The Chicago Bears are facing their most-hated rival, the Green Bay Packers, to kick off the 2023 season. But, while the Bears have gotten healthier since the preseason ended, the Packers have not.
Packers wideouts Romeo Doubs and Christian Watson – quarterback Jordan Love’s top two targets – missed Wednesday’s practice with hamstring issues.
Their head coach addressed their statuses for Week 1 versus the Bears.
“Like we always say, we’ll give them the whole week and we’ll see where they’re at,” LaFleur said via the team on September 6. “They are a totally different stage of their career [than Davante Adams and Allen Lazard]. But they’re also our most experienced. So, again, we’ll give them up till game time and see where they’re at.”
Bears Could Face Packers Without Injured Playmakers
Matt LaFleur: Packers ‘Have Plan in Place’ for Bears
Both Doubs and Watson are in just their second seasons. The latter was the No. 34 overall pick of the draft in 2022. He took a while to catch on but was dynamic once he did. Watson finished the season with 41 receptions for 611 yards and 11 receiving touchdowns.
The 6-foot-5 wideout is a speed merchant and could be especially hindered by a hamstring issue, should it linger.
Doubs was a bit of a surprise as a No. 132 overall pick last season. He finished the 2023 season with 42 grabs, 425 yards, and three scores while starting seven of the 13 games he appeared. As more of a possession receiver, he might be able to make more of an impact than Watson. Both have the size to pose a challenge for the Bears’ secondary if they are healthy enough to suit up.
"Christian Watson! The rookie delivers the dagger!"
— Green Bay Packers (@packers) December 5, 2022
Green Bay is thin behind them with second-year man Samari Toure – who has five catches for 85 yards in his career – backing up rookie Jayden Reed in the slot. Rookie fifth-round pick Dontayvion Wicks and undrafted free agent Malik Heath are their only other receivers.
“It is what it is,” LaFleur said. “We’re excited. We’ve got a plan in place, and we’ll play the guys that are available and ready to go.”
This is generally the first padded practice of a typical week in the NFL, and both Doubs and Watson have plenty of time to get back on the practice field in time to be good to go for Sunday afternoon. But this will be something worth monitoring leading up to and even during the game. For their part, the Bears will be without intended starting lineman Teven Jenkins who went on injured reserve with a calf strain.
Matt LaFleur Weighs In on Justin Fields
On the other side of the ball, the Packers are far more experienced, and they have experienced facing Bears quarterback Justin Fields over the last two seasons. LaFleur shared his opinions on the young passer.
“He’s extremely talented,” LaFleur said. “I think he’s gotten better and better in the passing game. He’s just a threat to score on every play because he’s so dynamic. You got to account for not only his ability to throw the football – obviously, adding a weapon like DJ Moore presents a whole new set of challenges as well … But he can pull it down and take it to the house.”
Fields set the Bears single-season franchise rushing record by a quarterback last season.
He has said that he plans to become the Bears’ first 4,000-yard passer this season, and Moore figures to play a major role in that possibly happening.
— NFL (@NFL) December 4, 2022
Both teams are expected to lean on their respective ground attacks and, with two bottom-10 units from last season, it’s a sound strategy. Of course, the Bears revamped their linebacking corp and defensive lines while the Packers are counting on being healthier to improve over last season.
The Bears and Packers are set to write the next chapter in their historic rivalry.