Last season, Buffalo Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins was part of a crew of rookie receivers who looked ready to take over the NFL.
Taken with the fourth pick in the draft, Watkins pulled down 65 catches for 982 yards and six touchdowns.
This season, in light of a rebuilt Bills offence and a calf injury, Watkins hasn’t seen much action, with just seven catches for 99 yards and a touchdown in three games.
When Watkins is healthy, he wants that to change. Watkins went on a rant to Buffalo News’ Tyler Dunne that was surprisingly upfront about not getting enough targets.
“That’s what I get mad at — when I don’t get looked at [by quarterbacks],” Watkins said. “I can look at film and his eyes go straight that way and I’m not getting looked at, at all. That’s when I get frustrated. When I have one-on-one coverage, go to me.
“I don’t care what’s going on over there. I don’t care if he’s open. When I get one on one, just target me.”
Watkins noted that top receivers like Julio Jones, A.J. Green, and second-year receiver Odell Beckham Jr. all get targeted by their quarterbacks in one-on-one situations, and he said he should get the same treatment.
Watkins then demanded he get at least 10 target per game.
“Everybody looks at you getting zero catches, zero yards but when you look on film 90 per cent of the time you’re open. I understand that these guys [quarterbacks Tyrod Taylor and E.J. Manuel] are young and they need some time to trust me. Once we get that trust, it will be different. But for me, I need the ball at least 10 times — I need 10 targets — and I’ll be fine with however many yards I get. And that’s what I addressed in talking with my agent. We reached out to a couple people and tried to pull some strings like, ‘Hey, I need my targets. You came up to draft me and I’m not getting targets — that’s a problem. You’re making me look bad and you’re making yourself look bad. Why not make both of us look good?'”
Watkins also wouldn’t complain about getting even more targets.
“I see the bigger picture. I enjoy spreading the ball around. It makes my job easier,” Watkins added. “But at the same time, for a guy you go up in the draft to take as your No. 1 receiver, you would love those 15 targets that Julio gets, those 20 targets that Odell gets. Of course I’d have 100 yards every game and a TD, if I’m getting 20 targets.”
While Watkins has proven he’s good enough to get several targets per game, this kind of talk for a second-year, 22-year-old receiver is borderline stunning. Watkins was very good in his first season, but he doesn’t have the track record of Jones or Green or even Beckham, who had more yards and touchdowns in his rookie season than Watkins, despite playing fewer games.
Bills coach Rex Ryan did a good job backing Watkins, saying he half-jokingly introduced him to the quarterbacks of a means of encouraging more targets, but nonetheless, this has to rub other players and the coaches the wrong way.
When Watkins does return from injury, it will be interesting to see whether the Bills start throwing his way, or if they phase him out as a way of showing him he’s not bigger than any other members of the offence.
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