IRVINE, Calif. (AP) — If the Los Angeles Rams needed someone to vouch for wide receiver Sammy Watkins before acquiring him in a trade from the Buffalo Bills on Friday, they didn’t have to go very far.
Wide receiver Robert Woods and cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman, who both played in Buffalo for the past four seasons before signing with Los Angeles as free agents, expect the former No. 4 overall draft pick to provide a major jolt of energy to the Rams’ passing offense.
Woods said Watkins is ”a big, big, big-time receiver,” while the gregarious Robey-Coleman sees him as the kind of difference-maker the Rams have lacked since the heyday of ”The Greatest Show on Turf” when they were located in St. Louis.
”To me, in my eyes, he’s a true No. 1,” Robey-Coleman said. ”He’s, like, just Sammy Watkins. For real. Y’all are going to see it though. Y’all are going to see it with your own eyes. Me talking about it is just another thing, but when y’all see it in person y’all are going to feel it.”
Upgrading the options for quarterback Jared Goff has been a priority since losing all seven starts in his disastrous rookie season, and trading former starting cornerback E.J. Gaines and a second-round pick in the 2018 draft is the boldest commitment yet to that aim.
If Watkins can live up to Robey-Coleman’s assessment, it becomes a worthwhile transaction, even if it also means using the franchise tag to keep him or signing him to a lucrative long-term deal as his contract expires at the end of this season.
Watkins showed hints of that potential in Buffalo. He finished just 18 yards receiving shy of the 1,000-yard mark as a rookie, then followed it up with 1,047 yards and nine touchdowns in his second season despite missing three games due to injury.
Even as he missed eight games last season because of a foot injury that ultimately required surgery, Watkins still averaged 15.4 yards per reception, a threshold no Rams receiver reached in 2016.
Simply having Watkins on the field should make the game easier for Goff and the other receivers. Woods has first-hand experience in benefiting from the one-on-one coverage Watkins can create, and coach Sean McVay showed in Washington with DeSean Jackson that he can take advantage of a deep threat.
”I think his vertical presence and even just his threat and his name will allow defenses to play us different because you always have to have someone over the top of him,” Woods said.
”You see in McVay’s offense how he is always spreading the ball around, multiple receivers with 1,000 yards, and I think that’s the same thing that helps us. We all lose targets, but I think the main goal is to win games and be productive, and I think that will help us as an offense.”
Bringing in Watkins also gives Goff another experienced receiver to go with Woods and Tavon Austin, who has been limited in training camp with a hamstring injury.
Add in rookies Cooper Kupp and Gerald Everett, an athletic tight end drafted in the second round, and that should be enough of an improved supporting cast to judge what kind of strides Goff has made.
Watkins is expected to arrive in Los Angeles on Saturday after catching four passes for 39 yards in the Bills’ preseason opener Thursday. The Rams host the Dallas Cowboys on Saturday to begin their exhibition schedule.
”I don’t even know if you can play in two games in one week, but he did a nice job last night,” McVay said.
”We’ll get him going right away, start getting him acclimated to our verbiage and our system, and looking forward to being able to get to know him a little bit better and see how he is able to absorb the material. He is certainly going to be a good addition for our offense and I think the guys are excited about it.”
Woods was shocked by the trade, with McVay informing the Rams receivers shortly before it was announced.
”Still didn’t believe him,” Woods said, ”but it’s like a crazy, crazy deal.”
More AP NFL: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL