How injuries ruined the Packers’ long-shot plan at wide receiver in 2022

How injuries ruined the Packers’ long-shot plan at wide receiver in 2022

The Green Bay Packers’ master plan to rebuild the wide receiver room in the post-Davante Adams era was always going to be a bit of a stretch, especially in the short term, but non-stop injuries ensured the plan never got off the ground.

All five of the Packers’ top receivers entering the 2022 season have dealt with at least one injury.

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The explosive and speedy second-round pick was hurt. And then got hurt again. And pain again.

The reliable returning veterans were injured.

The at-risk veterans grant was damaged.

And to top it all off, the rising fourth-round pick got hurt.

It’s certainly possible Brian Gutekunst’s plan was doomed from the start. In an effort to replace the best receiver in football (Adams) and one of the best deep threats in football (Marquez Valdes-Scantling), the Packers signed veteran Sammy Watkins and drafted Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs and Samori Toure. Expecting a fading veteran with an injury history longer than a CVS receipt, two Day 2 picks from small schools and a seventh-round pick to fill the holes left by Adams and Valdes-Scantling was overly optimistic at best and incorrect processing of the roster. at worst, especially for a team in a demanding window with a 38-year-old future Hall of Fame quarterback.

But even the best scenario never stood a chance because no one could stay on the field.

Watson missed most of training camp after undergoing knee surgery, missed regular-season games with two hamstring injuries and then was knocked out of a game in the first quarter with a concussion. Entering Week 10, Watson totaled 10 catches over 121 snaps. He exploded over the last two games, catching eight passes and five touchdowns over 103 snaps. Where would this team be with a healthy Christian Watson over 11 games?

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Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb, the two highly effective complementary players, have both missed time. Lazard missed games with a foot injury (Week 1) and shoulder injury (Week 8) and has played through pain from both injuries for several games. Cobb left Week 6 with an ankle injury and missed four games while on injured reserve. The Packers desperately needed both Lazard and Cobb to be the anchors in the receiver room, but the pair has only played a handful of games with both players fully healthy.

Watkins was a ticking time bomb that predictably exploded in Week 2. He missed four games with a hamstring injury and has struggled in a handful of games since returning. He’s averaging 15.8 yards per catch and 9.8 yards per target, but injuries have taken their toll. He doesn’t run that well anymore and has mostly been open this year.

Doubs avoided injury for nine games, but a high ankle sprain at the end of an 18-yard catch to open the game in Detroit has meant he has missed 99 percent of the past three weeks.

In Buffalo, the Packers had a big package of plays lined up for Watson. He was injured on the first drive. The same can be said for Doubs in Detroit a week later.

Per ESPN’s Rob Demovsky, Watson and Doubs have played all 52 snaps on the field combined this season. There’s no way that was part of the team’s plan going into the year. The Packers needed both rookies to play big roles in the passing game in 2022, but injuries have drastically affected the transition for both first-year players.

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The rest of the depth chart was unable to provide any answers.

Amari Rodgers couldn’t hack it as a returner and couldn’t develop enough at wide receiver to make a difference despite all the injuries. He was released 10 games into his second season. Toure has played more in recent weeks and caught a touchdown pass on a smart makeshift play in Buffalo, but he hasn’t been targeted the past two weeks. Juwann Winfree was used early on the practice squad but hasn’t been signed to the roster after the team burned through his three tallies, even when depth was a major concern some weeks.

The Packers needed everything to go right at wide receiver for this dangerous plan to work. Lazard and Cobb had to stay on the field and be the reliable, consistent vets in the passing game. Watkins needed to stay healthy to revive his career as a starter. Watson and Doubs had to produce in spots while developing as rookies with Aaron Rodgers. It just hasn’t happened.

Of course, Rodgers’ thumb injury and the constant changes along the offensive line due to the unpredictable nature of the surgically repaired knees of David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins have only added to the problems.

Injuries are an easy excuse for a team’s failure in a given year, but it would be impossible to look at this Packers team — and how it was constructed on offense to start 2022 — and not credit damage with at least a large part of the disappointing. performances that have defined the season.

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Maybe this wide receiver group never had a chance to be good this year, but injuries made sure of that.

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