Buffalo Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins put up his second 100 yard receiving game of the season against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday bringing in nine catches for 122 yards and two touchdowns. It’s been a maturation process for Watkins as he has had to adjust to different defensive schemes, speed of defenders, and even a change at quarterback. Despite these difficulties Watkins is slowly justifying the trade up GM Doug Whaley made to get the Clemson star.
Since Kyle Orton took the reigns as the starting quarterback Watkins low output was last week against the Patriots and Darrell Revis with only two catches. The other two games has seen Watkins haul in 16 passes for 209 yards and two of his four touchdowns on the season.
In fact the QB change has been instrumental for Watkins development as he’s caught 46% of his balls from Orton, and put up 48% of his yards, all in one fewer game.
Sunday’s game was a microcosm of the Bills offense. When Watkins is targeted and a focal point of the offense good things happen. Whether that’s on first down where he has made two of his touchdown receptions, or on third down where he is converting 90% of those into first downs.
He is still improving as a receiver as he carries a reception rate of 57%, but since Orton has come in as the starter Watkins is at a 62% completion rate. Even the yards per catch has increased to 13 yards from the 10.5 he was averaging with EJ Manuel.
One can point out that Orton has been a more finished passer and has elevated the passing game with his veteran savvy, which is true, but it also comes down to the receiver doing his job and getting open.
The Bills still have to face five of the top 10 stingiest defenses when it comes to yards per play (Miami, New York Jets, New England, Green Bay), with Miami, Denver and Green Bay holding three of the top five secondaries in the league.
Knowing that there are still tests in front of the duo, it will be critical for them to overcome these obstacles. Because with the injuries to the running back position, and the offensive line continues to struggle with keeping a clean pocket, the effectiveness of Orton to Watkins will be critical for the Bills as they try to secure a playoff spot.