How Sammy Watkins Can Help The Packers Offense

Sammy Watkins has characteristics that could help the Packers in 2022

Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

The Sammy Watkins signing isn't a solution to everything for the Green Bay Packers offense. He has handled a series of injuries and hasn't been a great producer, but Watkins can absolutely be a contributor. First, because the Packers had lacked a boundary option - Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb, and Amari Rodgers played the majority of their snaps from the slot in 2021. And also because the former Baltimore Ravens receiver is a good fit for what Matt LaFleur likes to run schematically.
Take a look at some plays that are examples to show areas in which Sammy Watkins can help the offense transition from the Davante Adams Era to a new style, with different passing goals, run-heavier and with younger players.

Experience to read defenses

Sammy Watkins has been in the NFL since 2014. As a veteran with experience playing under different systems and coordinators, he has a good knowledge on how to read defensive zones and explore them. That's something especially important to get along with Aaron Rodgers. In this play, Watkins fits right in the middle of the Detroit Lions defensive zones to get a chunk play in a pass from Lamar Jackson, helping the Baltimore Ravens to get a win coming from behind.

Red zone target

Davante Adams had 31 regular season plus postseason touchdowns between 2020 and 2021. That’s how amazing he was in the red zone - and that should be one of the most important things the Packers offense will miss after trading him. Sammy Watkins has never been so productive touchdown-wise, but he had eight touchdowns playing for Matt LaFleur as his offensive coordinator with the Los Angeles Rams in 2017. Watkins is a relatively physical player and uses his body well to gain angles and leverage against defensive backs.

Run blocker

Among players with at least 500 opportunities, no other wide receiver in the entire NFL was better than Sammy Watkins in run blocking between 2019 and 2021 according to Pro Football Focus. He averaged a 85.7 PFF grade in run blocking, topping Cooper Kupp (81.1), Miles Boykin (77.2), Julio Jones (75.1), and Allen Lazard (74.5). Obviously, that's a limited-impact ability, but it's one more important to LaFleur's offense than for most of the other systems. It will be an especially important strength considering the Packers should use more heavy personnel.

YAC

Watkins didn't have a productive season with the Baltimore Ravens in 2021, because of injuries, and also because it's the run-heaviest offense in the league. But one stat draws significant attention. While having just 394 total yards, Watkins put up 97 yards after the catch. The yards after catch numbers were much higher when he was the third option in the Kansas City Chiefs' offense in their Super Bowl run. Watkins has 295 yards after catch in 2019 (43.83% of his total yards), the 25th-ranked player in the NFL, while being just the 46th in total receiving yards.

Deep threat

While Watkins was just the 88th and 97th player in receiving yards last season, he was 19th in yards per reception, with an average of 14.6. Moreover, his average depth of target was 13.1, 12th in the NFL. Those numbers show that Watkins was used primarily as a deep target with the Ravens, a type of weapon the Packers offense lacks after losing Marquez Valdes-Scantling to the Chiefs in free agency.

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Wendell Ferreira covers the Green Bay Packers for Zone Coverage and Cheesehead TV. He is a Brazilian journalist with over a decade of experience covering the NFL, soccer, NBA, and MMA. Follow him on twitter at @wendellfp  

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8 points

Comments (41)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
LambeauPlain's picture

April 19, 2022 at 02:15 pm

Sammy can really help the Packers as long as he can stay on the field. The YAC is very impressive and did not know he was such a prolific blocker! And from all accounts he is a great teammate and has cleared up his off the field issues of substance abuse his first few years in Buffalo.

11 points
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Johnblood27's picture

April 19, 2022 at 05:12 pm

Who wouldn't use heavily in Buffalo?

...said the GBP fan?

I sure hope his issues are truly behind him!

4 points
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PackEyedOptimist's picture

April 19, 2022 at 02:19 pm

The best run-blocking WR in the NFL over the past three years?!
Now we KNOW why BG/MLF chose him!
Man, with Lazard, Big Dog, and now Watkins, I'm wondering even moreso if BG is going to pick a great run-blocking OT with pick 22. Penning looks even more attractive now.

5 points
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dblbogey's picture

April 19, 2022 at 05:23 pm

It seems about 50/50 who will have a better year, the $350,000 Watkins or the $10 million MVS.

5 points
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NickPerry's picture

April 20, 2022 at 06:12 am

IF Watkins can stay on the field, my money is on Watkins.

3 points
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PackEyedOptimist's picture

April 20, 2022 at 06:21 am

"If __ can stay on the field" is likely to determine which of the two has a better year!

2 points
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NickPerry's picture

April 20, 2022 at 06:12 am

IF Watkins can stay on the field, my money is on Watkins.

4 points
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Bitternotsour's picture

April 20, 2022 at 11:42 am

i can pretty much guarantee who will have more drops. #bodycatcher

1 points
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greengold's picture

April 20, 2022 at 07:30 am

Man, I think it would be smart to do a power running focus shift. Add the players up front, and an upgrade over our RB4… super confident in Kylin Hill btw.

Great point. Kinda dig OT Tyler Smith at 22 or 28 if Penning doesn’t drop. Darian Kinnard would be amazing at either spot as well.

More balance by adding more run would take more heat off of our QB, increasing effectiveness of play action. Watkins would benefit there, in many ways.

1 points
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PackEyedOptimist's picture

April 20, 2022 at 07:55 am

Yeah, I've said many times that getting a great run-blocking offensive line (and TEs and WRs) might be a MUCH better approach than trying to get WRs. Both Rodgers OR Love (or other...) would benefit greatly from a dominating running attack, and we already have a great stable of backs (even if I DO want them to draft Kyren Williams...).

Play action/illusion of complexity is the MLF way. A great running attack makes that SHINE.

2 points
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Guam's picture

April 20, 2022 at 08:09 am

Sorry GG, I don't think our Assistant GM/QB1 is going to buy into a run heavy scheme. Wish he would......but QBs like to sling the ball and our two consecutive MVP QB is not going to relinquish control of the offense to the running backs. We could have traded Rodgers and had Love run that offense.

1 points
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Coldworld's picture

April 20, 2022 at 09:42 am

That’s a critical question. To my mind it will go a long way to defining whether his extension is justifiable in hindsight. Without Adams it’s about helping us to get more from the skill players as a whole.

1 points
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packer132's picture

April 19, 2022 at 02:43 pm

Watkins could be a nice surprise this season, as were Campbell and Douglas last year. Hard to know what Pack will do in the draft, though I would expect at least two WR's being added to the group. It may be more of a committee catching the ball, including more RB and TE. Looks like a good signing with his blocking and experience.

11 points
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Minniman's picture

April 19, 2022 at 03:21 pm

I think that 2 WR's in the draft is the minimum that they pick (and even then only if the draft falls poorly for the Packers) - I see them taking 2 guys with 4.3x speed and one of the prospects will have experience as a returner, if not a specialist.

7 points
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PatrickGB's picture

April 19, 2022 at 04:15 pm

I agree that some speed would be nice. But I also hope that they can run good routes and catch the ball. I prefer play speed over timed speed any day.

4 points
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Johnblood27's picture

April 19, 2022 at 05:13 pm

WELCOME TO GB Traylon Burks!!!

3 points
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Minniman's picture

April 19, 2022 at 05:44 pm

Absolutely! Look at John Ross - the first round, 40 yard co-record holder “bust”.

…… they’re only a ‘deep threat’ if there’s a chance that they can actually catch the ball at the end…….. as well as not have that speed nullified by being jammed up and the LOS……. 4.35 speed becomes 4.6 speed if they can be easily pressed.

4 points
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murf7777's picture

April 19, 2022 at 03:06 pm

Sammy will make a difference for Green Bay......If he stays healthy. He has game, we just need him to be at or near 100%.

8 points
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cheesehead1's picture

April 19, 2022 at 04:00 pm

Looks like a good signing IF he can stay healthy. Same goes for Cobb. I know injuries are unpredictable etc. but some players just can’t stay on the field, K.King being a good example. Hope we draft two quality receivers early on and continue to strengthen our D.

6 points
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Packers0808's picture

April 19, 2022 at 04:28 pm

Miles Boykin was cut yesterday and is a free agent. Maybe getting him could also have an effect on Packers draft plans. Just a random thought! OOps just saw Boykin claimed by Steelers!

0 points
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LLCHESTY's picture

April 19, 2022 at 04:31 pm

Anybody stanning for Christian Watson in the 1st round should take a close look at Miles Boykin. Very similar players athletically. Even their numbers from their last years in college are similar, although Watson played on an extremely run heavy team.

Bears fans are pretty vocal about wanting him on the team. He must be from the area or something.

0 points
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Johnblood27's picture

April 19, 2022 at 05:14 pm

Bares fans are desperate for any kind of warm body to pin some hopes on.

5 points
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dobber's picture

April 20, 2022 at 07:49 am

My understanding is that Boykin is physically imposing but has no "feel" or technical savvy.

1 points
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arthurl's picture

April 19, 2022 at 04:47 pm

Packers are probably gonna draft two WRs and having another veteran will help the development of these rookies. If Watkins stays healthy I feel he has the potential to put up some nice numbers. He should quickly develop a rapport with Rodgers and stands a chance to earn trust. As for the rookies drafted, regardless when they get selected, they are on a learning curve. I don’t expect these first year players to have a significant impact this season which means it falls on Watkins, Cobb, and Lazard unless they pickup another vet. Amari could take a jump in year 2.

ARod not being available until training camp is kinda an issue this season with the new pieces at WR.

7 points
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Johnblood27's picture

April 19, 2022 at 05:16 pm

Congrats Arthur!!

You yanked the sword right outta that stone with...
1) Rodgers TRUST...
and
2) AR not participating in off season activities

4 points
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Minniman's picture

April 19, 2022 at 06:25 pm

Yes, I’d have loved to see Rodgers there early this season to start the work with what will be a new group. Maybe that’s the role of Cobb - to at least start to teach them the route nuances that Rodgers expects, so when he does turn up they’re within a chapter of ‘the same page’…… as opposed to potentially a completely different book (to expand the metaphor).

It’s more reps for Love and Benkert too.

3 points
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Johnblood27's picture

April 19, 2022 at 06:55 pm

I gotta say...

Ii get the AR not coming thing.

He is grad school and the newbies need to get outta junior high first and the coaches can earn their cash by doing that before professor AR gets a shot at the newbies.

But...

He could come by and joke a little and put everyone at ease for the grad classes that will come later.

For 50 mil he could humor the kids a little...

just sayin...

2 points
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Minniman's picture

April 19, 2022 at 09:12 pm

Agree, he can brood all he wants if things go pear shaped late in the season, but the opportunities are there to be taken in May to make the connections that will be relied on in December\January

-2 points
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Hematite's picture

April 21, 2022 at 08:37 am

👍👍👍

0 points
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Coldworld's picture

April 19, 2022 at 06:48 pm

Definitely the glass is half full take. It’s very similar to what the Ravens hoped for last year. However, despite some good moments early, his production cratered after his mid season hammy. If he’s healthy he can help and has skills, but it’s been half a decade and more since he’s really stayed mostly healthy all season. He’s hopefully a transitional player and then limited snap type like Cobb, if we get lucky.

1 points
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LambeauPlain's picture

April 19, 2022 at 08:30 pm

Sammy mostly allows Gutey to draft 2 WRs, not 3. Opens up options for D and OL. He was a good signing with an incentive laden deal. I hope he surprises Packer fans and the NFL. It is possible. There are not that many first round WRs in the NFL that have Sammy's YAC and blocking excellence. In fact, he is the only one.

4 points
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Coldworld's picture

April 20, 2022 at 09:48 am

The problem with Watkins is that if you use him heavily he gets hurt and when hurt he is largely invisible if he’s able to get on the field. Yes he can block, but only if he’s healthy and he hasn’t been able to stay that way since 2015.

I like the pick up, I think he helps, but I think he will have to be managed as Cobb was last year. Both help if they are healthy, but any plan has to accept that that can’t be relied upon and have competent alternative that LaFleur and Rodgers are willing and able to sub in and use.

0 points
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jannes bjornson's picture

April 19, 2022 at 08:30 pm

His Contract really starts when he makes the Cut. I still expect the FO to secure three WRs from this group and at least one Inline TE.

2 points
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dobber's picture

April 20, 2022 at 09:28 am

I would say 2 WR and 1 TE for certain, 5th round and earlier. If they take a 3rd WR, I would expect that guy to be a ST guy (returner/gunner) with a chance to develop and probably late. I tend to side with LH's argument that if you bring in 3 new WR, you're going to end up exposing one at cutdowns unless they fit a specific (and protected) role, like a ST specialist.

As for TE, I don't see them investing in two because I don't see Lewis, Tonyan, or Deguara going anywhere and they usually only keep 4. Even if Tonyan's on the pup, they like Davis and Dafney, too. Drafting a second TE would be a lot like that 3rd WR...he'd have to have a specific role.

Really, I'd say 3 pass-catchers on the whole. Longer-term, they'll need to draft more TE/WR in 2023, and that spreads out development and future contracts.

2 points
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jannes bjornson's picture

April 21, 2022 at 11:52 am

Lewis may be past his due date.

0 points
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greengold's picture

April 20, 2022 at 07:29 am

THIS.

I love the signing, just to have his presence in the WR Room for what I suspect will be 4 new WRs.

As a matter of fact, Coldworld, I wouldn’t mind if we PUP’d Watkins for the first half of the season, saving him for the hopeful run into and through the playoffs.

It’s always a concern adding injured players, or those with extensive histories there. Doesn’t matter if it’s FA or via draft. Injured players always tend to be injured players throughout their careers.

Hamstrings… whoosh.

Would be great, though, to have Sammy Watkins simply make it through half a season - THE LAST HALF, walking off the plane carrying the Lombardi Trophy.

2 points
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PatrickGB's picture

April 20, 2022 at 07:31 am

Cap issues remain even after his affordable contract. https://heavy.com/sports/green-bay-packers/sammy-watkins-contract-detail...

0 points
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greengold's picture

April 20, 2022 at 07:31 am

Fantastic piece, Wendell! Well done.

1 points
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KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

April 20, 2022 at 10:32 am

A few obvious observations:

IF WATKINS CAN STAY HEALTHY HE CAN BE A DIFFERENCE MAKER!

Extremely obvious he has better hands than MVS on that bomb over shoulder look. NO WAY MVS catches that ball!

-1 points
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Starrbrite's picture

April 20, 2022 at 06:18 pm

It begins with being available—remaining healthy.

1 points
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