability of Green Bay’s plan is the complementary nature of Watson’s and Doubs’ games. Watson is an explosive player, not a technician, and has the physical tools to explore all levels of the field. Doubs is not as explosive, but he is a polished underneath receiver. He can beat defenders right at the release point and find holes potentially open by faster decoy players.

While Sammy Watkins, Allen Lazard, and Randall Cobb were always expected to be the primary options to start the season, Doubs and Watson have already shown what they bring to the table and the variety of ways in which the Packers can deploy their abilities.

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