Christian Watson can elevate Packers' passing game in San Francisco
For the Packers to pull the upset on Saturday and send the 49ers to an early playoff exit, Christian Watson likely needs to feature heavily in the game plan.
Whether measured by statistical production or on-field impact, Christian Watson's second year in the NFL hasn't gone as he hoped. The Green Bay Packers' top returning receiver began 2023 poised to break out, providing the offense with a degree of dynamism not seen since the days of Davante Adams.
However, for a multitude of reasons, Watson didn't reach his potential this season. A hamstring injury cropped up shortly before Week 1 and sidelined him for the Packers' first three games while limiting him in a fourth. As he regained his health, Watson exhibited the telltale signs of rust, making basic mistakes with routes and spacing while struggling in contested-catch situations. And when he finally found his footing in nationally televised games against the Detroit Lions and Kansas City Chiefs, he ran into hamstring trouble once more, effectively sidelining him until the playoffs.
Throughout Watson's struggles, the Packers' passing game found alternatives. Rookie wideouts Jayden Reed and Dontayvion Wicks grew into the two most reliable playmakers in the receiving corps while Tucker Kraft and Luke Musgrave took turns as the tight end of head coach Matt LaFleur's dreams. All the while, Jordan Love made critical progress on his way to cementing his status as Green Bay's franchise quarterback.
Still, those developments didn't negate the sting of Watson's somewhat-lost 2023 campaign. For all the positives provided by the Packers' other pass catchers, none provide Watson's elite speed and field-stretching ability. When facing premier opponents, having a player capable of generating instant offense like Watson has a multiplying effect on the rest of the unit.
But as Saturday's divisional-round tilt with the San Francisco 49ers approaches, Watson finally appears near full health again. If he has indeed moved past his hamstring issues, the Packers can use him to elevate their passing game at Levi's Stadium.