If you’re a Buffalo Bills fan, there’s no doubt that at some point last season you found yourself pulling your hair screaming at your television screen, “Throw the ball to Sammy Watkins!” If you weren’t one of those fans, I did plenty of screaming for you.
For me, both primetime games last year (Week 9 and 10) against the Jets and Patriots were prime examples of games I found myself disappointed in the coaching staff's commitment to getting their best player the ball.
Watkins Week 9 and 10 Stats:
Week 9 @ NYJ: 3 rec (7 targets), 13 yards
Week 10 @ NE: 3 rec (6 targets), 49 yards
Compare that to the following week against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 11 where Watkins had 10 targets that included six receptions for 158 yards and two touchdowns, most of which were accumulated in the first half alone.
Then start comparing Watkins to other receivers around the league and you'll see a significant disconnect. For example, take his former college teammate DeAndre Hopkins. In his 2015 season, Hopkins had 13 games where he had 10 or more targets. Compare that to Watkins’ four games of 10 or more targets and you'll see why Hopkins was able to amass 111 receptions and just over 1,500 yards receiving.
Critics will say Watkins needs to stay healthy, which is a valid point. Others will say he needs a quarterback and a system that singles him out as the go-to weapon. What I believe it comes down to is consistency and continuity. Having Greg Roman back for a second year will only help. Having Tyrod Taylor coming into his second full season as a starter can only be positive as well, especially because Watkins and Taylor haven't had a lot of time to work on their timing and chemistry due to injuries.
But what I take real issue with is Watkins only getting 14 combined receptions and 168 yards over the course of weeks 1, 2, 3, 6 and 9, yet when there was a conscious effort to get Watkins the ball, he was able to put together an eight reception, 168 yard and one touchdown performance in Week 8 alone against the Miami Dolphins.
If those stats don’t blow your mind, here’s another. In his first 1,000 yard season, Sammy Watkins amassed 81% of his 2015 yardage output in just seven games. Imagine what Watkins would have been able to do if the coaching staff and quarterback alike targeted Watkins on a consistent basis.
Although there are a number of factors that will ultimately determine the success of not only Watkins, but the team as a whole, creating an offense that utilizes the talents of its' best players will undoubtedly make things easier for Tyrod Taylor and a Bills offense that struggled mightily through the air at times last season.