A DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH: Watson is the playmaker Green Bay’s offense needs

Rookie shines amid poor play from the team
Luke Reimer

While the season is not going the way that the Green Bay Packers hoped, there have been bright spots that have appeared.

Rookie wide receiver Christian Watson has become one of those bright spots and a major part of the offense. With the receiver problems that Green Bay has experienced in the offseason and during the regular season, seeing a receiver who looks confident is a sound sign for Packers fans.

After scoring five touchdowns in the past two games, Watson took the lead for most receiving touchdowns by a rookie wide receiver as of Nov. 17.

“I think we had all our playmakers, and he stepped up the last two weeks, the last two games, the last five days,” said Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers on Watson. “The last few days, no drops. He caught everything today. Yes, we have to get him the ball more.”

Watson has game-breaking speed that should only open up the middle of the field for Green Bay. It has come to the point where if Rodgers sees Watson with only a corner over him, it seems likely the quarterback will air it out and let Watson run under it.

That is part of the reason why Green Bay traded up to draft the North Dakota State product. Randall Cobb returning to the field also opens up Watson to continue to run go and post routes. Cobb’s rapport with Rodgers has been on display for almost a decade, forcing defenses to respect the middle. If the Packers can create a complimentary high-low route combination with Watson and Cobb, the team may look a little more like what fans are accustomed to seeing.

With Green Bay’s inconsistency running the ball this year, Watson has shown that he can provide those much-needed sparks to keep the Packers in games. Rookie receiving is something that the Packers haven’t had in many years, and Watson has proven that he can be the guy in Green Bay.

Sitting at 4-7, the question surrounding the Packers is when do you sit Rodgers and let Jordan Love get some much-needed QB experience? While that does sound preferable, the Packers may not want to mess with the potential budding relationship and connection between Rodgers and Watson. If all else, Watson will probably never play with a quarterback better than Rodgers, so this is much-needed experience for the young wide receiver.

Even with the poor play and poor record, head coach Matt LaFleur is not totally ready to give up on the season in favor of younger players yet.

“You guys know how my mindset is: It’s every day and it’s one game, and that’s the mentality,” said LaFleur. “I have a hard time processing it any other way.”

LaFleur’s comments make it seem that he believes the Packers are still alive and can make a run toward the playoffs. While that is technically true, when does someone like Love get his opportunity? It also begs the question of when does Watson see more work? Though he has caught five touchdowns in the last two games, those touchdowns have accounted for more than half of his receptions in those games.

The theme surrounding the Packers this year has been inconsistency with the offense and defense both putting together a good game on the same day. At times this season, the defense has looked like the strength of the team — Tampa Bay — and other games where it has looked as bad as it has in recent years — Tennessee.

While Watson figures to help bring some consistency to that offense, where does that come on the defensive side of the ball? Rashan Gary is lost for the season, and Eric Stokes is on injured reserve. The Packers look like they need a “Christian Watson on defense,” or someone to step up and lead the defense.

“We’re not in a very good position right now, that’s for sure,” said LaFleur. “We’re going to get back to work and try to make some of these corrections because it’s disappointing. Whether it’s your coverage busting defensively, whether it’s protection busts and/or any mistake in regards to the mental errors, that’s extremely disappointing, especially where we are at in the season.”

LaFleur is right. Eleven weeks into the season, the Packers are still making preseason mistakes — whether that’s missing blocks, not communicating on defense or mismanaging the clock. In a team with a lot of question marks, one thing is for certain — Watson is a dynamic playmaker who has proven that he can jumpstart a stagnant Green Bay offense.