With just about every member of the Green Bay Packers’ 90-man roster at mandatory minicamp last week, Matt LaFleur dialed up some competitive 11-on-11 drills during portions of Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s practice sessions–and for rookie wide receiver Christian Watson, he may have experienced his first “welcome to the NFL” type of moment.
On several of the snaps during the various two-minute drills, Watson found himself lined up across from Jaire Alexander, who just recently signed an extension that made him the highest-paid cornerback in football.
Although Alexander would, unfortunately, miss most of last season, in 2020, he was a second-team All-Pro after allowing a completion rate of just 48% on 76 targets and only 9.5 yards per catch with three interceptions and 14 pass breakups, according to PFF ($$).
We one rep with Jordan Love at quarterback, Watson, with his 4.36-speed, tried to run past Alexander on a deep ball down the left sideline. But Alexander was positioned well, and it resulted in an incomplete pass as Watson ended up having to play defense in order to breakup a potential interception.
On a different rep with Aaron Rodgers under center, Watson was lined up in the slot on a fourth-and-five scenario. Rodgers tried to find Watson in the end zone, but as Ryan Wood would account, Alexander was in perfect position and forced the pass breakup.
While these were only a two reps over the course of Packers mandatory minicamp, from the sounds of it, there will be plenty more to come this summer as Alexander does his best to push Watson
It wasn’t too long ago that when Alexander was a rookie, he was lined up on Davante Adams, facing his own “welcome to the NFL” moment. We saw that last summer as well, with Adams frequently lining up across from then-rookie Eric Stokes as well.
It’s moments like these that, in the long run, should make any rookie better and hopefully shorten their learning curve in the process as they routinely face some of the best competition that the NFL has to offer. If a young receiver can handle going up against Alexander on a regular basis, there aren’t going to be too many surprises when the regular season rolls around–and that is exactly what Alexander’s intention is.
“I played against the best receiver in the league, Davante Adams, all four years I’ve been here,” Alexander said via Packers.com. “I’m going to make it as hard as I can for those guys because I know on Sunday it’s going to pay off. Iron sharpens iron. However I can help to make them better, I’m going to do that.”
Rodgers would tell reporters this past week that he prefers production over potential, so at least early on in the season, the Packers are likely going to rely more on their experienced pass-catchers while the Watson and the other young players continue to get caught up to speed. Rodgers would later add that there is the offense on paper, and then there is what’s actually run on the field.
However, Watson should still have a defined role within this offense right away as a vertical threat and gadget player with the speed he possesses. Watson could also provide a spark on special teams as a former All-American kick returner with the North Dakota State Bison.
But for now, there is just one week of OTAs left before everyone breaks and then reconvenes at the end of July for training camp. Watson, along with the rest of the rookies still have a lot to absorb as they adjust to the NFL, but you can bet that as those practices unfold, you’ll see Alexander continuing to challenge Watson.
As Alexander said, iron sharpens iron–something that has worked out well for him and Stokes.