In four short weeks, Christian Watson’s rookie season has taken one of the more dramatic, 180-degree turns you’ll ever see.
Labeled a bust last month, Watson has exploded in a fashion Nostradamus himself would have likely found incomprehensible.
Green Bay’s rookie wide receiver has a remarkable eight touchdowns — seven receiving, one rushing — in the past eight weeks. According to Elias Sports Bureau, Watson joined Minnesota’s Randy Moss (1998) as the only NFL’s rookie wideouts with eight scrimmage TDs over a four-game span.
“He’s made a lot of catches,” Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said of Watson. “He hasn’t dropped anything.”
Before Christian Watson was — CHRISTIAN WATSON!! — though, the Packers’ rookie wideout who was stealing all the headlines was Romeo Doubs.
Doubs had an eight-catch outing at Tampa Bay in Week 3, the most receptions by a Packer rookie in 68 years. Doubs had five receptions the following week, and after eight games, he sat at 30 catches.
But Doubs suffered an ankle injury on Green Bay’s first series at Detroit in Week 9 and hasn’t played since.
That will all change Monday night, when the Packers (5-8) host the Los Angeles Rams (4-9) and Doubs will be back for the first time in a month. And for one of the rare times this season, Green Bay’s two rookie receivers will be on the field together.
“Yeah, I’m looking forward to it, man,” Doubs said on Tuesday. “Christian has been balling. I can’t wait to be out there with him because we’ve been looking forward to that opportunity. I can’t wait to see it happen.”
Neither can the Packers.
Green Bay selected Watson in the second round (No. 34 overall) of April’s draft and used a late fourth round pick (No. 132) on Doubs to help fill the void created after the Packers traded Davante Adams.
And while the two rookies have certainly had their moments, they’ve rarely come in the same game.
During the first nine weeks, Watson missed three full games and played just six snaps in another due to a hamstring injury. And after nine games, Watson had just 10 receptions and was being called a “bust” in many circles.
Doubs, on the other hand, turned heads the first eight weeks when he played 79.0% of the snaps from scrimmage. But he hasn’t stepped on the field since Nov. 6 in Detroit.
Now with both rookies fully healthy, the Packers will get a look at what their wide receiver future looks like come Monday night.
“Man, I think it’ll be huge,” Watson said of having Doubs on the field. “We have a lot of guys in our receiver room who have the capabilities and the talent to be out there and make plays. So, obviously the more the merrier. Obviously having seen Doubs’ success early in the season, I’m going to be happy when he’s back out there.”
Doubs was one of the stars of training camp, seemingly making a highlight-reel play every practice. He carried that into the early portion of the season, too, and midway through the year looked like one of the steals of the 2022 draft.
Now, even after missing a month, Doubs still ranks fourth on the Packers in receptions (31). And among rookies receivers, Doubs is tied for third in touchdown catches (three) and ranks eighth in receptions.
“I know it’ll be really exciting to get back on the field,” Doubs said.
Watson has been ‘Mr. Excitement’ since Doubs went down.
Watson leads all NFL rookies in touchdown catches and is tied for fifth in the league among all players in receiving scores. Amazingly, all of those have come in the last four games.
Watson is the first Green Bay rookie to post multiple touchdown receptions of 50-plus yards since Billy Howton (six) in 1952. And Watson is one of just three players in franchise history to record seven-plus receiving TDs and multiple rushing TDs in a season, joining Don Hutson (1941) and Johnny “Blood” McNally (1931).
Watson can take the top off a defense with his blazing 4.32 speed. But he’s also improved his route running and his hands, which has been just as important during his recent breakout.
“That man got some burners,” Packers running back Aaron Jones said of Watson. “He can do it all. I’m glad to have him on this team. I’m proud of him.
“He’s pushed through so much, battled so much – injuries, fans talking down on him. All of that. He just stuck to the course, kept his head down and worked. I told him it’s going to pop up eventually for you and it’s started to and it has. Just very proud of him. He could’ve chose to go any different way, but he decided I’m going to put my head down and work.”
And now, the Packers have to be salivating about the future with their two rookie standouts.
Watson is Green Bay’s most dangerous deep threat since Hall of Famer James Lofton more than four decades ago. Doubs combines the route running acumen of a Greg Jennings and the work ethic of a Donald Driver.
Potentially, Watson and Doubs could become the NFL’s next dynamic duo — something they’ll try showing the final four games.
“It’ll be great,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said of having Watson and Doubs together. “I mean, the more weapons you have the better you feel and the more you get other people involved. Having all those guys up and available will definitely help us.”