Sammy Watkins: Year Two


So I pull up my Timehop today (a social media time machine for people who do not recognize the name), and in there is a tweet from Peter King.

"Fantastic practice for rookie WR Sammy Watkins today. Steamrolled McKelvin on jam 1 play, beat him on slant next snap. Caught long sideline throw and plucked high ball later. He is the goods."

Of course after this is sent out, people flocked to St. John Fisher College in Pittsford, NY to see if this kid was the real deal at last year’s training camp and the answer was a resounding yes.

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But let’s go back to that tweet again and look who he was going against: Leodis McKelvin. Granted, he got better this past season. But he has never been known as a great shutdown corner.

Getting back to Watkins, his freshman campaign was not stellar but it was good. He finished sixth in the league among rookies in catches (65) and fourth in yards (982). Take into account the quarterback debacle that has doomed Buffalo for what seems like forever, those are pretty good. The number that worries me is touchdowns, as he only hauled in six on the year.

Oct 26, 2014; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Buffalo Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins (14) points to the crowd as New York Jets wide receiver

Saalim Hakim

(15) tackles

at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

While that number ranks T6 among first-year players in 2014, there were not that many explosive, big-yardage plays. His longest catch of the year was 84 yards, and that was when he got tripped up at the two-yard line for celebrating too early at MetLife Stadium.

We look back and laugh at that now, because the Bills ended up walloping the Jets in that game, but how many more plays were there like that?

Of course he showed his athletic ability reaching to the pylon against the Dolphins in Week 2 and then the great hands when he tipped the ball to himself against Detroit in Week 5, but there was never any real consistency.

One day he’ll make two catches for 27 yards, the next he’ll go for nine and 122 with a pair of touchdowns.

This season from Watkins, I’ll be looking for a couple of things and they go hand-in-hand. The first thing is consistency.

He had ebbs and flows in his first year in Western New York, which is expected for any rookie who comes into the league (unless your initials are OBJ). But to ask for 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns in his second season should not be that tall of a task, right?

Greg Roman and Rex Ryan are all about running the ball, that is understandable and with LeSean McCoy, it should be. But there should also be a solid utilization of probably the second-most explosive player on the offensive side of the ball in Watkins when teams start stacking the box.

The second is more consistent routes and hands. Yes, having Kyle Orton and EJ Manuel as your quarterback does not do a standout receiver like Watkins wants to become any good. But to have just under half of your targets end up incomplete, that is a problem.

Most of the time, it was on the quarterback with an underthrow or overthrow. But sometimes, it was Watkins’ fault, dropping passes that hit his hands.

Dec 14, 2014; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins (14) and Green Bay Packers cornerback

Sam Shields

(37) during the first half at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

The routes part of it is not his fault. A lot of the orientation with Manuel and Orton was short throws, with the occasional shot deep that would be misfired. But some cleaner routes, stops and cuts would make it easier for QBs to target Watkins when he’s open and not misjudge his next step or throw it where he is not going.

I would love to see Ryan and Roman combine to get Watkins in space. His ability to get open and explode after the catch is almost unmatched in the NFL, making him a rare breed and a weapon dying to be used in this day and age’s football of spreading three, four, five WRs out and throwing the ball.

If these do pan out, Watkins will probably have the highest jump in production from first to second-year receivers and jump into that “elite” category of his class with Beckham, Evans and the like. He was billed as the top receiver in the 2014 draft class and disappointed a little.

Now it is time, with new weapons, a new coaching staff and most likely a new quarterback, for him to show the league what he is really capable of.

Videos credited to’s “Around the League” who did a piece and put these videos together.

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