The Green Bay Packers released their final injury report ahead of their Week 1 matchup with the Chicago Bears. Romeo Doubs is listed as questionable and Christian Watson is out.
Both players were on the injury report with hamstring injuries. Matt LaFleur said on Wednesday, and as he always says when asked about player injuries, the team will give players up until game time to get ready and make the decision about their availability at that time.
Doubs missed the final preseason game against Seattle with the hamstring injury but did return to practice on Thursday and Friday in a limited capacity. As long as there are no setbacks between Friday and Sunday, I would say it’s a very good sign for his that he was on the practice field back-to-back days.
In regards to Watson’s long-term availability, LaFleur said on Friday that he doesn’t expect this to be a three or four week issue, but rather it’s more week-to-week.
Without Watson, an already inexperienced wide receiver room looses a good portion of the experience they do have. Based on what we saw in the final preseason game, Jayden Reed from the slot and Malik Heath on the boundary could be accompanying Doubs. Samori Toure, with some experience and as the fourth receiver, will be a factor as well.
As we know, Watson with his speed brings a vertical presence to this offense. But as we saw throughout the training camp practices, Watson’s route responsibilities are going to be much greater than just as a downfield target, with him able to impact all levels of the field. Beyond the big play ability that Watson adds himself, he also creates opportunities for others with his gravity as a playmaker through the attention he draws from defenders and the spacing that is created from that.
In the past, when the Packers have found themselves shorthanded at receiver, we’ve seen Aaron Jones take on a much larger role as a pass catcher. During the 2019 season against Dallas and Kansas City, along with against Arizona in 2021 are all examples of this. In those three games combined, Jones totaled 21 receptions, over 300 receiving yards, and two touchdowns.
A trickle-down of not having Watson on the field could be that we see the Bears defense try to crowd the line of scrimmage, attempting to slow the run game – which is going to be crucial to the offense’s success – and takeaway the quick passing game, forcing Love and Watson-less receiving corps to beat them downfield. We saw defenses use this strategy through the first half of last season with Aaron Rodgers at the helm and it gave that offense fits—although with Reed and Luke Musgrave this is a passing game with more speed this season than last.
The overall injury report is light for the Packers, however. Anthony Johnson and Donayvion Wicks, who began the week on the injury report, do not have designations. Rashan Gary will play Sunday but is going to be on a “pitch count,” as LaFleur said earlier in the week. What that pitch count looks like is not known.
David Bakhtiari did not practice at all this week and hasn’t since August 30th, but he said on Thursday playing on Sunday was the plan. The inconsistent practice schedule is going to be a part of the 2023 season for Bakhtiari. With all of the banked reps Bakhtiari has over the years along with his preparation, LaFleur and Adam Stenavich are not concerned about his readiness for game days.