ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Sammy Watkins has one rule when it comes to playing receiver.
It’s on him to catch anything within his reach.
“My job is to catch the ball. I can’t control where the quarterback throws it,” the Buffalo Bills’ first-round draft pick said. “If my hand touches it, I’ve got to catch it.”
If that’s the case, then Watkins was perfect in making his debut Saturday, when the Bills opened a three-day minicamp.
From catching a side-armed wobbler delivered by former Ohio State backup Kenny Guiton on the first play from scrimmage, to making an arms out-stretched catch that sent Watkins tumbling, there was no ball that escaped Watkins’ grasp to the delight – and relief – of coach Doug Marrone.
“You like the way he catches it. I mean, he is a first-round draft pick,” Marrone said, breaking into a smile. “I mean, if I came out here and he dropped five balls and he fell down five or 10 times, we’d be crying.”
During an hour-long session that featured no hitting and was minus veterans, Watkins showed glimpses of the dynamic ability he displayed during a three-year career at Clemson, where he broke 23 school records.
The Bills, who had the No. 9 pick, were so sold on Watkins that they were willing to trade with Houston to draft him first overall. They settled on trading two picks – including a first-round selection in 2015 – in a deal with Cleveland to move up five spots to take Watkins at No. 4.
Bills general manager Doug Whaley called it both a bold move and a calculated risk in a bid to provide a spark to an inconsistent offense, and help the Bills to end a 14-year playoff drought – the NFL’s longest active streak.
The following day, the Bills essentially freed up a starting job for Watkins by trading Stevie Johnson to San Francisco.
“It’s everything on the line. That’s not just for me, that’s the whole team: the coaches, everybody. We’ve got to win now,” he said. “For me, I’ve got to work a little harder than everybody else.”
Watkins looked good even on the throws that bounced at his feet or sailed over his head. On one play, he made a double-move – driving inside before making a sharp cut to the outside – that had cornerback Ross Cockrell turned around and going the wrong way. Watkins was wide open along the right sideline only to have Guiton overthrow him.