The challenge for Matt LaFleur’s team in getting to 2-0 on Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons will likely become clear when the inactive players for the Green Bay Packers are announced 90 minutes before kickoff.
According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, the Packers are expected to be without running back Aaron Jones and receiver Christian Watson, who are both still recovering from hamstring injuries and were listed as questionable on the final injury report on Friday.
Jones was injured at the end of a receiving touchdown in the third quarter of the Packers’ Week 1 win; Watson hurt his hamstring during a practice before Week 1. Only two weeks into a long season, the Packers are likely taking the cautious route with both players and allowing another week to heal their hamstrings, a muscle that can easily suffer a setback if not allowed to properly and fully heal.
LaFleur’s team scored 38 points and took down the Bears without Watson in the season opener, but scoring enough points to beat the Falcons in Atlanta without both Watson and Jones on Sunday will be a tall task for LaFleur and starting quarterback Jordan Love.
Without Jones, the Packers will expect to start A.J. Dillon, who rushed 13 times for 19 yards in the opener. He’s in a contract year, so any opportunity to start and carry the load is a big one. Dillon’s primary backups would be Patrick Taylor, a practice squad elevation for the second week in a row, and Emanuel Wilson, a rookie who led the NFL in rushing yards during the preseason.
Much is the same at wide receiver this week. Romeo Doubs, who caught a pair of touchdown passes in the season opener, is the primary target. So is rookie Jayden Reed, the team’s preferred option in the slot. Opposite Doubs will be a mix of rookies Dontayvion Wicks and Malik Heath and second-year receiver Samori Toure. The Packers did not elevate a receiver from the practice squad.
The passing game will also miss Jones, who caught two passes for 86 yards against the Bears in Week 1. He had a 51-yard catch setting up a touchdown, and a 35-yard touchdown catch on fourth down a drive later. Dillon dropped a pass in the opener and doesn’t have the same kind of explosive ability as a pass-catcher.
Without Jones and Watson, can the Packers be good enough on offense to beat the Falcons? LaFleur and Love will be challenged to create explosive plays and productivity on the ground on Sunday.