Jordan Love‘s tenure as the Packers‘ full-time starting quarterback will have a bit of a hurdle to navigate this week. In his first start since November 2021, Love will be without the team’s top returning receiver Christian Watson, according to Rob Demovsky of ESPN.
Watson is dealing with a hamstring injury that could potentially lead to an extended absence. Head coach Matt LaFleur claimed that he doesn’t think Watson will reach a three- or four-week absence but classified the second-year wideout as week-to-week.
The top target in Watson’s absence, fellow sophomore receiver Romeo Doubs, is also dealing with a hamstring injury but is only listed as questionable heading into the weekend. Rookie wideout Dontayvion Wicks is the third such receiver on the team dealing with a hamstring injury, but he managed to avoid the injury report altogether. Star tackle David Bakhtiari is also available after staying off the injury report.
Here are a few more reports on wide receiver injuries from around the league heading into Week 1:
The world will have to continue to wait for the NFL debut of Texans wide receiver John Metchie III, according to Aaron Wilson of KPRC2. Despite making a recovery from both a torn ACL and leukemia, Metchie is still dealing with a nagging hamstring injury. Houston is being patient, taking a “big-picture approach” to Metchie’s return. The team will be without safety Jimmie Ward and linebacker Blake Cashman for Week 1, as well.
The Commanders drew lots of criticism when leading receiver Terry McLaurin sustained an injury as the team played its starters fairly deep into a preseason game in an effort to end the Ravens’ preseason win streak. They’ll dodge a bullet, though, as McLaurin will be active this week after making good progress from his turf toe injury, according to Commanders senior writer Zach Selby. He’s had a couple of full participation practices and should be good to go for Week 1. Defensive end Chase Young has been listed as questionable, though. Head coach Ron Rivera claimed that “if (Young’s) cleared, he’ll go.”
Rashan Gary is all set to debut in Week 1, completing his recovery from the ACL tear that ended his 2022 season in November. But the Packers will begin their top pass rusher on a pitch count to start the season, Matt LaFleur confirmed (via Packers Wire’s Zach Kruse). This could open the door for early-season Lukas Van Ness development. The Packers still roster Preston Smith, who is going into his fifth season with the team, and Van Ness contributed as an inside and outside rusher at Iowa. The team has versatile linebacker Justin Hollins and 2022 fifth-rounder Kingsley Enagbare, who became a primary starter after Gary went down last season, as options while Gary ramps up to a full workload.
Additionally on the Green Bay injury front, David Bakhtiari, Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs are viewed as game-time decisions for Sunday’s opener against the Bears. Bakhtiari, who has seen knee trouble sidetrack his career to a degree over the past two-plus years, is listed on the injury report with more knee trouble. He expects to play, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Tom Silverstein tweets. Both starting receivers are battling hamstring maladies and have not practiced this week. Here is the latest from the NFC North:
As for tonight’s game, the Lions ruled out cornerback Emmanuel Moseley. Although Detroit activated Moseley off its active/PUP list before roster-cutdown day, the free agency addition underwent a second knee procedure this summer and was viewed as a long shot to start the year on time. Moseley is finishing up a recovery from an October 2022 ACL tear.
T.J. Hockenson‘s four-year, $66MM Vikingsextension comes with $29.29MM fully guaranteed, according to OverTheCap. That number checks in fourth among tight ends — behind Kyle Pitts‘ rookie deal and the extensions for Mark Andrews and George Kittle. Hockenson’s 2024 base salary is fully guaranteed. His $10.9MM 2025 base salary is guaranteed for injury at signing, per Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio, who notes that number shifts to a full guarantee a year early (March 2024). The Vikings did not use the year-out guarantee structure for Hockenson’s 2026 setup, giving them more flexibility. Hockenson has $2.3MM of his 2026 base ($15.4MM) guaranteed for injury; it does not shift to a full guarantee until March 2026, giving the Vikings additional flexibility. Hockenson’s cap number will climb from $5MM this year to $14.1MM in 2024, Ben Goessling of the Minneapolis Star Tribune tweets.
Aaron Rodgers‘ Green Bay departure would have been far messier had it occurred in 2021, when he requested to be moved. But the divorce, coming after a prolonged trade negotiation, has still produced a stream of headlines. The new Jets quarterback attempted to set the record straight regarding a few key 2020s Packers plotlines.
Shortly after the Packers traded up for Jordan Lovein 2020, Rodgers said he no longer knew finishing his career in Green Bay was realistic. Before the 2021 trade request, Rodgers earned his third MVP honor despite the Packers using their first-round pick on a backup quarterback. While the Love choice did not directly impede Green Bay in 2020, the team suffered another narrow NFC championship defeat — at home against Tampa Bay — as its first-round pick did not contribute. That loss began an annual run of Rodgers-driven offseason uncertainty in Green Bay.
“Did I wanna, years down the line, go, ‘Well, what if we had just taken somebody who could impact our team because we had just gone to the NFC championship?’ Yeah, of course,” Rodgers said (via The Athletic’s Matt Schneidman; subscription required) of the Packers’ decision to draft Love. “I don’t think any other competitor would say anything different.
“… We didn’t win the Super Bowl. [The Packers] had their guy in waiting. I knew that [the team going with Love] was always a possibility, that they would wanna go, ‘You know what? We tried hard. We tried to win a championship. We had a good team, but now it might be time to go with Jordan, move some contract stuff around and do that.'”
The organization made that decision two years after Rodgers requested a trade. The Packers could have obtained more for Rodgers in 2021, given his age and MVP form, but they rebuffed trade overtures during that offseason. Rodgers’ agent is believed to have made a blunt request to Packers president Mark Murphy at that time: trade Rodgers or fire GM Brian Gutekunst. The Rodgers-Gutekunst feud simmered throughout the ’21 offseason, and this ultimatum surfaced that summer. Wednesday’s report lends more support to the Rodgers-or-Gutekunst rumors. The 18-year veteran told Schneidman communication between he and Green Bay management improved once he returned to the team, but it still pales in comparison to the talks he has held with Jets management in the weeks since he arrived.
Although Rodgers re-signed with the Packers — on a three-year, $150.8MM deal the Jets are now in the process of restructuring — in March 2022, team brass has revealed dissatisfaction with the future Hall of Famer’s commitment level last year. The Packers viewed Rodgers skipping OTAs last year as detrimental to Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs‘ rookie-year development, Albert Breer of SI.com notes, and Schneidman adds the team was dissatisfied with Rodgers’ day-to-day commitment throughout last season. The four-time MVP, who has been at Jets OTAs this offseason, disputed the notion his 2022 absence hindered the Packers.
“When I’m in, I’m all in, and you wanna ride with offseason workouts?” Rodgers said. “I won MVP without doing offseason workouts. Like, was my commitment any less then? I’d say not at all. The way that I come back to work, not just physically in good shape but mentally refreshed, is the best thing for me to have the season I wanted to have during those in Green Bay. I think that’s just a cop-out written to try and find something to disparage me about that, honestly, when you know what offseason workouts are really about, it’s completely ridiculous.”
Adams broke off talks with the Packers ahead of last season and played out the $14.5MM-per-year extension he had signed in 2017. Although the Packers upped their offer before franchise-tagging him in 2022, Rodgers wonders if the team’s early hesitancy affected the All-Pro wideout’s desire to stay.
“They offered him less money than Christian Kirk and [Adams] is going, ‘Are you serious right now? I’m the best receiver in the league, and you’re gonna offer me less than Christian Kirk?’” Rodgers said of the Pack’s offer compared to Kirk’s $18MM-AAV Jaguars deal. “With all due respect, he’s not on Davante’s level.
“I’m sure that the team will say that’s just the business of negotiation — it’s like, yeah, but you’re also sending a message to that guy, and a lot of times it can stick with guys and make them a little sour on things. … That goes back to the first offer that they made, and I don’t think [the Packers] had the foresight — obviously didn’t have the foresight.”
Rodgers’ numbers suffered without Adams and Valdes-Scantling, with Doubs and Watson — the latter’s late-season surge notwithstanding — not measuring up to the veterans’ contributions. Gutekunst deferred to Rodgers’ MVP awards when asked in January if the veteran starter or Love gave the Packers a better chance to win. Three-plus months later, Rodgers became a Jet. Gutekunst did not believe he could sit Love for a fourth season, per ESPN.com’s Rob Demovsky and Rich Cimini; the sixth-year GM had said many times this offseason the fourth-year backup was ready to play.
Gutekunst and Rodgers did not meet this offseason; scheduling conflicts have been cited. The Packers have also accused Rodgers of rebuffing efforts to meet, per ESPN.com. Rodgers said he reached out to Packers management regarding a meeting with the front office and Matt LaFleur before he trekked to the darkness retreat, but after he referenced the Pack’s lack of communication, a desire to play for the Jets — rather than retire — emerged post-darkness. As Brett Favre did 15 years ago, Rodgers will now attempt to prove the Packers wrong.
“Did Brian text me more than I texted him? Yeah, but did I ghost him? No,” Rodgers said, via Schneidman. “I texted him back. There was back-and-forths that we had and so this is the story you wanna go with? You’re gonna stand on this hill of austerity and say that arguably in the conversation of the best player in your franchise history, you’re gonna say I couldn’t get a hold of him and that’s why we had to move on?
“Like, come on, man. Just tell the truth; you wanted to move on. You didn’t like the fact that we didn’t communicate all the time. Like, listen, I talk to the people that I like.”
The Packers have received another set of updates regarding more of their injured players from yesterday’s loss to the Lions. Wideout Romeo Doubsis the latest at that position to be headed for an extended absence.
The fourth-round rookie suffered a high ankle sprain on Sunday, reports NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport (Twitter link). While more testing will be needed to confirm an exact timeline for his return, the news is likely to keep him sidelined for between four and six weeks. Assuming that is the case, the Packers will be even more shorthanded at the position.
Green Bay was already without veteran Randall Cobb, who is currently on IR. He, like nearly every other Packers receiver, has missed at least some time during the season, one in which the team’s offense has struggled mightily to find a rhythm in the passing game. Doubs had been the only WR who suited up for every game prior to this injury.
The 6-2, 200-pounder put himself on the NFL draft radar with consecutive 1,000-yard seasons to close out his college career at Nevada. Part of an infusion of young talent at the position alongside Christian Watson, Doubs has managed 314 yards and three touchdowns in his rookie campaign. He ranks second on the team in receiving yards amongst wideouts, and third overall.
Given the team’s struggles on offense, Green Bay was involved in discussions to bring in notable additions at last week’s trade deadline. They offered a second-rounder to the Steelers for Chase Claypool, but found themselves runners-up to the Bears on that front. It was reported yesterday that they also tried to land tight end Darren Waller, and put a first-rounder on the table for the Panthers in their attempt to acquire wideout D.J. Moore. With nothing materializing, though, the team’s shorthanded group of in-house options will continue to be relied on.
In more positive news, running back Aaron Jonesappears to have avoided any major injury. Testing on his ankle – which required him to wear a walking boot after the game – came back negative, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter (Twitter link). As a result, he should be able to practice this week and play on Sunday against the Cowboys. A strong running game will be crucial moving forward, with another key piece of Green Bay’s passing attack unavailable.
Indeed, as Jason Wilde of the Wisconsin State Journal writes, the development of rookie wideouts Romeo Doubs and Christian Watson will be instrumental in Rodgers’ decision-making process. Green Bay has not drafted a receiver in the first round since 2002, and that fact is frequently mentioned in reports discussing Rodgers’ sometimes strained relationship with the club. After the Packers traded Davante Adams this offseason — a trade made necessary when Adams, noting Rodgers’ uncertain future, declined to sign an extension with Green Bay — it stands to reason that the progress made by Rodgers’ young weapons will factor into his 2023 plans.
It appears that the Packers missed the mark when they selected Amari Rodgers in the third round of the 2021 draft. The Clemson product appeared in only 103 offensive snaps in his rookie year and has seen just four offensive snaps thus far in 2022. He is floundering at or near the bottom of Green Bay’s WR depth chart, and even his kick return duties may be in jeopardy. As of the time of this writing, the Packers are in the midst of their Week 5 contest against the Giants in London, and Watson has been handling kickoff returns (Amari Rodgers is still back deep for punts, but he has fumbled a punt return).
Doubs and Watson, though, offer more hope. Doubs, selected in the fourth round of this year’s draft, has been targeted 16 times over the past two games and has reeled in 13 catches for 120 yards and two TDs. Watson, a second-round pick, has not seen as much action, but Rodgers was effusive in his praise of both players.
“I think both guys can be ‘dudes,'” Rodgers said during his recent appearance on The Pat McAfee Show. “It’s going to be, how does their confidence progress? How many plays can they lock and anchor into their mind as places to go back to and think about when they’ve maybe had a stretch where they haven’t played their best ball or maybe they need some inspiration? … But I think they both have opportunities to be really, really good players in the league.”
If Doubs and Watson progress as Aaron Rodgers hopes, they could find themselves as the team’s top WR options in 2023. Indeed, Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb, and Sammy Watkins are all out of contract at season’s end, and Amari Rodgers’ hold on his roster spot seems tenuous at best. In a scenario where Doubs and Watson have proven themselves worthy, Aaron Rodgers may want to stick around for at least one more year to reap the rewards.
“Look, my decision, when it comes down to it, will be, obviously, the physical part, the mental part, seeing where the team is at,” Aaron Rodgers said. “There’s some moving pieces that’ll factor in, for sure. But seeing the development of [Doubs and Watson] can’t help but be a part of the decision.”
After a Week 1 dud against the Vikings, the Packers have won three in a row. Aaron Rodgers has completed 69% of his passes and has thrown six TDs against three interceptions.
Andy Isabellacame to the Cardinals in 2019 with plenty of expectations. The 2019 second-rounder has yet to live up to his potential, though, which has led to his name being involved in plenty of trade speculation.
Arizona was shopping the 25-year-old speedster in the run-up to free agency, after his first three seasons in the league resulted in just 31 catches and three touchdowns. Given that they granted Isabella permission to seek a new destination, it seemed inevitable that a swap could be coming, but nothing materialized.
Immediately after the draft – during which the Cardinals acquired Marquise Brown– the UMass alum was again available to outside teams. However, Isabella has impressed the team during training camp and preseason, and he appears to have increased his chances of finishing his rookie contract in the desert. ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler tweets that he has “had as good a camp as just about anyone,” which should strengthen his grip on a roster spot. Aside from Brown, the Cardinals also have DeAndre Hopkins, Rondale Moore andA.J. Greenahead of Isabella on the depth chart, but he could be in line for a career-year in 2022.
Here are some other WR notes from around the NFC:
The Cowboys took a flier on the USFL’s leading receiver, KaVontae Turpin, late last month. After the TCU alum enjoyed a two-touchdown preseason contest against the Chargers in the return game, HC Mike McCarthy was asked about whether or not Turpin would handle the team’s kick return duties come Week 1. “I think there is a great chance he will be returning kicks against Tampa Bay,” he responded (Twitter link via Clarence Hill Jr. of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram) – a rather ringing endorsement of the five-foot-nine, 153-pounder looking to turn his spring success into a full-time NFL role.
Aaron Rodgerswas publicly critical of the young receivers the Packers are incorporating into their offense last week, but one of them has established a noteworthy rapport with the reigning MVP. Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer notes thatRomeo Doubshas “really” earned Rodgers’ trust this summer, something which could pay dividends for Green Bay’s offense. The Nevada product put up back-to-back 1,000-yard campaigns to finish his college career, and has seen first-team reps in training camp. He could be in line for a productive rookie season in a WR corps featuring plenty of unknowns.
49ers wideout Malik Turnerreceived a fine of $5,750 for unsportsmanlike conduct during the team’s preseason win over the Vikings, NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero tweets. The 26-year-old split his first four seasons evenly between the Seahawks and Cowboys, playing primarily on special teams. He is likely to have a similar role in San Francisco, though the league’s discipline won’t help his impressions with the team in the build-up to the season.
The Packers have had a more eventful offseason than nearly every other team in the league. One of the results of their moves is a decided lack of proven commodities at the receiver position, something which sparked quarterback Aaron Rodgers‘ recent comments about the improvement which needs to be made amongst some of their new pass-catchers.
“The young guys, especially young receivers, we’ve got to be way more consistent,” the reigning MVP said, via PFF’s Doug Kyed. “A lot of drops, a lot of bad route decisions, running the wrong route. We’ve got to get better in that area.”
Per Kyed, Rodgers has stated they he wants Allen Lazardto operate as the “top option,” something which doesn’t come as much of a surprise given his NFL resume. Rodgers’ preference would be for Lazard to be joined as a starter by veterans Sammy Watkinsand Randall Cobb – a trio which would include, by far, the most experience available. However, rookies Romeo Doubs(who has seen first-team reps) and Christian Watson (whom the Packers traded up to select in the second round) could unseat Watkins and/or Cobb, leaving the team with more upside – but less certainty – at an important position as they look to contend for a Super Bowl.
Here are some more WR notes from around the league:
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was asked about the possibility of signing Antonio Brownyesterday. The former All-Pro hasn’t generated much interest since his colorful exit from the Buccaneers in the middle of a game last season, but would add experience to a banged-up Dallas receiver room. Instead, Jones replied “we want to give these young guys a real chance to make this team” (Twitter link via Jon Machota of The Athletic). A number of inexperienced wideouts are competing for depth spots behind the likes of CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup, James Washingtonand Jalen Tolbert, and will be allowed to continue doing so for the remainder of the preseason.
Kyed tweets that one of the surprise omissions from the Patriots’ depth chart, according to some, could be Nelson Agholor. However, he notes that cutting him would not be financially viable (doing so would incur a dead cap charge of $10MM), and adds that teams which could be interested in trading for him are not willing to do so at his current salary of $9MM. More to the point, the team’s new offense could allow the 29-year-old to enjoy a bounceback season from the underwhelming 37-473-3 statline he produced last year.
The Packers are hoping a pair of rookie wideouts will help replace the production of former receiver Davante Adams. Second-round pick Christian Watson and fourth-round pick Romeo Doubs will be expected to contribute during the 2022 campaign, and while the duo obviously doesn’t have the expertise of a veteran wideout, quarterback Aaron Rodgers understands GM Brian Gutekunst‘s decision to pivot toward youth.
“We’re still a draft-and-develop team,”Rodgers told SI.com’s Albert Breer. “I know we say that a lot; that’s most of the league, they’d like to be like that. There are less teams like the old Washington [teams] when they were trying to buy a team in free agency in many years. You’d like to draft guys and develop them and give them second contracts in-house. But there are needs and there are opportunities. I’ve always felt like adding one or two veteran guys at or around the minimum can really pay huge dividends in important spots.
“We’ve relied on young guys for much of my career. There are pros and cons to both those things. But I like Brian and his staff, and I think everybody in the building, myself included, has tried to focus on growing a little bit more and communicating a little bit more.”
Rodgers mentions a team’s need for cheap veterans, and Breer notes that the Packers are still open to adding another receiver. Once Watson returns to the practice field, Green Bay’s young duo will join Allen Lazard, Sammy Watkins, and Randall Cobb atop the depth chart.
During a recent podcast appearance, Rodgers admitted to using a psychedelic called ayahuasca. According to Peter King of Football Morning in America, the NFL won’t be retroactively punishing Rodgers for use of the plant, especially since he didn’t test positive for a banned substance. Both the league and the NFLPA confirmed to PFT’s Mike Florio that ayahuasca is “neither a prohibited compound under the substance-abuse policy nor a PED.” As Florio notes, there is some precedent for the NFL going after a player who admits to using “a given substance,” with the league previously attempting to put Randy Moss in a drug-test program after he admitted to smoking marijuana “every blue moon.”
Some good news on the injury front for the Packers. Gutekunst told reporters that he’s hopeful offensive linemen David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins will both return from their respective injuries early on during the 2022 campaign. “They are both doing really, really well. I think they both have a shot to play early in the season,” Gutekunst said (h/t to Zach Kruse of PackersWire). “They are progressing very well.” Bakhtiari tore his ACL in December of 2020, and he was active for only one January contest during the 2021 campaign. Jenkins tore his ACL during Week 11 of the 2021 season. Both offensive linemen were placed on PUP to begin training camp, and there’s probably little chance we see them during the preseason.