Packers film room: What does WR Sammy Watkins bring to the offense?

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The Green Bay Packers finally added to a position that was starting to grow thin by signing wide receiver Sammy Watkins at the end of last week. His contract is a one-year deal worth up to $4 million, granting Watkins the opportunity to compete for snaps and bring a veteran presence to a room that just lost Davante Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling.

Originally selected by the Buffalo Bills in the first round (No. 4 overall) of the 2014 NFL draft, Watkins most recently spent last season as a member of the Baltimore Ravens.

The former top-five pick had a promising start to his career before injuries became an issue. During his first two seasons in Buffalo, Watkins totaled 125 receptions for 2,029 yards and 15 touchdowns. However, Watkins has yet to play a full season since his rookie year and has yet to reach at least 700 receiving yards in a season since 2015.

Matt LaFleur’s familiarity with Watson likely played a role in his signing. The two worked together during the 2017 season when both were employed by the Los Angles Rams. With LaFleur as the offensive coordinator, Watkins caught 39 passes for 593 yards and eight touchdowns.

Watkins appeared in 15 games during his one season with LaFleur, but injuries have since been an issue. In total, he has missed 18 games over the last four years. In 2021, Watkins played in 13 games but posted career-lows in receptions, yards, and touchdowns. Baltimore’s run-heavy offense and an ankle injury to former MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson probably didn’t help.

This week, we are diving into some of Watkins’ film from last season. The objective is to see what he might bring to Green Bay’s offense and if there is any juice left in his 28-year-old legs. Due to the way Watkins’ contract is structured, he is not a lock to make next year’s team. But a healthy Watkins does have a strong chance if he finds a role that will help the Packers win games in 2022.

The same day Watkins’ deal was announced, Aaron Rodgers told his good friend Pat McAfee that he is “excited” to have the wide receiver as a teammate. Green Bay needs another guy who can work underneath and make plays to keep the chains moving. This play design by the Ravens was a perfect zone beater, with Watkins finding a soft spot right at the sticks. Great display of mental processing by Watkins to get the correct depth on his route. Any team in the NFL will welcome this type of play.

Watkins may not be the deep threat he once was, but he can still make plays with his feet. Here he runs a simple drag route but uses his speed to gain the edge around the defender for a huge gain. It would be a great help if Watkins can pick up yards after the catch, even on a semi-consistent basis.

Ideally, you would like to see Watkins gain more separation against a linebacker. However, this is still a great display of his ball tracking and hopefully is a sign that Rodgers will be able to trust him on these types of throws down the field.

This is really good to see from Watkins. He can still win on slant routes when the corner is in man coverage. Watkins remains patient and gives the deception of an outside release before cutting to the inside. His technique was good enough to get the defender to bite so he could gain the necessary separation to make the play. Nothing too crazy to look at here, just a solid example of Watkins’ ability to win off the line of scrimmage.

From 2019 to 2021, no wide receiver with a minimum of 500 snaps received a higher run Pro Football Focus blocking grade than Watkins. This is a guy who is not afraid to get physical and can be relied upon as a play-side run blocker. Watch as he engages with the defender using solid hand placement and active feet to prevent him from making a tackle. Run blocking as a receiver is obviously a big deal in LaFleur’s offense, and Watkins certainly checks that box.

Watkins should be able to help anytime Rodgers is in a scramble drill. He understands what to do and where to be to provide an option for the quarterback when the play is off-script. Also, you got to love the concentration Watkins shows to make this catch.

People were quick to point out Watkins’ 4.4 speed after he signed, but this isn’t a guy who will consistently stretch the field. Valdes-Scantling was able to run by defenders and make it look easy, but that probably won’t be the case for Watkins.

No, Watkins is not an elite route runner. His stems can be rounded at times, which hinders separation, but he is about to enter a scheme that accommodates its wide receivers. The fact that Watkins is smart and understands leverage will hopefully squeeze out what is left of his potential.

No one should expect Watkins to come in and return to his 2014-15 form. Playing with Rodgers should elevate his play some, but this is a guy who has experienced a lot of wear and tear on his body and is nearing 30. If Watkins can play in 14 games and give the Packers somewhere around 500 yards and a few touchdowns on the year, both parties should be pleased.

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