Buffalo Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins wants the football.
As the team’s supposed No. 1 receiver, Watkins has just seven catches on 13 targets for 99 yards in the three games he’s played. Those numbers all rank fifth among Bills pass-catchers.
The second-year receiver went public Thursday with his dissatisfaction while speaking to Tyler Dunne of the Buffalo News:
That’s what I get mad at: when I don’t get looked at. 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.
After the Bills’ 40-32 loss to the New England Patriots in Week 2, Watkins spoke to his agent about his unease, per Dunne: “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?’"
First off the agent never called me or anything else. This just in he’s just like every other wideout. You know (Chris) Hogan just said the same darn thing, get me the ball, get me the ball. Look we all get it. The guy is a tremendous talent and he’s frustrated because he hasn’t played. He’s been out. He’s hungry and wants to be out there and be with his teammates and contribute. That’s the big thing. Get him the ball, that’s fine, but I’d rather he get it on the field than on the sideline.
The Bills selected Watkins with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft at a costly price, trading that year’s No. 9 overall pick as well as first- and fourth-round picks in 2015. As a high-price commodity, Watkins' desire to contribute as a top-end receiver is warranted.
And it appears his voice has echoed, as Watkins indicated to Dunne that coaches informed him his targets will increase.
In defense of Bills quarterbacks Tyrod Taylor and EJ Manuel, Watkins has missed the last two games because of an ailing calf.
Taylor emerged as the starter in the preseason but could be the latest Bills player to miss time after suffering an MCL sprain in Week 5. Manuel would get the nod in Taylor's stead, according to Jeremy Bergman of NFL.com.
Watkins has faith in his long-term individual success in large part because of those under center, per Dunne:
I understand that these guys are young. What you really have to look at is in five or six years, no, they’re not going to be [New York Giants quarterback] Eli [Manning] but they’re going to be elite. When you look at Eli, he might be out of the league in four or five years. So when I’m healthy and I’m going into my years, I’ll have a top quarterback who can throw the ball. So that’s how I look at these guys.
If you take away Eli, I don’t see another quarterback stepping in and making those reads and making those checks at the line. Once these guys grow the next three or four years, if they’re still here, you’ll definitely see those high numbers.
Attrition has been the team’s story this season, particularly among high-profile skill players such as Watkins and running backs LeSean McCoy, Karlos Williams and Cierre Wood. The Bills’ latest injury report listed 13 offensive players.
Injuries happen everyday. I can't really go out there hoping that it doesn't pop. If it does, there's more life to live. You've got the next year and hopefully the next year. I'm going to go out there trying to win a game. If it pops, it pops. If it don't, hopefully I'll be right for the next week.
But Watkins believes his presence will help a Bills offense that ranks 24th overall (328.2 yards per game) and ninth in scoring (24.8 points), per Mike Rodak of ESPN.com.
"With me on the field, it's a different game plan, it's a different scheme," Watkins said. "I feel like the offense has just been basic without me out there. Defenses have been having their way, which is attacking the box in the run game."
Overcoming injuries is a challenge every team faces, and Sunday's game against the red-hot Bengals will be a worthy test for a Bills bunch that had preseason aspirations of a Super Bowl.