Buffalo Bills Position Previews – WR
by Paul Peck, Buffalo Sports Page
Likely Starters: Sammy Watkins, Zay Jones, Andre Holmes
Potential Backups: Philly Brown, Rod Streater, Brandon Tate, Walter Powell, Dezmin Lewis, Rashad Ross, Dakiel Shorts
The receiver position for the Bills starts and ends with the health of Sammy Watkins. Healthy, he’s a game-breaker and one of the best in the league. No matter what other receivers play, if Watkins is healthy it’s a position of strength. If he’s not healthy, the Bills offense will ask a lot of rookie Jones to become the main target. The Bills are wisely being cautious with Watkins. It’s a good sign that he’s full-go for the start of training camp and already making one-handed catches. But I would hope the team would limit his camp and preseason reps. Why risk it? He should already have enough timing with Tyrod Taylor that the missed practice time shouldn’t be an issue. Yes, I’m starting to worry that Watkins’ foot issues may never allow him to be the player he was drafted to be. But other top receivers like Julio Jones and Dez Bryant have come back from similar foot injuries. So there is hope that the latest surgery will fix the problem.
Jones will likely assume the other starting spot, and spend a lot of time in the slot. He would appear to be an outstanding possession receiver. That’s a compliment, not a criticism. In college, he caught a lot of passes (399) but had a limited yards per catch (10.7). I don’t see that as a negative. East Carolina fed him the ball, which is why he averaged eight catches per game. He’s not a burner, and the Bills won’t use him to run deep patterns. That’s Watkins department. Jones should be a nice balance for Sammy, and that will help both guys.
I like Andre Holmes as the other starter outside in three-receiver sets. He’s six-footfour, and the Bills don’t have anyone else that size. They likely won’t throw to him a lot, but he’s a red zone target they haven’t had in years.
Philly Brown is a veteran backup who comes with Sean McDermott from Carolina. He’ll play a small role in the offense, and contribute on special teams. Rod Streater had some success in Oakland, much like Holmes. A solid veteran who can fill in if he makes the team. Brandon Tate should be the main returner, backup, and special teams coverage guy.
The team did entertain veteran Anquan Boldin on a free agent visit. He would be a great addition, as much for his experience and knowledge as for his skill at making tough catches in traffic. I would be surprised, as I sense the team won’t break the bank for him and Boldin may be looking for a team with a better QB and better playoff hopes.
Overall, the success of the position depends on Watkins. He’s a difference-maker, if healthy. The rest of the players are just guys. Maybe enough to win with as a group. But that’s asking a lot, and asking a question the Bills would prefer not to ask.