GREEN BAY – Whatever moves are made in the weeks ahead, it's almost a forgone conclusion the Packers' passing offense will be structured around Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs next season.
The promising pair of 2022 draft picks collected 83 receptions for 1,036 yards and 10 touchdowns as Year 1 contributors, while each was named NFL Rookie of the Week on one occasion – the first Green Bay rookies to earn the league's weekly honor since Jamaal Williams (Week 14, 2017).
Watson and Doubs had to overcome physical and mental obstacles to get there. Watson weathered a few noticeable early drops and a hamstring injury that sidelined him for three games, while a midseason ankle injury shut Doubs down for a month.
Yet, the duo's potential is undeniable. With Allen Lazard departing for New York and Randall Cobb's future unclear at this point, Watson and Doubs could very well end up being Jordan Love's top two receiving targets in 2023.
"I'm excited about both of those guys, just a one-two combo," said Head Coach Matt LaFleur at last week's NFL Annual Meetings. "There were some highs and lows with both those guys during the season. Once we hit that Dallas game … Christian really took off, and it was awesome to see. Obviously, you could see the explosive playmaker he is and what he's capable of doing."
Watson entered last season with the most buzz of any Packers rookie receiver since the man he was brought in to help replace, Davante Adams. Watson embraced those high expectations of a second-round pick and showcased incredible speed for a wideout of his 6-foot-4, 208-pound stature.
Once healthy, Watson was as dominant as any rookie receiver in the NFL during the second half of the year. A statement-making performance against the Cowboys in Week 10 (four catches for 107 yards and three touchdowns) propelled Watson to 584 yards and eight TDs over his final eight games.
Some even wondered if Watson's late-season breakout might catapult him into the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year conversation. The honor ultimately went to New York Jets receiver Garrett Wilson, but the Packers finished the season feeling confident they'd extracted a future offensive cornerstone from what's considered one the deepest receiver drafts of the 21st century.
"He's a guy that can handle a lot," LaFleur said. "I haven't been around too many rookies where you can move their position in-game and he wouldn't even flinch. He's exceptionally intelligent and bright, knows the plan inside and out.
"But I think there's a level of detail that's going to get better with him. Quite frankly, we're going to ask him to run probably more routes than we did a year ago."
While Watson came on late, Doubs looked the part from the beginning of organized team activities. Once on the scene, the fourth-round pick out of Nevada fashioned one of the most impressive training camps of any Packers skill-position player, regardless of experience level.
So, it came as relatively no surprise when Doubs earned NFL Offensive Rookie of the Week honors after catching three passes for 73 yards and a touchdown in Green Bay's 14-12 victory over Tampa Bay in Week 3.
Doubs missed a month after injuring his ankle after an 18-yard reception on his first offensive snap against Detroit in Week 9 but made a lasting impression on LaFleur during Green Bay's 26-20 road win over Miami on Christmas Day.
In the fourth quarter of that matchup, Doubs displayed uncommon suddenness and explosion while beating All-Pro cornerback Xavien Howard on a 22-yard reception that keyed the Packers' final scoring drive.
"I think he's got a unique skill set," said LaFleur of Doubs. "I want to temper this comparison here, but he's got some Davante Adams-type movement skills in him. Now he's got to learn when to use and how to harness that. But he's got that twitch you're looking for. I don't think there's a route he won't be able to run. We just have to give him enough reps where he can continue his progression."
Admittedly, it will take more than just Watson and Doubs to power the Packers' passing game. While Green Bay remains in the market for a veteran wideout, former seventh-round pick Samori Toure, Bo Melton and Jeff Cotton are set to compete with a new incoming class of rookie receivers later this summer.
"There's going to be a lot of growth with those two guys, certainly, Romeo and Christian," LaFleur said. "And then you've got Samori Toure and we've got a small glimpse of Bo Melton last year. But yeah, we're going to have to add some bodies to that room."