The Green Bay Packers got several of their key offensive weapons back on the practice field to close out the weekend.
According to the NFL’s official transaction wire for August 14, the Packers activated Pro Bowl offensive lineman Elgton Jenkins (ACL), starting tight end Robert Tonyan (ACL) and second-round rookie wide receiver Christian Watson (knee) from the physically unable to perform list (PUP) on Sunday and returned all three to practice in some capacity.
Packers head coach Matt LaFleur also told reporters prior to practice that all three players would be back on the field on Sunday and going through individual drills.
Tonyan and Jenkins have both been recovering from torn ACLs that shut them down midway through the 2021 season. The 28-year-old tight end is about 10 months removed from the injury he sustained in Week 8’s win over the Arizona Cardinals on October 28, while Jenkins is closing in on the nine-month mark — which is typically the earliest window for NFL players to start playing again after an ACL tear.
Meanwhile, Watson — the No. 34 overall pick in the 2022 NFL draft whom the Packers traded up to acquire — participated with the team during spring’s OTAs, but he started experiencing issues with his knee and ended up undergoing surgery prior to the start of training camp in late July. Green Bay had given no timeline for his return.
The Packers have three players remaining on their PUP list, including All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari as he continues to work back from a complicated ACL injury that he sustained nearly 20 months ago. Veteran placekicker Mason Crosby (knee) and third-string running back Kylin Hill (ACL) are also still stuck on the list.
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Will Packers Put Jenkins at Left or Right Tackle?
Jenkins is one of the Packers’ biggest assets on their offensive line as someone who is capable of playing at any of the five spots without dropping in quality. He was an All-Rookie selection in 2019 as their starting left guard and has since spent significant time at both left tackle and center over the past two seasons due to injuries, earning his first career Pro Bowl selection in 2020 partly because of his proven versatility.
The biggest question now, though, is where will Jenkins play in 2022?
The Packers rolled out a starting offensive line on August 12’s preseason opener against the San Francisco 49ers that, from left to right, consisted of Yosh Nijman, Jon Runyan Jr., Josh Myers, Jake Hanson and Royce Newman and figure to keep at least some of that the same as they head into the 2022 regular season. That said, Jenkins could easily push for one of the two tackles spots and may end up spending time at both as the Packers tinker with the best possible alignment for Week 1.
Bakhtiari’s expected status could have a big influence on where Jenkins plays. If the Packers feel their five-time All-Pro will be ready to play again in their season opener, Jenkins would seem like a more natural fit on the right side, where he could have a long-term future with the team. Without Bakhtiari, though, it could be more sensible to assign their next-best guy to cover Aaron Rodgers’ blindside while Nijman — or potentially rookie Zach Tom — compete for a role on the right side.
Watson’s Return Should Amp Up WR Competition
Watson caught a lot of attention coming out of college. The 23-year-old wideout was a big-play sensation throughout his four seasons at North Dakota State, making 105 catches for 2,139 yards and 14 touchdowns and posting a career average of more than 20 yards per reception for the Bison. What really blew away scouts, though, was the way he dominated the competition during the week of the Senior Bowl and tested off the charts athletically at the NFL Scouting Combine, clocking the 10th-fastest time (4.36 seconds) in the 40-yard dash.
The hype only grew for Watson when the Packers flipped both of their second-round picks (Nos. 53 and 59) to the Minnesota Vikings in order to move up and get him at No. 34 overall. Green Bay had not reached that high for a wide receiver in the draft in 20 years and had a big production void to fill after losing Davante Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling during the 2022 offseason.
Unfortunately, Watson had a flare-up in his knee emerge late in OTAs that he described as “lingering soreness” and ended up undergoing a procedure prior to camp, which is something both sides felt would be in his best interest for the long-term picture.
“I’m happy with the decision that we made,” Watson said on July 28 toward the beginning of training camp. “Just so it wasn’t something I’d had to worry about, something that wasn’t lingering, something that wasn’t stopping me from performing at the level I want to play at.”
Now, Watson will attempt to catch up with the rest of the receivers after missing three weeks of practice and the team’s first preseason game. He doesn’t have to worry about losing his roster spot as a second-round rookie, but fellow rookie Romeo Doubs has stolen the show thus far at camp and would seem to have a lead on him for a possible starting role with the team in the upcoming season.