Packers' Watson believes he still has time to step up his production during frustrating season

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GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Green Bay Packers wide receiver Christian Watson remains confident he can turn his disappointing season around.

After all, he has done it before.

“At some point, it’s going to click,” Watson said. “It’s tough mentally just knowing it hasn’t happened yet, but at the end of the day, I can’t control or change anything that’s happened in the past. I’m just focused on this next one.”

Watson dealt with injuries and inconsistency as a rookie last year before breaking out in mid-November, when he started a four-game stretch in which he scored eight touchdowns. That raised hopes the 2022 second-round pick from North Dakota State could emerge as a legitimate No. 1 receiver.

Although the 24-year-old Watson still has plenty of time to live up to that billing, this season, thus far, has represented a major step backward.

After missing Green Bay’s first three games with a hamstring injury, Watson had a 1-yard touchdown catch against Detroit in his first appearance of the season. The 6-foot-4 wideout hasn’t scored since.

Watson has caught just 14 passes for 236 yards. Nearly one-third of those yards came on one play — a 77-yard gain in a 17-13 loss at Las Vegas on Oct. 9.

“I think he just needs to go out there and play fast, play decisive and play confident because he’s a guy that has all the ability,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said.

“He’s a big guy that can run, and we need him to show that every opportunity on tape. If guys are going to get up in your face and want to bump you, you’ve got to be in attack mode and you’ve got to come off the line of scrimmage with a great stance and start and try to work people’s edges and get on top of them that way.”

In Green Bay’s past four games, Watson has been targeted 22 times, but has just nine catches for 120 yards. Last season, Watson caught 41 passes for 611 yards and scored nine touchdowns (seven receiving, two rushing).

That drop of production has led to plenty of criticism.

“I’ve been playing this game a long time,” Watson said. “I’ve been through a lot of adversity. It’s really just on the bigger scale with more opinions. I’m only worried about what people in this room are saying and what people in my home are saying.”

Watson’s teammates continue to support him.

“My message to Christian is just keep your confidence, don’t let any of that stuff ever (make) your confidence waver or anything like that,” quarterback Jordan Love said. “I’ve got complete trust in Christian.”

With most teams, Watson could have leaned on the guidance of a veteran receiver who had been through similar situations and could offer some guidance. That was the case last season, when the roster included Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb.

Lazard and Cobb departed in the offseason, leaving the Packers (3-6) with a young receiving group in which Watson and fellow 2022 draft picks Romeo Doubs and Samori Toure have the most experience.

“We’re just leaning on each other,” Watson said. “Me, Rome, Samori, we got to learn from our older guys last year. So obviously we had a rough patch last year we had to overcome and get through. So we’ve been through some smoke already. Obviously we don’t have a guy who’s been doing it for years and years, but we got to experience it a little bit last year, so we got to learn from that.”

Watson instead has been the one having to hand out advice to Green Bay’s rookie receivers such as Jayden Reed, the second-round pick from Michigan State with a team-high 417 yards receiving.

“There’s no question he’s been a leader,” Reed said. “He’ has helped me. I’ve gone to his house, and we’ve caught balls off his JUGS machine.”

Sunday’s home game with Keenan Allen and the Los Angeles Chargers (4-5) represents an ideal time for Watson to begin a surge. Watson says he considers Allen, Julio Jones and Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans three of the receivers he admires the most.

“I think it’s his consistency,” Watson said. “He’s found a way to be really good at what he does. His footwork, his route-running ability, his ability to make plays in space. He has continued to be able to do that each and every year.”

NOTES: The Packers claimed CB Kyu Blu Kelly off waivers from the Seattle Seahawks. Kelly played five games for the Seahawks this season. ... LB Quay Walker, who hasn't played in the Packers' last two games due to a groin injury, practiced on a limited basis Wednesday. CB Jaire Alexander didn't practice as he deals from a shoulder injury that kept him from playing in a 23-19 loss at Pittsburgh on Sunday. S Rudy Ford (biceps) also didn't practice.

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