The first six games of the 2023 season have represented the exact opposite of the final eight games of the 2022 season for Green Bay Packers receiver Chrisitan Watson.
How can Watson — who flashed legitimate star power to end his rookie season — get back on track as a sophomore?
Coach Matt LaFleur pointed to play speed, decisiveness and confidence.
“I think he just needs to go out there and play fast, play decisive and play confident,” LaFleur said. “Because he’s a guy that has all the ability. He’s a big guy that can run, and we need him to show that every opportunity on tape.
On Sunday in Pittsburgh, Watson caught just two of seven targets for 23 yards with one drop on 34 routes run.
Over the final eight games of 2022, Watson caught 31 passes for 523 yards and seven touchdowns while rushing four times for 61 yards and another score. He averaged 10.1 yards per target, scored eight total touchdowns and produced almost 75 total yards per game. He also made 9-of-12 contested catches.
This season, Watson has 14 catches for 236 yards and one touchdown and one rush for -5 yards. He’s averaging 7.2 yards per target, and 77 of his 236 yards came on a broken coverage. Watson hasn’t scored since Week 4. He’s also 2-for-12 on contested catches.
LaFleur said Watson needs to be in “attack mode” when defenders challenge him at the line of scrimmage.
Doing more to attack the ball in the air might also help the 6-4 receiver with elite speed.
LaFleur also wants better route-running execution overall.
On Jordan Love’s first interception, LaFleur said Watson didn’t do a good enough job of selling the fake on a double move, blaming the mistake on a lack of patience. Love then forced the ball deep even though veteran cornerback Patrick Peterson wasn’t fooled. Peterson knocked the ball away from Watson and into the hands of Keanu Neal, creating a pivotal play.
Watson said he had to widen his route to avoid running into Peterson, who played outside leverage.
Love has been intercepted five times when targeting Watson this season. The two have connected on just 14 of 33 targets in 2023.