While there was plenty to like in the rookie debuts for Luke Musgrave and Jayden Reed, the Green Bay Packers’ pass catchers still had a few growing pains in the team’s 38-20 win over the Chicago Bears on Sunday. The pair of 2023 second-round draft picks helped step up and fill the void left by the injured Christian Watson, but they certainly left some production on the table.
Reed’s start to the game was nothing special, as his first touch was actually an awkward option pitch from Jordan Love that went for minus-two yards, and the second was a punt return in which he managed to gain just four yards. His final four touches, however — two punt returns and a pair of catches — were much closer to the types of explosive plays that general manager Brian Gutekunst had envisioned when taking Reed with the 50th pick in the draft. Both of those catches went for first downs, including a 30-yard grab late in the second quarter that helped set up a (seemingly important at the time) 52-yard field goal before halftime.
If there were nits to pick with Reed’s opening day, it’s that his timing with Love was just off, pulling in two of his five targets, and the biggest play he had could have been even bigger. Reed doesn’t pick the pass cleanly out of the air, stumbling a bit while securing the ball, but is still able to pick up 30 yards on the play. Whether it was thrown slightly behind him or if he just wasn’t able to secure it immediately, if Reed catches that ball in full stride, he’s more than likely looking at his first career touchdown.
Musgrave, taken eight picks before Reed in the second round, had an equally impressive debut, but it wasn’t without its adventurous moments as well. He emerged as the bonafide No. 1 tight end in the offense, playing 45 of the offensive snaps, good for 75%. Josiah Deguara, Tucker Kraft, and Ben Sims combined for a total of 41 snaps and zero targets. Musgrave is the pass-catching tight end within the offense, hauling in three of the four passes that Love sent his direction. The one miss could have been a touchdown late in the second quarter, down the left sideline, but Musgrave got turned around on the play and wasn’t able to haul it in.
Musgrave’s longest reception, a 37-yard gain early in the fourth quarter, came on a broken play that started with a Love fumble after not securing the transfer on the snap. The ball fortuitously bounced right back to the quarterback, who found Musgrave streaking wide open down the left sideline. Almost too open on the play, Musgrave had to backpedal to find the pass and stumbled his way down to the four-yard line, missing out on another touchdown by about 12 feet.
Coming into the game with nerves abound, it was promising to see Reed and Musgrave do what they were drafted to do, which is be productive options for Jordan Love. More specifically, Love looked to the duo when he needed to move the chains on third down, a facet that shouldn’t be overlooked. That will be an essential component of this year’s offense. Romeo Doubs played the part of a WR1/X-receiver, especially in the red zone, and a healthy Watson is a game-changing WR2/Z-receiver. That leaves plenty room for production over the middle of the field and moving the chains, which was the encouraging part of Reed and Musgrave’s debut.
The name of the game from here on out will be how opposing defensive coordinators game plan for the rookie duo, as the schedule does get tougher in the coming weeks. Reed and Musgrave were big parts of why Green Bay sits at 1-0, but there’s still plenty of room for improvement.