Two days before the Green Bay Packers kick off their 2022 season in Minnesota, and there is excitement on all fronts. Well, almost.
We’re going to see Aaron Rodgers on the field again. David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins look like they’ve got a shot to play. It’s finally time to take a gander at the elite defense Brian Gutekunst has assembled.
The wide-receiver unit is the stubborn exception. As has been the case all offseason, uncertainty and anxiety largely overshadow excitement. First, it was the melancholy of the Davante Adams trade, then the nagging question of whether they brought in enough talent to hold down the fort. Now add to the growing concern that Allen Lazard will not play on Sunday after missing practice again on Friday.
Rogers has been critical of his rookie wideouts. However, he hasn’t seemed concerned about the reliability of his WR1, a title he has firmly assigned to Lazard numerous times this summer. On Monday, he reportedly wore a “Rodgers/Lazard 23 MAKE GREEN BAY GREAT AGAIN” T-shirt. Despite no experience as a top target in the NFL, Lazard has gone in the neighborhood of Darnell Mooney and Brandon Aiyuk in fantasy drafts because of the simple argument, Who else is Rodgers gonna throw to? He’s gotta throw to someone!
But Lazard is trending towards either missing the game or playing hurt. If he does, the Packers will turn to their rookies. Christian Watson has the size and speed to be a playmaker. Still, his development will take some time, particularly after he missed most of training camp with an injury and has still not been confirmed for Sunday. So, why shouldn’t we expect the most polished young receiver to start opposite Sammy Watkins and Randall Cobb? The player who’s brought excitement and flash to a group that has otherwise been the source of nothing but doubt and a whole lot of negative headlines – the one and only Romeo Doubs.
The Nevada product’s performance in three preseason games explained the tidal wave of hype coming out of Green Bay’s camp. But it also reaffirmed that he remains subject to rookie mistakes. He caught eight passes for 82 yards and a pair of touchdowns as the go-to for Jordan Love. Perhaps his most exciting trait so far is his contested-catch ability, repeatedly showcased in one-on-ones, most notably against 2021 first-rounder Eric Stokes. It won’t come as a surprise if Rodgers looks for Doubs down the field when nobody’s really open, despite his rookie status.
For fantasy owners, this could be an instant payout on what was expected to be a year-long investment. For DFS players, it could be a sneaky play, provided that DraftKings and other sites have not already adjusted Doubs’ salary for Lazard’s absence. The Lazard news increases expectations for Watkins, Cobb, and Robert Tonyan. It also places even more burden on the shoulders of what’s expected to be a prolific running game led by Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon.
The Packers will face a flawed Minnesota Vikings secondary that they have improved since the 2020 opener in which Rodgers, Adams, Lazard, and Marquez Valdes-Scantling torched them for 364 passing yards. Minnesota has a veteran and a young buck manning each spot, with 32-year-old Patrick Peterson and rookie Andrew Booth at the corner and 33-year-old Harrison Smith and rookie first-rounder Lewis Cine at safety.
Green Bay will be forced to throw Doubs, a fourth-round pick in April, into the NFL fire. The extent of that test may depend on how many times he lines up against Peterson. It’s much earlier than anyone anticipated seeing Doubs, given the significant role he will likely play. But it will be exciting to see what the Packers have in the highly-touted rookie.