The Green Bay Packers’ offense has struggled to find a go-to receiver throughout the 2022 season, with youth, inexperience, and injuries all playing a factor. Thankfully, the player that the team traded up to select in the 2022 NFL Draft has burst onto the scene the past two weeks and is showing all of the reasons why the front office was comfortable making a move to get him.
That player is Christian Watson, of course, who added two touchdowns to his tally on Thursday night. Finally healthy and given a significant opportunity due to fellow rookie Romeo Doubs’ ankle injury, Watson’s breakout has been as sudden as it has been impressive. He has officially taken over the mantle as the team’s WR2, both in terms of his share of snaps and pass targets, and he’s delivering big plays in myriad ways.
It’s still hard not to think back and wonder what could have been for this team if Watson’s breakout had taken place sooner, but his own injury issues prevented that from happening until last Sunday. But in just two games, he has five touchdown receptions, more than any other rookie has recorded for the entire season and more than a host of elite receivers across the league.
There weren’t many positives to take away from the Packers’ Thursday night loss to the Titans, but Watson’s continued impressive play is surely the most notable.
OFFENSE (61 total plays)
Aaron Rodgers 61
After a stellar, efficient performance against the Cowboys on Sunday, Rodgers laid a stinker of a game against the Titans. He had his fourth game this season with fewer than 6 yards per attempt, finishing with 224 yards on 39 attempts.
Interestingly, though perhaps not surprisingly, the Packers are 4-0 this season when Rodgers throws for more than 7 yards per attempt and 0-7 when his Y/A is less than that mark.
Aaron Jones 40, AJ Dillon 29
Predictably, the Packers had little running room against the Titans’ top-ranked run defense, with Jones and Dillon combining for just 53 yards on 18 carries. Jones added six receptions in the game, but picked up just 20 yards on those catches with a long of 11.
Allen Lazard 56, Christian Watson 49, Randall Cobb 34, Sammy Watkins 22, Samori Toure 4
Green Bay got an unusually inefficient day from Lazard in the passing game, as he caught just five passes despite Rodgers targeting him 11 times. Those catches went for just 57 yards, and there were a combination of drops and inaccurate throws that affected that stat line.
Watson continued his breakout, however, adding another two touchdowns to the three that he scored against the Cowboys just four days prior. He finished with four receptions for 48 yards on six targets and is becoming a weapon both on deep balls and in the red zone.
Cobb’s return from injured reserve was a productive one, with him tying Jones for the team lead in receptions with six and leading the team outright with 73 receiving yards. He had the team’s two biggest plays of the day, catches of 28 and 24 yards.
Robert Tonyan 36, Josiah Deguara 16, Marcedes Lewis 16, Tyler Davis 3
The Packers’ tight ends have all but vanished from the game plan of late. Tonyan was targeted four times, but caught just two passes for 19 yards, while the rest of the group did not see a ball thrown their way. Deguara continues to play well as a blocker on the move, both on pin-and-pull and split zone plays, with the few decent runs in the game coming with him on the field.
David Bakhtiari 61, Elgton Jenkins 61, Josh Myers 61, Jon Runyan, Jr. 61, Yosh Nijman 61
Green Bay’s starting line made it through a second game in five days without taking any snaps off, an encouraging sign for the health of Bakhtiari and Jenkins. Both were listed as questionable on Wednesday’s injury report and did not participate in any practices during the week, but they made it a full game.
Unfortunately, the line was bullied in the run game by Tennessee’s stout front, particularly Jeffery Simmons. Simmons was also listed as questionable, but he finished with four tackles (including one on a Jones rush on the Packers’ final 4th-down attempt) and the Titans’ only sack of Rodgers.
DEFENSE (66 total plays)
Kenny Clark 54, Jarran Reed 53, Dean Lowry 50, T.J. Slaton 22, Devonte Wyatt 15
The Packers loaded up on defensive line snaps with Derrick Henry in the backfield, and largely the team kept him to modest gains all night. Unfortunately, those gains too often took place on 3rd- and 4th-and-short opportunities, and he converted them with consistency.
Clark’s workload must be a concern for the Packers moving forward. He has not looked like the Pro Bowl nose tackle of old, and a consistent 80-90% snap total can’t be helpful. It’s surprising that the team has not given him more rest with Slaton coming on as a solid option. Wyatt, meanwhile, matched his season-high in snaps on Thursday night but made practically no impact, while Lowry was perhaps the most surprisingly productive lineman against the run.
Preston Smith 57, J.J. Enagbare 36, Jonathan Garvin 25, La’Darius Hamilton 5
The Packers’ edge group struggled to generate any consistent pass rush on Thursday night, with Preston Smith providing the only productivity. He had 1.5 sacks on the night, one on a great solo rush and the other split with a blitzing Quay Walker. Enagbare and Garvin combined on a nice run game stop, but that was about the only highlight for either of the two players.
Without Rashan Gary, Enagbare seems to be growing in confidence, but he needs time and experience to grow into a bigger role. Hopefully learning on the fly over the rest of the season will be a positive for him as the team looks to him to help contribute significantly moving forward.
Quay Walker 57, Krys Barnes 44, Isaiah McDuffie 8
Although Walker played most of the game — he came off with an injury late — he was used all over the field, both as a single inside linebacker in Penny looks as well as on the edge on occasion. That helps explain the relative lack of snaps for the outside linebackers, as Walker took a few of those snaps.
This may have been his best game overall, even though the Titans put him in tough positions in the passing game on occasion. That wasn’t necessarily his fault, however, particularly on the first touchdown of the game when Tennessee ran routes at multiple levels to put two receivers in his zone. Otherwise, Walker finished the game with 11 total tackles, a half-sack, and a huge tackle for loss off the edge to stop Derrick Henry short on a 4th down attempt.
Barnes, meanwhile, played a decent game, leading the team with 12 tackles. He also had a big stop to force a punt, drilling Ryan Tannehill for no gain on a scramble and formally recording a sack on the stat sheet in the process.
Adrian Amos 66, Darnell Savage 65, Rudy Ford 35
Aside from one play early on, the Packers stuck to their three-safety look when in nickel groupings, moving Savage down into the slot and putting Ford back deep. It didn’t work nearly as well in this game as it did on Sunday, unfortunately, as the secondary was picked apart consistently. Amos filled lanes in the run game to the tune of 9 total tackles, but none of the three players made a play on the football.
Jaire Alexander 66, Rasul Douglas 66, Keisean Nixon 1
The Packers played a ton of soft zone coverage against a Titans passing game with few consistent threats, and they paid for it. With little pass rush affecting Ryan Tannehill, he was able to pick apart the secondary, particularly on third downs. The only highlight play (and the only pass defense all game) was an alert drop by Douglas on a 2nd-and-1 to intercept Tannehill up the seam.
Nixon played just one snap on defense, when he was burned for a 44-yard bomb to rookie Treylon Burks on the first drive of the game. After that, the Packers pulled him and stuck with their 3-safety look when in nickel.
SPECIAL TEAMS LEADERS
Davis 18, Dallin Leavitt 16, McDuffie 16, Nixon 16, Eric Wilson 16, Deguara 12, Corey Ballantine 11