Monday, September 12, 2022

A Rookie Drops In

By Eric Goska
Bonus Coverage
Christian Watson dropped a bomb in Minnesota.
(screen capture from NFL Game Pass)

There he was, wide open more than 40 yards downfield. A rookie, Christian Watson, the Packers’ second-round draft choice, no less.

And then . . . and then . . . he dropped the pass!

So, what was more surprising? Watson failing to come away with the catch or Aaron Rodgers targeting a rookie on Green Bay’s first throw of the new season.

The Packers struck deep on their first offering of 2022. Rodgers dropped back from the 25 and rainbowed a strike that hit Watson in the hands near the Vikings’ 32-yard line.

Had he hung on, Green Bay likely would have tied the score at 7 and gained a much-needed measure of confidence and momentum.

Instead, Rodgers and the Packers floundered in a 23-7 loss in Minnesota. Rodgers didn’t target Watson again until just under four minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.

Whatever Watson’s career arc, that first drop is not the start he desired. But the fact that the team featured him early must mean they have high expectations for the receiver out of North Dakota State.

In more than a century of football, the Pack rarely entrusts a rookie with the first pass of a new season. Going back to 1922, only five prior to Watson could be found, and three of those were running backs, not ends.

As far as could be determined (the first target of 1969 and 1975 could not be determined, though it is almost certain veteran receivers were on the field at the time), Max McGee was the last rookie end to be targeted. He, too, did not fare well in his debut.

Quarterback Tobin Rote looked to McGee twice in the first quarter as Green Bay hosted the Steelers to start the 1954 campaign, but the pair could not connect. The duo clicked only once, that late in the second quarter of a 21-20 loss.

Keith Brehm of the Racine Journal Times was not impressed.

“The Packer air attack might have worked better, perhaps, had Bobby Mann been able to play. He was out with injuries and his replacement, rookie Max McGee, snared one pass for eight yards – but McGee is no Mann. He has no fake and his ‘stationary’ play made him easy to cover.”

McGee went on to catch 345 passes for the Packers and was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame in 1975. There is no reason that Watson, too, might go on to have a stellar career with the Green and Gold.

Rookies Before Veterans
As near as can be determined (data is not available for nine seasons), these are the only six rookies to have been targeted on the Packers’ first pass of a season.

Year      Player, Position, Result
2022       Christian Watson, WR— incomplete
1986       Kenneth Davis, RB—complete, plus-5
1954       Max McGee, E— incomplete
1950       Al Cannava, B—complete, plus-28
1945       Clyde Goodnight, Eincomplete
1930       Weert Englemann, B—incomplete

1 comment:

  1. From Brian wolf ...

    McGee had a much better career than Mann but I am surprised Sharpe wasnt on that list with his ability.
    He might make the HOF next year but McGee, Dowler and Dale are definitely HOVG IMO ...