Big plays in the passing game were not a part of the Buffalo Bills’ offensive repertoire last season. But with rookie wide receiver Sammy Watkins now a staple of the offence, that looks to be changing very quickly.
After three days of training camp practices, Sammy Watkins has done more than make his presence felt on the Bills roster. He has easily exerted himself as the Bills’ most prolific offensive weapon.
With his relentless ability to create space, shift through coverage and make highlight reel catches like this one, Sammy Watkins has Bills fans buzzing over what could be in store this season when number 14 hits the field at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
Jul 21, 2014; Pittsford, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins (14) makes a catch during training camp at St John Fisher College. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports
While Sammy Watkins continues to get the crowd on their feet at training camp, quarterback EJ Manuel must continue to work on building rapport with Watkins across the middle of the field.
Through the first three days, Watkins has continuously found ways to get off the line of scrimmage and maneuver from hash mark to hash mark in the slot.
For Manuel, finding Watkins in the middle of the field will be key to his development because it will help open up the field for players like C.J. Spiller and Robert Woods. For Watkins, the middle of the field should be a familiar place for him, as that is where he wreaked most of his havoc for the Clemson Tigers last season.
With his long arms, crafty elusiveness, and explosive speed, who can blame Bills fans for throwing around the names of former star players Andre Reed and Eric Moulds, when comparing Watkins to past Bills greats early on at camp. They are certainly bold comparisons after only three days of camp, but it is not like Watkins hasn’t earned those comparisons so far.
If Watkins can keep up what he is doing early on at camp, he will certainly give a boost to a passing offence that scored a lacklustre 16 touchdowns through the air last season – tied for second-worst in the NFL.
Yes, there is a long, long way to go before the regular season (especially since most teams are just opening camp yesterday), but the early reports on Sammy Watkins have generated rave reviews among both Bills fans and the mainstream media.
Other News & Notes from Bills Training Camp:
– Defence dominates first day of padded practice
According to Mike Rodak of ESPN.com, the Bills’ defence continued to dominate in 11-on-11 play yesterday, racking up at least five sacks. Defensive end Jerry Hughes continues to shine early on at practice, while the combination of Nigel Bradham and Preston Brown continue to work at the weak-side linebacker position. Although both players are seeing time at the spot, Bradham did take first team reps when camp opened up on Sunday night.
With the defence creating pressure on EJ Manuel regularly, the quarterback has been erratic at times, once again struggling with his accuracy. But to be honest, Manuel facing a disruptive front four like the Bills’ group might be a good thing for his development as he gets to go against some of the league’s best pass rushers on a daily basis.
– The backup quarterback battle heats up
Head coach Doug Marrone was not shy about sharing his thoughts on the backup quarterback battle.
"“We have a battle for the second team quarterback,” said Marrone. “We’re trying to find out who it’s going to be, and Jeff did a nice job in OTAs and he’s earned himself some more reps.”"
While most backup quarterback battles are not worthy of a headline, the Bills battle is much more important than most teams when you consider EJ Manuel’s health issues. With Manuel missing six games last season, both Jeff Tuel and Thad Lewis saw time under centre. While neither was overly impressive, the Bills must figure out early on if they need to look elsewhere for a veteran backup, or if Lewis or Tuel can be the emergency answer.
– Offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson continues to fight through physical problems at practice
Just like after day two of camp, rookie offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson spent time with the trainers again after practice on Tuesday. While the heat has been a problem for some players, Henderson’s problems look to be from more than just heat.
Could it be a matter of conditioning for Henderson? Or even an injury that he is trying to play through? Who knows. But with the status of left tackle Cordy Glenn still up-in-the-air, Henderson has a prime opportunity to solidify himself along the Bills’ offensive line early on in camp – if he can stay healthy.
– Marcell Dareus returns to training camp
Without saying too much more about the Marcell Dareus events, here is the most important thing you need to know about him.