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LaFleur Feels ‘Awful’ About Watkins But Excited About Doubs

With Sammy Watkins on injured reserve, rookie receiver Romeo Doubs caught eight passes for the Green Bay Packers in their win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – Green Bay Packers receiver Sammy Watkins’ pain is rookie Romeo Doubs’ gain.

Without Watkins and rookie Christian Watson (hamstring), Doubs played 55 of 62 offensive snaps in a 14-12 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday. He caught all eight passes thrown his way, including catches of 21 and 9 yards to set up his 5-yard touchdown on the opening drive. He added a 9-yard catch on Green Bay’s second scoring drive.

“He was a guy that showed up consistently being able to separate vs. man coverage that we were getting,” coach Matt LaFleur said on Monday. “I thought he did an outstanding job. He’s got the body-movement skills, he’s got the explosiveness, he plays on his insteps, gets both feet in the ground, and that allows him to get off bump coverage. And the game is not too big for him. I think you see it. I feel it every time we go out there: a guy that’s just showing more and more confidence, and I think that’s a big part of being able to play to your potential.”

With Watkins on injured reserve, Doubs – the talented fourth-round pick from Nevada who was a sensation for the first half of training camp – figures to get a lot of snaps for at least the next few weeks. If he keeps producing, Doubs’ new role could become permanent.

Watkins through two games was tied for first on the team in receptions and was first by a wide margin in receiving yards. In the Week 2 victory over Chicago, he caught three passes for 93 yards. However, he injured a hamstring and was placed on injured reserve on Saturday, meaning he’ll miss at least four games.

While Watkins’ injury history is long-established, LaFleur took the blame for what happened at Wednesday’s practice. This wasn’t just the coach falling on the sword for one of his players. With a few too many hamstring and groin injuries for his liking, LaFleur is having his strength and conditioning staff comparing and contrasting the practice routines from this season to his first three seasons.

“I feel awful about that because I feel like we probably pushed our guys a little too hard in that regard in coming off a physical game, a night game,” LaFleur said. “He’s done everything in his power to be in great shape, and he is in great shape.

“We’ve had a few too many soft-tissue injuries, so that probably tells you that we’re maybe pushing it a little too much. It’s an unfortunate part of it. Feel bad about it but there’s nothing we can do about it retroactively. We can only control moving forward what we ask our guys to do.”

One change LaFleur made this year was moving the one padded practice allowed per week from Thursday to Wednesday. That change was made at the request of special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia, whose punt/punt return units practice on Wednesday and Fridays. But is that too much of a burden too soon after a game?

“That’s definitely crossed my mind,” LaFleur said.

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What’s done is done. While the injury was a major blow for Watkins, who was hoping to use this season as a way to propel his career into a strong second act, it means opportunity for Doubs (and for Watson, when he’s healthy).

Until Doubs’ big day on Sunday, the Packers hadn’t had a receiver not named Davante Adams catch eight-plus passes in a game since the 2018 opener. In between Cobb and Doubs, Adams had 23 games with at least eight receptions.

“This is a kid that’s got a ton of potential, and we’re excited about him,” LaFleur said. “Obviously, young player, not even close to his ceiling. And he’s just got to keep taking the same approach, which I know he will. He takes it one day at a time, and he tries to be his best every day. There’s going to be a lot of learning along the way. I think these next few weeks are going to be just critical to his growth [with him] having the majority of the snaps. He cares about the game and he gives great effort each and every day.”

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