The Green Bay Packers are nursing a few wide receiver injuries ahead of their Week 3 road matchup with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Packers added wide receivers Sammy Watkins and Christian Watson to the injury report with new hamstring injuries on September 21 after limiting both of them in Wednesday’s first practice of the week. They also practiced without veteran slot receiver Randall Cobb, who was absent due to an illness.
Watkins is coming off a strong performance against the Chicago Bears in Week 2 after an understated start to his Packers career in the season opener. He finished with three receptions for 93 yards, including a massive 55-yard catch in the fourth quarter that helped solidify their 27-10 victory over the Bears. He also leads the Packers in receiving yards (111) and is tied for their most catches (six) through the first two games.
As for Watson, he hasn’t put up the same numbers as Watkins with just five catches for 43 yards, but the second-round rookie receiver has shown incredible speed on his limited opportunities and figures to carve out a major role in the Packers’ offense as the season progresses — so long as he can stay healthy for them.
There were a few other notable changes to the Packers’ injury report for Wednesday: Veteran tight end Marcedes Lewis was added with a groin injury that kept him limited, while All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari did not participate in Wednesday’s session. Wide receiver Allen Lazard (ankle) and right tackle Elgton Jenkins (knee) also remain limited with injuries that did not prevent them from playing against the Bears.
Doubs Could See Increased Reps Depending on Injuries
The injury statuses of Watson and Watkins will be worth monitoring as the Packers build toward their showdown with the Buccaneers. The Packers will practice twice more before putting out their final injury report of Week 3, so there’s plenty of time for both receivers to prove they are healthy enough to avoid an injury designation for the game.
If injuries do hold back one or both of them, though, expect Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers to lean more regularly on fourth-round rookie receiver Romeo Doubs.
Doubs is tied with Watkins, Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon for a team-high six receptions through the first two weeks of the season, and while there have been concerns about his drops since the summertime, he is also someone who stole Rodgers’ attention quickly and separated himself as a potential playmaker. Should more opportunities fall to him by way of injury, it could be his moment to seize a greater role for their offense.
Doubs has caught six passes for 67 yards on eight targets through his first two games for the Packers and has also taken one handoff in motion for an 11-yard gain.
Matt LaFleur Has ‘No Idea’ If Bakhtiari Will Play vs. Bucs
To avoid unnecessary concern, Packers head coach Matt LaFleur explained to reporters last week that they were taking a new approach in practice with Bakhtiari as he continues to work back from his complicated knee injury. The plan has been to have the five-time All-Pro working on a day-on, day-off practice schedule, one that had him practice on Wednesday, rest on Thursday and practice on Friday in Week 2. LaFleur also said this would be the plan once Bakhtiari had made his full return to their lineup.
That schedule could already be in flux, though, after Bakhtiari did not participate in Wednesday’s first practice of Week 3. He could still alternate days and practice on Thursday with another rest day to follow on Friday, but another missed day could signal the Packers are preparing to play without him yet again against the Buccaneers.
“I have no idea,” LaFleur said when asked if Bakhtiari would be ready for Week 3. “We’re going to take it one day at a time and we’ll see where we’re at on Sunday. I just don’t even let my mind go there at this point.”
Bakhtiari has spent more than 600 days working back from a torn ACL and other complications in his left knee. He is coming off a 2021 season in which he only played the first half of the team’s regular-season finale and has already missed the first two games of the 2022 season, leaving the Packers with former undrafted free agent Yosh Nijman as their blindside blocker throughout Bakhtiari’s extended absence.
LaFleur wouldn’t rule out the possibility of Bakhtiari making his return in a tough road environment in Tampa Bay against a stout defense that has allowed just 17 points through their first two games of the season. Ultimately, though, the Packers are so well adjusted to life without Bakhtiari that his status won’t have an impact on their game plan.
“We’re not going to game plan any different. We’re going to game plan regardless [of Bakhtiari’s status],” LaFleur said. “Don’t get me wrong, there’s definitely some things that you could potentially do differently, but I think Yosh has done a damn good job in his time starting for us. So, there’s not a lot I would say [that changes] when it comes to that position with the way Yosh has played where it’s maybe a little bit different if you’re talking about losing your No. 1 receiver or back or quarterback.”