Watson Mending Gap Amid Present and Future

Another off-season of turmoil is seemingly on the horizon in Green Bay following a devastating loss to the Detroit Lions just two short weeks ago. While the rest of the league progresses throughout the playoffs, the Packers are in a feud between their present and future for the second consecutive off-season.

Immediately after the season ended, questions poured in directed at the future of quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Similar to last year, Rodgers has placed the organization and the fanbase on a wait-and-see basis following his comments regarding his decision to continue playing in Green Bay.

“We had all the conversations we wanted to have about football for now,” Rodgers said on The Pat McAfee Show earlier this week. “[The Packers] are not pressing for any type of specific answer and I’m not mentally or emotionally at that point to give one.”

The comments have put all of Green Bay back into another off-season spiral. However, this time the off-season feels a little more secure with wide receiver Christian Watson helping prime the Packers for the future.

This time last year, Packers fans were in disarray with rumors circling surrounding the futures of quarterback Aaron Rodgers and wide receiver Davante Adams. The franchise itself felt like it was approaching the edge of a steep cliff with each passing day. Ultimately, Adams was traded to the Las Vegas Raiders in March while Rodgers signed a three-year, $150 million extension with the Packers.

In order to rectify the loss of Adams, the Packers traded up in the second round of last year’s draft to select Watson out of North Dakota State University. On a national stage, little was known about the 6-foot-4, 208-pounder and even less could have predicted the impact he would make in Green Bay during his first year.

Although it came with some growing pains and injury roadblocks along the way, Watson finally showcased what his true potential could be in Green Bay: becoming the next great Packers receiver. 

In just 14 games, Watson totaled 611 receiving yards and nine total touchdowns, according to Pro Football Reference. The rookie topped 100 yards on three separate occasions, proving that his game-changing speed going into the draft was as advertised in the NFL. The turn-around in his game after a slow start was an incredible achievement and one that was praised by his quarterback earlier this week.

“To be able to be there in the beginning for Christian and throw him his first touchdown was pretty cool,” Rodgers said. “And to watch that evolution from a guy who was really having a hard time catching the ball to becoming a legitimate threat in the NFL, that’s so much fun to see. Watching him progress is going to be fun.”

AP/Kamil Krzaczynski

The first selling point Watson proved during his rookie season was his level of reliability. During the season, Watson finished with the second-highest passer rating when targeted in the league, narrowly behind Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs, according to Pro Football Focus.

Beyond his reliability, Watson further proved his level of determination during his rookie season, not only through his injuries, but his determination to help the team succeed. That aspect was on full display in Week 18 against the Detroit Lions.

In a win-or-go-home scenario, it seemed like no one on the Packers had that mindset, except Watson. He finished the game catching five of his six targets for 104 yards and kept providing the only spark the Packers had on offense. The dominance in his game was on full display but for Watson, he knew he was just scratching the surface of what he can become.

“In terms of my actual game, I just want to be dominant,” Watson said. “At the line and at the catch, just knowing that if the ball is coming my way, I’m going to make a play.”

All eyes will now be on the 23-year-old to see if he can continue making strides toward being a top weapon for the Packers’ offense. Watson understands the road that lies ahead and entering into his first off-season in the NFL, he vows to become even greater in Year 2.

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Kole Noble is a lifelong Packers fan currently living in North Carolina and is a huge NFL Draft nut. You can follow him on twitter at @SlawSportsShow.

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