The Green Bay Packers got some devastating news late Saturday night. While not totally unexpected, both running back Aaron Jones and wide receiver Christian Watson will not be active for today’s game against the Atlanta Falcons. Watson injured his hamstring in practice the week leading up to the Chicago Bears’ game, and Jones hurt his hamstring on a touchdown reception in the fourth quarter of that game.
Jones and Watson are arguably the team’s most important offensive weapons outside of quarterback Jordan Love. As mentioned, both players not being active is not a complete surprise, and it is probable that head coach Matt LaFleur had a plan in place if neither could play. Furthermore, it is highly likely that these three players will play big roles in the offense against Atlanta.
1. Green Bay Packers Running Back AJ Dillon
Earlier this week, offensive coordinator Adam Stenavich said that if Jones was unable to play, undrafted rookie and Packers preseason fan favorite Emanuel Wilson would be ready to play. In addition to Wilson, running back Patrick Taylor was elevated from the practice squad again this week.
Even with reinforcements at the position, expect AJ Dillon to play a big part in the Packers’ offense against the Falcons. The former second round pick did not have a good game against Chicago, but was hampered by poor blocking on the rushing attempts he did receive.
The key for Dillon will be to not drop any passes in the short passing game. With Falcons linebacker Troy Anderson being out, the middle of the field will be in play. This will open the door for short passes over the middle. Dillon had seven drops last year and one last week. He cannot let the opportunities today pass him by.
Anderson being out will also mean big gains can be had in the running game if he can get to the second level of the defense. He will need to be patient and let the rushing lanes form in front of him instead of searching for a defender to run over.
2. Green Bay Packers Tight End Luke Musgrave
Packers tight end Luke Musgrave had three receptions for 50 yards last week in his NFL regular season debut. While that was a solid outing, he could have been even better. Chalk it up to nerves, perhaps, but the rookie seemed to get turned around on his routes and missed some would-be big catches.
Without a doubt, the Packers focused on his footwork and route running this week. He is a big, fast target that can run routes anywhere on the field. Without Watson, he should see some more looks lining up on the outside.
As mentioned, Anderson is out for the Falcons, meaning their best coverage linebacker will not be available. As linebackers are typically assigned to cover tight ends, Musgrave and Love must be able to take advantage of the mismatches over the middle.
3. Green Bay Packers Wide Receiver Jayden Reed
Wide receiver Jayden Reed also had a nice debut against the Bears, hauling in two catches for 48 yards. With both speedsters Watson and Jones out, Reed could see more targets on both short passes and deep throws.
Last week, Green Bay was able to dominate the second half because of how fast they play on offense, and Reed is incredibly fast. The Packers may use him on slot receiver screens to help wear down the defense up front. His speed also can gas the Falcons’ secondary. In other words, Reed could end up having an Aaron Jones-like effect on offense if the Packers use him in a similar fashion as they used Jones in the passing game against Chicago.