He’s on the field out of pure necessity at this point, but Sammy Watkins has provided little in terms of value for the Green Bay Packers since returning from his hamstring injury.
Considering the Packers are 3-6 and headed for a lost season, it might be time – if possible – to start giving his snaps and targets to a younger player expected to be in Green Bay long-term.
Sunday’s disaster in Detroit highlighted his growing ineffectiveness: Watkins was on the field for 60 snaps, including 42 in the passing game, but the veteran receiver caught just one pass on five targets for nine yards. Pro Football Focus credited him with two drops, and he was completely out of position or not on the same page with quarterback Aaron Rodgers on two other incompletions.
An offseason addition made to add experience to an evolving receiver room that lost Davante Adams, Watkins impressed early, catching six passes for 111 yards during the first two weeks, including a 55-yarder to help the Packers clinch a win over the Chicago Bears in Week 2.
But another lower-body injury has taken its toll. Since coming off injured reserve in Week 7, Watkins has played 130 snaps and run 87 routes but made just four catches on 10 targets for 48 yards.
With the Packers in desperate need of playmaker in Buffalo, Watkins caught just one pass for three yards. And on Sunday in Detroit, Watkins was a legitimate dud despite facing one of the worst defenses in football.
The 29-year-old doesn’t run well anymore, isn’t a high-effort player down to down and now doesn’t look comfortable with the offense or the in-game adjustments made so often by the quarterback.
Although the Packers are spiraling as a team, the injuries at receiver – including now Romeo Doubs, who could miss several weeks – will make it difficult to phase out Watkins down the stretch. The position needs bodies, and Watkins, at least for the moment, is one of the few healthy options.
But every snap and target he gets from this point on will feel like a bit of a waste. He’s not a part of the solution now, and he won’t be a part of the rebuild or whatever is coming after the 2022 season.
The Packers thought Watkins had something left in the tank despite his lengthy injury history and declining production. Maybe, as he gets his legs back under him after a month’s absence, he’ll start to regain some explosiveness.
Or, instead of hoping a fading veteran turns it around, maybe the Packers will lean into their youth at receiver and let the likes of Doubs, Christian Watson, Amari Rodgers and Samori Toure play through mistakes and gain valuable experience down the stretch.
Given the state of this team, one path seems preferable to the other.