The Packers have officially ruled out Watkins from Week 3’s road game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, leaving them without one of their top wide receivers after the 29-year-old veteran led the way with 111 receiving yards through the first two games. It will be the 31st career game that Watkins has missed due to an injury or ailment.
Additionally, the Packers have also listed two of their other receivers — veteran Randall Cobb (illness) and rookie Christian Watson (hamstring) — as questionable to play against the Buccaneers. Watson was limited in Wednesday’s first practice of the week, but he was listed as “did not participate” for the final two sessions on Thursday and Friday. Meanwhile, Cobb was out all three days due to his unspecified illness.
All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari (knee) and veteran tight end Marcedes Lewis (groin) were also designated as questionable to play in the final Week 3 injury report.
Watkins’ Career Has Been Plagued With Injuries
The Packers knew they were taking a risk with Watkins when they signed him to an affordable one-year contract in the early months of the 2022 offseason. He was a former No. 4 overall pick who had caught more than 350 passes and 5,000 yards over his eight seasons in the NFL, but he had also struggled to stay healthy with injuries striking his thighs, hamstrings, calves, ankles and both feet throughout his career. In the past four seasons alone, Watkins missed a combined 18 games for his teams.
The move to sign Watkins was a sensible one considering the cap-strapped Packers were looking to both rebuild their receiving corps and keep their foot on the gas in terms of competing for another championship. The veteran’s experience also paid off for them in their Week 2 win over the Bears when he caught three passes for 93 yards, including a 55-yarder that helped them ensure their victory. Unfortunately, it does no good when he isn’t healthy enough to take a field.
One absence is too early to overreact to Watkins’ injury troubles with the Packers, but things start to become more worrisome if he is forced to miss multiple games in a row.
Will Packers Take Cautious Approach With Watson?
The Packers have six other wide receivers on their active roster and two more on their practice squad to help them offset the loss of Watkins against the Buccaneers, but it wouldn’t be too surprising if the Packers opted to play things safe with Watson, too.
Watson was added to the injury report at the beginning of Week 3 with a new hamstring issue that kept him out of the final two practices. While there have been no specifics given about how severe of an injury it is, the Packers have a tendency to make their injury decisions based on the long-term picture and might avoid taking a risk at all with him so early in the season. He has received a solid share of the passing targets through the first two games, but the Packers don’t necessarily need him with Lazard and fourth-round rookie Doubs ready to line up as starters on Sunday.
Packers head coach Matt LaFleur said they would be making their injury decisions about “90 minutes before kickoff” at 4:25 p.m. ET on Sunday, September 25. If Watson and Cobb don’t play, expect guys like Amari Rodgers and Samori Toure to be asked to do more than they have in the first two games this year.