We’re heading into the NFL‘s Week 3, and the Packers are still a bit on the shaky side, health-wise. The offense looked sharp for much of last Sunday’s game in Atlanta, a 25-24 loss, but the team is no question missing its best deep threat, speedy receiver Christian Watson, who injured his hamstring just before Labor Day and has been out since.
Watson did practice on Wednesday, and that’s certainly a positive. But he was limited in those games. According to SI.com’s Bill Huber, Watson was a participant but, “didn’t do much during the media viewing window. With the other receivers, he worked on his get-off, then ran one in-breaking route in the red zone.”
That represents a step up from last week, when Watson piled up three DNPs (did not practice) on the injury report.
But coach Matt LaFleur was not exactly touting Watson’s imminent return on Wednesday.
“We’ll see how he responds tomorrow and have a better idea,” LaFleur said after practice.
Watson Is Packers’ Top Deep Threat
Watson struggled with a hamstring issue last year, too, and played 11 games. He had 41 catches on the season for 611 yards, for an average of 14.9 yards per catch, the most of any Packer with more than 20 catches last year and 13th in the NFL overall. He also had four touchdown catches of 30-plus yards.
Without Watson, the Packers have relied more on Jayden Reed as their best deep threat. In two games, the Packers have had only seven passes completed of more than 10 yards to a wide receiver, and three of them have been to Reed.
Preparing to face a difficult and aggressive Saints defense, a deep weapon like Watson would be a huge boost. New Orleans’ strength is up front and if Watson can be on the field challenging the back end, the Packers could have the chance to make the Saints pay for being over-aggressive.
New Orleans will come in on an impressive streak, having not allowed 20 points or more since Week 9 of last season—that’s 10 games in a row, one short of the longest streak of sub-20-point games in 30 years.
“Fast, physical, aggressive, very sound,” LaFleur said of the New Orleans defense. “They’re going to challenge you on all three levels.
One Eye on Short Week 4 Schedule
The Packers, of course, are focused on Week 3 and trying to get back into the winning column, especially with their Lambeau Field debut on tap this week. But LaFleur admitted he does have one eye on the bigger-picture schedule, with a Thursday night home game ahead in Week 4 against the division-rival Lions.
If Watson was limited in practice on Wednesday, it should be pointed out that the rest of the Packers were, too, with an eye on preserving themselves for next week’s odd schedule.
“There’s definitely some thought to that,” LaFleur said. “We have a very similar week that we had a week ago. We took a little off the back half of practice today, similar to last week, just from a volume perspective knowing what lies ahead. Those are the tweaks you go through over the course of a season. Nothing too drastic.”