The Packers’ passing game on Sunday was, again, equal parts roller coaster ride and an exercise in patience for fans who saw flashes of the offense as it used to be sandwiched between errors uncharacteristic of Rodgers-led units over the last decade.
The quarterback himself made an unthinkable mistake when he tossed a pick-six to defensive back Jack Jones with just seconds remaining in the first half, which sent Green Bay into the locker room trailing the New England Patriots by a score of 10-7.
The other error of note came with just over two minutes remaining in regulation, on a 3rd-and-8 play from the Patriots’ 40-yard line with the score tied 24-24. Rodgers lofted a deep ball to rookie receiver Romeo Doubs, who beat the coverage down the field and appeared to secure the catch in the end zone for what would have likely been the game’s proverbial dagger.
However, Doubs failed to secure the catch through his progression to the ground, the turf jarring the football from his grasp as he slammed into it. Packers head coach Matt LaFleur challenged the play, though unsuccessfully. While far from an egregious mistake, it was the kind of play receivers like Davante Adams and Jordy Nelson made with regularity on their paths to All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors, respectively.
Rodgers was asked about Doubs’ drop in the postgame press conference, during which he displayed the dichotomy that is expected of him in what is almost a parental role to a receiver like Doubs who is more than 16 years the quarterback’s junior.
“Romeo is growing. He’s making some plays,” Rodgers said. “I hit him twice on the last drive, so obviously I have confidence in him.”
“Went to him on the key third down with two minutes left in the game, so I’m not going to lose confidence in him,” Rodgers said. “We’ll hold him accountable, but he’s a great kid. I threw a third-down, back-shoulder fade to him for a touchdown — I’d say I’ve got some confidence in him.”
Doubs Finding Stride as Part of Packers’ Starting Lineup
Despite his drop Sunday, Doubs has clearly begun to find his NFL stride as part of the Packers’ starting lineup over the previous two weeks.
Doubs stepped into the role after the team sent Sammy Watkins to the IR with a hamstring issue prior to their Week 3 matchup with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Per league rules, Watkins must remain inactive for at least the next two matchups, at which point it will be difficult to justify pulling Doubs from his starting duties should he continue to perform as he has.
Over the previous two games, Doubs has amassed 13 catches for 120 yards and two touchdowns. The only Green Bay wideout who can boast similar production is Allen Lazard, after putting up 10 catches for 161 yards and one touchdown over the same span.
The two have clearly set themselves apart from the rest of the receiver room as Rodgers’ top two options moving forward. However, Watkins may find his way back into the starting lineup when he returns if he can supplant Randall Cobb. Four games into the year, Cobb has tallied 10 catches for 150 yards, though he has advantages as a veteran of the Packers’ system and as a career favorite target of Rodgers stretching back across several years.
Odell Beckham Jr. Remains Possible Target for Packers in 2022
The Packers have, thus far, held fast to their preseason position that they would develop their young pass catchers and would not break the bank adding a veteran wideout — many of whom inevitably find their way to IR and end up getting paid not to contribute.
But that doesn’t mean Green Bay’s receiver room is set for the season, as there are always exceptions to the rule.
One such exception may be Odell Beckham Jr., in whom the Packers had serious interest last year after he split with the Cleveland Browns mid-season. Beckham was a meaningful contributor to the Los Angeles Rams‘ late-season and postseason runs, before tearing his ACL during the second quarter of the franchise’s Super Bowl victory.
The three-time Pro Bowler will turn 30 years old in November, shortly after which he is expected to make his return to the field. As he was last year, Beckham will likely be looking for a championship contender with a quality quarterback and space on the roster for him to step immediately into a top role. The Packers fit the bill perfectly.
If the circumstances on both sides didn’t already make enough sense, Beckham did a little genuflecting to Rodgers on Sunday as he played against the Patriots.
“AR is too 🔥,” Beckham tweeted. “Honestly, bro makes it look effortless.”
Based on Beckham’s projected return timeline of around Thanksgiving (November 24), and assuming he were to join the Packers, the veteran could help Green Bay through a tough six-game stretch of its schedule that includes games against the Philadelphia Eagles (4-0), the Miami Dolphins (3-1), the Minnesota Vikings (3-1) and the defending champion Rams (2-1).
Even if health is a concern, Beckham will likely be willing to play for a reasonable price, as he attempts to establish both his durability and value in an effort to earn a third big NFL contract in 2023. The Packers, who currently have close to $7.5 million in salary cap space, would only need to rely on him for the final third of the season and a handful of playoff games.
Assuming Doubs’ player development arc continues on its current track, and that Lazard remains healthy, a late-season addition of Beckham to the lineup could turn the Packers’ receiver group from what has been at worst a weakness and at best a question mark into a strength, as they attempt to get back to the Super Bowl for the first time in more than a decade.