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Packers' rookie receivers formed tight-knit trio

Bond served them well, and will continue to

WRs Christian Watson, Randall Cobb, Romeo Doubs, Samori Toure and Allen Lazard
WRs Christian Watson, Randall Cobb, Romeo Doubs, Samori Toure and Allen Lazard

GREEN BAY – Asked how much the Packers' three rookie receivers leaned on each other in their inaugural NFL seasons, the responses were similar.

"A ton," Romeo Doubs said.

"A lot," was Christian Watson's answer.

Doubs, Watson and Samori Toure entered the NFL on back-to-back days during last April's draft and soon found themselves in the same meeting room in Green Bay.

Predictably, each went through the typical rookie hopes and highlights mixed with trials and tribulations.

Doubs, a fourth-round pick from Nevada, scored his first two pro touchdowns in Weeks 3-4, adding a third with a spectacular catch in the back of the end zone at Buffalo in Week 8. The next game, though, he badly sprained his ankle on the first play at Detroit, missed the rest of that contest plus the next four, and then ended the season with two drops in a must-win game vs. the Lions.

Watson, a second-rounder from North Dakota State, dropped a 75-yard touchdown on the first offensive play of the season and missed large chunks of time due to hamstring injuries and a concussion. He then went on a remarkable big-play scoring binge with eight touchdowns in a span of four games, changing the look of the Packers' offense and how opponents defended it.

Toure, a seventh-round selection from Nebraska, was a game-day inactive for the season's first six weeks and got on the field to catch four passes for 75 yards and a TD over the next three games. But the rest of the way he played sparingly and caught only one more pass.

Through it all the trio stayed connected, kept one another's spirits up and pushed each other to embrace the tough times. Their kinship helped navigate the rigors of the NFL and the inevitable ups and downs that came with learning a new offense, trying to get in sync with a four-time MVP quarterback, and battling through the longest season of their lives to date.

"I think it only brought us closer, that friendship, that brotherhood," Watson said after the season ended. "We were grinding day in and day out, competing with each other, just trying to get better each and every day."

They've all expressed their gratitude to veteran receivers Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb for helping show them the NFL ropes. What they learned from accomplished pros who have been there, done that is too voluminous to describe.

But uncertainty hangs over what the Packers' receiving corps could look like in 2023, placing even greater value on the bond the three rookies formed this past year. Lazard is a pending free agent, as is Cobb, who could be considering retirement.

Watson said the rookies "learned the standard" from the veterans, but it may be theirs to maintain soon enough. General Manager Brian Gutekunst expressed his excitement for the future of the group and their potential as leaders while acknowledging it may be too soon to entrust that responsibility to second-year players.

"I think if there was a veteran in that room who does things the right way and can help lead that room, that would be good," Gutekunst said. "As far as what they need to do, I think the NFL game's different. All of them need to continue to get better, learning to get off press (coverage) and just play where they're not thinking.

"It's not just them. It's all young players. But certainly in the National Football League, your release ares much more important than maybe (they) were in college. For rookies, (Watson and Doubs) both dealt with some injuries along the way, but when they were out there consistently, they were very productive and that's exciting moving forward."

The rookies themselves are eager for Year 2 as well. More highlights are likely, as are additional bumps in the road. Changes will come as their careers progress.

What won't change is working through them together. That was vital to their rookie years and will continue to be for this tight-knit trio.

"There were times where Christian was down and we'd pick him up," Doubs said. "Myself, Samori, the same way. I'm excited to see what football or life has for the three of us.

"As long as we continue to grow off that, the sky's the limit."