Rookie WR Christian Watson effective and efficient from slot for Packers

When we look back on Christian Watson’s rookie season with the Green Bay Packers, one of the first things we will remember was his big play ability and how that reshaped the offense. But in addition to that, he was also very efficient from the slot.

Watson spent about one-third of his snaps lined up inside and had 22 targets. He ended up catching 16 of them at 12.9 yards per catch with three touchdowns. Overall, he ranked 15th out of all receivers with at least 18 slot targets in yards per route run – again, showcasing his efficiency.

The bulk of Watson’s snaps should continue coming from the boundary, where his home run ability can really be maximized. Since Watson’s emergence in Week 10, both Matt LaFleur and Aaron Rodgers have mentioned how his presence has affected how opponents defend Green Bay. We’ve also seen on several occasions where his gravity is on display, as safeties are pulled towards him to protect against the big play, which then opens up opportunities for other pass catchers.

With that said, this versatility to line up in the slot is important as well. For one, the LaFleur offense very much emphasizes movement, whether that be different alignments or pre-snap motion. More so early on in his tenure, LaFleur discussed the illusion of complexity, which in short, keeps defenses off balance by running a variety of plays from similar looks, along with plays that begin similarly but are different. In order to accomplish this, versatility amongst the skill-position players is key.

Lining up inside also gives Watson free releases off the line of scrimmage. Although Brian Gutekunst didn’t mention Watson by name, on Friday when meeting with reporters, he did mention that the young receivers as a group can be better at getting off press coverage. In Week 18, we saw Detroit give the Packers receivers fits in this regard. From the slot, however, that isn’t an issue, and when that’s the case, Watson’s speed becomes a real issue.

Watson being effective from the slot also gives the Green Bay offense the opportunity to attack the middle of the field – especially when against Cover-2, where there will be a lot of space, which the Packers saw a lot of towards the end of the season with opponents wanting to limit the downfield passes. Watson’s final two touchdowns against Dallas were prime examples of this as he got a clean release while lined up inside, ran across the middle of the field, and with the defenders unable to keep up, he had two uncontested catches that ended with touchdowns.

As Watson’s role and production continued to grow, his effectiveness from the slot flew a bit under the radar, but it will be an important element for this Packers offense moving forward.

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Story originally appeared on Packers Wire