Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Packers know they don’t have a No. 1 receiver; here why they ‘don’t think it matters’

Last season’s Green Bay Packers had one of the most unusual wide receiver rooms in recent NFL history. Every receiver in their regular rotation entered the league in either 2022 or 2023, meaning they were all first- or second-year players. 

Christian Watson, the team’s second-round pick in 2022, was the old man of the group at a mere 24 years old. He came into the season expected to operate as the team’s likely top target, but injuries caused him to miss games and limited him in a number of others, and the Packers evolved their offense into a much more egalitarian one. They didn’t really have a go-to wideout. 

Romeo Doubs (96) had the most targets, while Jayden Reed led the group in catches (64) and yards (793). Those figures ranked 38th (targets), 35th (catches) and 35th (yards) among receivers leaguewide. Doubs’ 17.1% team target share, via Tru Media, ranked 40th, while Reed’s 24.4% targets per route rate ranked 23rd. 

Still not getting the picture? Consider that there were 204 instances last season of a wide receiver being targeted on at least 30% of his team’s pass attempts, and just two of those games belonged to a Packers receiver. To put that in perspective, a Packers opponent targeted one specific wide receiver on at least 30% of their throws in Weeks 11, 13, 14, 15, 17, and 18. That’s six times in eight weeks! That’s how different the Packers’ ball-distribution philosophy was from that of the rest of the league. 

Green Bay is now entering the 2024 season with largely the same group on hand. Watson is back, as are Doubs and Reed, along with Dontayvion Wicks, Bo Melton, Malik Heath and Samori Toure. Again, there is not necessarily a “No. 1” type of receiver among that group. But the Packers don’t care.  

“I personally don’t think it matters,” head coach Matt LaFleur said, via The Athletic. “I think if you just look at throughout the course of a season ago — and every season’s going to be a little bit different — but all those guys had their moments where they were the leading receiver in a game. I feel really good about the collective unit. The hardest part is we feel so good about them, it’s hard to get everybody the amount of touches that you’d like to get, but that’s a good problem to have.”

Indeed, Watson, Reed, Doubs, Wicks, and Melton each had games where they led the Packers in receiving. But as previously mentioned, they didn’t necessarily get a ton of targets, as the wealth was more spread around than it was on other squads. But Love said that fits his play style. 

“I think that’s one thing that I’ve always tried to do is just play the play,” he said. “Play the play, go through my reads and find who’s open. Don’t try and force it because I feel like once you try and lock in on a guy and force it, not great things happen and then you might miss somebody who might be open on the play. … Play dependent, if there’s a certain guy I might want to look at matchup-wise and things like that, I’ll go to him, but I just like to play it out.”

Perhaps one or two of these players separates themselves from the rest of the pack in 2024. They all have different skill sets, and some might prove more consistently useful than others. But having too much wide receiver depth is the kind of thing that’s never really going to be a problem, especially in a league that is as dependent on the passing game as is the modern NFL.  

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