Romeo Doubs was the talk of the Green Bay Packers training camp and showed a couple of dazzling flashes in his preseason debut. Fellow rookie Samori Toure made some plays that will also undoubtedly stand out on tape. Even Amari Rodgers got in on the act.
Wide receiver has been an enigma for the Packers all offseason long. While the quality may have dipped with Davante Adams‘ exit and Marquez Valdes-Scantling, the quantity is definitely there. Just one game into the preseason, the question already looms: Could Sammy Watkins be the odd man out?
There are likely five certainties at wideout for the Packers, regardless of the performances for the rest of the offseason.
Allen Lazard is the top dog on the depth chart, and Randall Cobb is a lock to be on the final 53. Cobb isn’t who he once was, but Aaron Rodgers specifically wanted him back in the building. Cutting Cobb now would be the Jake Kumerow experience again but a thousand times worse.
Rookies Romeo Doubs and Christian Watson will also be part of that group, with the former emerging as a favorite among fans and teammates after strong showings all summer. Watson, Green Bay’s most highly touted new offensive weapon, just came off the physically unable to perform list. There’s a 0% chance that either winds up getting cut or bumped onto the practice squad.
Throw in Amari Rodgers, and that’s five receivers sure to be on the final roster, barring any injuries. Rodgers struggled mightily as a rookie, but he’s a third-round pick who’s only in his second year. He also offers versatility as a returner, which he put on full display with a 50-yard return against the San Francisco 49ers in the exhibition opener. He isn’t going anywhere either.
That’s five wideouts, and of the group, only one will see significant playing time on special teams.
Where does that leave Watkins?
It’s entirely plausible to suggest that Green Bay should carry six wideouts to start the year, with one of those spots reserved for Watkins. However, Watkins offers no special teams value. When roster cuts get down to the nitty-gritty, it’s often the guys who could have a special teams impact that make the back end of the roster.
Keeping Watkins gives Green Bay a veteran wideout who’s trying to re-start his career after a couple of dud years, most recently with the Baltimore Ravens. The problem is there hasn’t been a lot of noise around Watkins this summer. Doubs has dazzled in training camp, and Lazard has grabbed the No. 1 spot on the depth chart while Watson works his way back from knee surgery for his highly anticipated debut.
Of course, the coaching staff doesn’t consider hype, but it is a tad concerning that there haven’t been many, if any, reports of Watkins standing out or doing anything even remotely noteworthy so far. If Green Bay keeps just five receivers, it’s almost guaranteed that they show Watkins the door. If they opt to keep six, there’s still no assurance Watkins would get the golden ticket.
The Packers took Toure in the seventh round out of Nebraska, and he had arguably the play of the evening on Family Night during the exhibition, hauling in three passes on four targets against the 49ers. It’s likely Toure starts out on the practice squad, but if he’s able to show up and show out the rest of the summer, who’s to say he couldn’t steal a potential sixth spot over the likes of Watkins?
What Watkins has going for him is experience, which, like Rodgers’ name-dropping, matters.
He’s in his age 29 season. Unlike a young wideout like Winfree or a rookie like Toure, you know what you’ll get from Watkins when he’s healthy. The unknowns of a young wideout can be exciting, but Watkins has an advantage in being a steady veteran with superior experience.
If the Packers keep six wideouts, Watkins figures to be in the conversation, although it’s still no sure thing. If Green Bay goes with a five-man receiving corps, Watkins won’t be around for long.