For Romeo Doubs to fully deliver on his potential, the Packers must unleash him vertically
Against the Buccaneers, Romeo Doubs recorded multiple receptions over the middle of the field and near both boundaries. He didn't, however, get the chance to attack the defense deep.
In order to successfully navigate the 2022 season, the Green Bay Packers knew they'd have to practice patience with their rookie wide receivers.
For the first time in the Aaron Rodgers era, the team's Plan A at wideout would feature no experienced, bona fide No. 1 options, the result of an offseason trade that sent All-Pro Davante Adams for multiple draft picks. In his place, the Packers would deploy a cavalcade of experienced role players while slowly bringing along a tandem of rookies at the position, second-rounder Christian Watson and fourth-rounder Romeo Doubs. Meanwhile, the backfield tandem of Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon would help out in the passing game where they could.
Over the first two games of the season, the Packers indeed leaned on their veterans. During the Week 1 loss to the Minnesota Vikings, Dillon led the team in both receptions (five) and receiving yards (46). Sammy Watkins took his turn the following Sunday, catching three passes for 93 yards in a victory over the Chicago Bears. While the offense's committee approach seemed jarring after so many years of feeding Adams heavily, the plan worked well with the renewed focus on the ground game.
But Week 3 offered a new challenge. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and their world-class defense had the potential to take away the Jones-Dillon ground attack while putting the clamps down on the Packers' less-imposing receiving corps. Further complicating matters, Watkins landed on injured reserve due to a hamstring injury mere days after his standout performance against Chicago, a problematic (though not entirely surprising) development. Just as concerning, Watson missed multiple practices with hamstring trouble of his own, ultimately leaving him inactive in Tampa.
Without Watkins and Watson in the fold, the Packers turned over much of their passing game to Doubs. The rookie saw 55 snaps on offense, nearly as many as he saw over the first two weeks combined. With the increased workload came more opportunities for targets, and they came in several forms. On the first drive alone, Doubs caught passes on a strike route (seven steps up the field and turn inward to find the hole), a short out route in quick game, and a slant on a run-pass option. That final play saw Doubs following Allen Lazard into the end zone for his first NFL touchdown.
Doub's route tree continued to expand as the game progressed. The Packers deployed him on slide routes (the receiver comes across the formation after the snap and runs full speed into the flat) multiple times to give him the opportunity to create yards after the catch. Those worked as well with the rookie using his burst and ability to elude defenders to move the sticks. A block-in-the-back penalty negated one of Doubs' gains, but the tactic proved effective nonetheless.
By the end of the game, Doubs had recorded multiple receptions over the middle of the field and near both boundaries.
But for all the Packers' deftness with Doubs, they barely exploited his most impressive trait: the ability to get behind the coverage vertically and stretch the field.