GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers placed receiver Sammy Watkins on injured reserve on Saturday, one day before their big showdown game at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Packers also promoted running back Patrick Taylor from the practice squad to the 53-man roster and elevated receiver Juwann Winfree to the gameday roster.
What do those moves mean?
Injured Reserve: WR Sammy Watkins
Watkins was the lone veteran addition in the wake of the Davante Adams trade. The Packers knew the risk. He missed eight games with Buffalo in 2016 and six with Kansas City in 2018 and 2020. In fact, since his lone 1,000-yard season in 2015, Watkins missed 25 of a possible 97 games the past six seasons.
“I think I told the coaches, ‘My back is against the wall,” Watkins said during minicamp. “My career hasn’t been what I projected it to be. It’s a great opportunity for me to come here, play hard, catch a ton of balls, compete at the highest level and win games and fight to stay healthy. That’s been the knock on my career – to stay on the field. I think this is the best place to stay healthy, stay on the field and catch a lot of ball.”
As the football adage goes, injured players get injured. Now, Watkins will miss at least four games with a hamstring injury.
Watkins caught three passes for 93 yards against Chicago last week. Each of those catches were turned into points. Through two games, he was tied for first on the team with six receptions and was No. 1 outright with 111 yards. His 55-yarder vs. the Bears, by itself, would have ranked as the third-most receiving yards on the squad.
“I knew of Sammy and I watched him a little bit but I didn’t have a real familiarity with him, so I didn’t have any expectations or projections when he came in,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said on Wednesday. “He’s just come in and been a fantastic teammate and great guy and real deep thinker and interesting guy and interests outside of football and very well-spoken and curious. Just a fantastic guy. I love our conversations together. He loves ball, he cares about it. You realize how special this opportunity is for him and we want him to have success and to be able for this to be a trampoline for the second half of his career.”
Even more than before, the Packers will need rookies Christian Watson (if he can play) and Romeo Doubs to step to the forefront.
Promoted: RB Patrick Taylor
The Packers filled Watkins’ spot on the roster by promoting running back Patrick Taylor from the practice squad. Last week, Taylor was elevated from the practice squad and played eight snaps on special teams vs. Chicago.
It’s an interesting roster move by general manager Brian Gutekunst. Kylin Hill is eligible to come off the physically unable to perform list following next week’s home game against the Patriots. If nothing else, the promotion of Taylor could signal another run-heavy attack, with Taylor being the insurance policy for the one-two tandem of Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon. Moreover, with a matchup against the attacking Buccaneers, his blitz-pickup ability might have given Taylor the nod over rookie Tyler Goodson.
A star running back at Memphis, Taylor went undrafted in 2020. He sat out his rookie season and spent the first half of 2021 on the practice squad. Following Hill’s torn ACL, Taylor got a few opportunities down the stretch before rushing 11 times for 53 yards and one touchdown in the finale against Detroit. He gained 40 yards after contact on those carries.
“Man, it meant a lot,” Taylor said a few days before getting married. “From going undrafted in 2020 and not playing at all, that kind of takes a toll on your confidence. I wasn’t able to be out there on the field and play the game that I’ve become accustomed to playing for 20-plus years. It was a struggle but being able to be successful in that Detroit game was an extreme confidence boost.”
Elevated: WR Juwann Winfree
Gutekunst could have promoted Winfree to the 53-man roster in a receiver-for-receiver swap but chose to elevate him to the gameday roster for the second time this season.
In nine offensive snaps at Minnesota in the opener, he caught one pass for 17 yards. There might be more opportunities on Sunday with Watkins out and Randall Cobb (illness) and Christian Watson (hamstring) questionable. Those three played 118 snaps in the opener. The only sure things at receiver for Sunday’s game are Allen Lazard, who has been slowed by an ankle injury but is off the injury report, and rookie Romeo Doubs.
Rookie Samori Toure beat out Winfree for the last spot receiver spot on the 53 but has been inactive for both games.
“We know that, at times, it’s not a meritocracy,” Rodgers said a day after cuts were made. “There’s extra opportunity for drafted players; that’s the way we’ve done it in Green Bay for a long time, and I’m not knocking it because I wasn’t very good my first year, either. …
“I feel for Juwann because he’s such a great kid,” Rodgers added. “He’s been here in our room for a long time. He’s one of those guys where you have three opportunities to bring a guy up and down on the p-squad now with the new rules and, if he was on the p-squad for us, there’s a good chance he’d be activated on the 48 in the first game. That’s just the way it goes for whatever reason.”
Amari Rodgers, who has returned punts and kickoffs, has played only one snap on offense. If Cobb is inactive, could he finally get some playing time?
No Move Made: Kicker
Kicker Mason Crosby didn’t practice on Thursday and Friday due to illness but wasn’t given an injury designation on Friday. That signaled he was good to go for Sunday. Sure enough, the Packers didn’t elevate kicker Ramiz Ahmed from the practice squad.