AFC East: Sammy Watkins

Chatting after his Monday news conference, Bills coach Doug Marrone took exception to how snow in the Buffalo region this week will be measured in feet, not inches.

"It sounds so much worse that way," Marrone said to reporters.

No matter how you measure it -- four feet, six feet, 48 inches or 72 inches -- a truckload of snow is expected in some parts south and east of the city by Wednesday.

Players have Tuesday off before (hopefully) making it back to the facility by Wednesday. Rookie Sammy Watkins -- a native of Florida who played at Clemson -- took fans through his ride home as the snow began to fly Monday evening:


A video posted by Sammy Watkins (@sammywatkins) on


Receiver Marquise Goodwin, a pro at winter weather after spending the past season with the Bills, was unfazed:

This snow doesn't scare me... =

A photo posted by Marquise Goodwin (@_marquisegoodwin) on


Defensive end Mario Williams was also ready with some heavy equipment:


Center Eric Wood likely didn't see this kind of snow when he was at the University of Louisville:


Fourth-year running back Phillip Tanner shares a photo of ... is it his backyard? Front yard? We're not too sure:

There is a question that has generated buzz among snowed-in Buffalo Bills fans: Was the Sammy Watkins' trade worth it?

It's a debate that has come more into focus as this season's rookie crop of receivers continues to post huge numbers.

From Mike Evans (46 catches, 794 yards), to Brandin Cooks (53 catches, 550 yards), to Kelvin Benjamin (52 catches, 768 yards), to Allen Robinson (48 catches, 548 yards), there are several rookies other than Watkins making big contributions to their teams.

General manager Doug Whaley addressed the rookie receiver crop and the Bills' decision to spend a 2015 first-round pick to move up five spots for Watkins in an appearance Tuesday morning on WGR 550 in Buffalo.

"We knew this was going to be a talented group, but we were very excited and we felt that this guy would bring something to our team that we didn't have," Whaley said. "And we thought he was the best player for our situation.

"And I would hate to say... and I'm sure you're trying to get into whether I feel the trade was worth what we did give up, and I say it like this: I can count at least three games that he was the integral part for us winning. I would hate to see our record if he was not on our team."

Watkins has three games this season with 100-plus receiving yards, all wins: against Miami in Week 2, against Minnesota in Week 7, and at the New York Jets in Week 8. But in other weeks -- whether it has been a mix of rib and groin injuries or subpar quarterback play -- Watkins has been kept quiet.

The debate isn't as much about Watkins' talent as it is about the other receivers in the class and the cost to acquire Watkins. While it's hard to argue that Watkins has been a critical part of a few wins this season, that doesn't mean Benjamin, Cooks, or others wouldn't have been able to contribute.

Drafting one of those receivers -- like Odell Beckham Jr., who has 31 catches for 463 yards in six games -- would have meant the Bills could keep their 2015 first-round pick (and potentially use it on a quarterback) and perhaps even pick up an extra draft pick if they moved down in the first round from No. 9.

In a class of receivers that was considered as well-stocked as any in several years, that might have been the more prudent move.

On the other hand, the Bills believe they have a "generational talent," as president Russ Brandon put it earlier this season, in Watkins. He hasn't been the problem for the Bills' offense this season; it has been their quarterback. If Watkins had Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, or Drew Brees as his quarterback, where would he rank among rookie receivers?

Probably a lot higher, and the trade would be better justified.

Either way, it's a debate that will continue to shape Whaley's tenure in Buffalo.

Where do you stand?
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- In a span of just five days, the Buffalo Bills have gone from contenders to pretenders.

Dropping back-to-back games this week -- the latest a 22-9 loss to the Miami Dolphins on Thursday night -- has set Buffalo back in a way that relegates the AFC East's third-place team to the fringes of the NFL's playoff picture.

[+] EnlargeKyle Orton
Brad Barr/USA TODAY SportsA failure to protect Kyle Orton contributed to the Bills' offensive woes, center Eric Wood said.
In short, the wheels have come off the Bills' season.

Now 5-5, the Bills have little hope of overtaking the New England Patriots for the division title. Meanwhile, their chances for a wild-card berth are fading. With a 2-5 conference record and their head-to-head advantage over the Dolphins gone with Thursday night's loss, the Bills might need a miracle to win a tiebreaker against the other teams in the hunt.

There is little mistaking how the Bills have arrived in this unfortunate spot. Much like in their 17-13 loss Sunday to the Kansas City Chiefs, the Bills made the touchdown seem like a lost art in Miami. Held out of the end zone by the Dolphins, Buffalo has now gone 21 consecutive possessions without a touchdown.

You can't win that way, and you certainly can't get into the postseason like that.

The promise that Kyle Orton showed by kicking off his stint -- however long it might last -- as the Bills' starting quarterback with a 3-1 record has evaporated. His completion percentage has hovered at or below 60 percent in each of his past three games, and while Orton hasn't thrown an interception in that span, he's done little to inspire confidence.

Orton's Total QBR is 38.7, which is the fourth-lowest among qualifying quarterbacks. Only Austin Davis, Geno Smith and Blake Bortles have been worse by that measure this season.

Asked after the game if Orton could turn it around in time to save the Bills' season, center Eric Wood stood up for his quarterback.

"I'm very confident," Wood responded succinctly.

But why?

"I knew you were going to ask that," Wood said. "He's an experienced player. He's made a lot of plays in this league. As he plays, the rapport with his receivers will keep getting better and better. And we gotta do a better job of protecting him."

Coach Doug Marrone said that the thought of going back to EJ Manuel hasn't crossed his mind. It's hard to blame him; the Bills weren't going anywhere with Manuel at the helm earlier this season.

But where are they heading now? It's looking more and more like the Bills have two backup quarterbacks on their roster -- and no starter.

It doesn't matter how many sacks the defensive line racks up -- they tallied another five Thursday night -- or how much big league talent Sammy Watkins flashes. Without a quarterback, the Bills are stuck in the mud.

There are only six games remaining and precious time is slipping away for the Bills. They'll get a reprieve when they return home next week to host the New York Jets (2-8). But after that, watch out.

Playing four of their five games against winning teams and two of those on the road -- against the Denver Broncos and the Patriots -- the Bills have a steep, challenging path to the playoffs.

For a team that was as much a contender a week ago as any other, the Bills have unraveled in just five days. Until proven otherwise, they're pretenders, not contenders.
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills running back Fred Jackson (groin) was limited in the team's only practice of the week Tuesday.

 Wide receiver Sammy Watkins (groin) fully participated in Tuesday's practice.

After practice, coach Doug Marrone spoke about the difficulty of determining the readiness of some of his injured players.

"What's difficult is the limited players -- the players that are limited -- you never really practice at a level to know whether they can go in and play the amount that you want them to play," Marrone said. "I think for me, this week, that has been the biggest challenge for me."

Here is the Bills' full Tuesday injury report; statuses for Thursday's game will be released on Wednesday:

Did not participate:
DE Jarius Wynn (knee)

Limited participation:
RB Fred Jackson (groin)
CB Ron Brooks (groin)
WR Marcus Easley (knee)
WR Marquise Goodwin (ribs)

Full participation:
WR Sammy Watkins

Watkins, Jackson practicing for Bills

November, 11, 2014
Nov 11
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills running back Fred Jackson and wide receiver Sammy Watkins both practiced Tuesday.

Despite their groin injuries, both Jackson and Watkins played in Sunday's loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. The expectation is that both will play Thursday night against the Miami Dolphins.

It was the lone practice of the week for the Bills, who will travel Wednesday to South Florida.

Defensive end Jarius Wynn (knee) was the only player not spotted at Tuesday's practice.
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills running back Fred Jackson (groin) was listed as a limited participant on the team's projected Monday injury report.

Wide receiver Sammy Watkins (groin) was projected to be a full participant in Monday's practice. Both Watkins and Jackson played in Sunday's 17-13 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Bills only held a walk-through practice Monday but were required to submit an injury report, as they play the Miami Dolphins on Thursday night.

Here is the full report:

Did not participate:
DE Jarius Wynn (knee)

Limited participation:
RB Fred Jackson (groin)
WR Marquise Goodwin (ribs)
WR Marcus Easley (knee)
CB Ron Brooks (groin)

Full participation:
WR Sammy Watkins (groin)
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Buffalo Bills' 17-13 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs:

In the know: The Bills listed wide receiver Sammy Watkins (groin) and running back Fred Jackson (groin) as questionable on their injury report, and both players -- as well as coach Doug Marrone -- maintained during the week that their statuses for Sunday's game were up in the air. Defensive end Jerry Hughes, however, told a different story after the game. "We knew all week," Hughes said when asked if Watkins and Jackson would play. Neither player took part in a pregame workout on the stadium field with trainers. Watkins went through a normal warm-up routine with his fellow receivers.

Correct call? As for the false start penalty called against Seantrel Henderson on a fourth-and-1 early in the fourth quarter, Marrone simply stated, "They said it came in from New York that it was a good call."

The NFL has members of its officiating department in New York City and observers in the press box, so the flag was reviewed quickly and determined to be correct. Marrone was not willing to say after the game if he was planning on running a play before Henderson was flagged or if he was simply trying to draw the Chiefs offside.

Injuries: Defensive end Jarius Wynn (knee) and wide receiver Marquise Goodwin (ribs) were both injured in Sunday's game. Wynn's injury appeared to be more serious; he was wearing a sleeve around his right leg in the locker room and moving gingerly.
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Welcome to Ralph Wilson Stadium, where the Buffalo Bills (5-3) host the Kansas City Chiefs (5-3) at 1 p.m. ET Sunday.

Weather conditions: Another great fall day for football. Temperatures are in the low 40s and skies are partly cloudy. There is a slight chance of a shower Sunday morning, but no precipitation is expected in the afternoon. Winds are forecast at 13 mph.

Monitoring Sammy Watkins and Fred Jackson: The expectation is that the Bills will put both Watkins and Jackson, who each have groin injuries, through a pre-game workout. Of the two players, Jackson would seemingly have the better chance to be active. He practiced all week -- albeit on a limited basis -- while Watkins didn't practice after leaving Wednesday's session.

No players declared out: The Bills do not have any players declared out for the game, meaning they are relatively healthy across the roster. One position to watch with the inactives is the offensive line, where backup Cyril Richardson did not practice this week because of a death in the family. He could be a healthy scratch, paving the way for Cyrus Kouandjio to be active for the first time this season.

Allen gets the call: Brad Allen, a first-year NFL official, is the referee for Sunday's game. He also officiated the Bills' season opener in Chicago.

W2W4: Buffalo Bills

November, 7, 2014
Nov 7
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills (5-3) will look for their first 6-3 start since 1999 when they host the Kansas City Chiefs (5-3) on Sunday.

Here is what to watch for:

1. Sammy Watkins' status: Watkins was listed as questionable on Friday's injury report, indicating that the team has yet to make a final decision on his status. The concern is that Watkins hasn't practiced since leaving Wednesday's session with a groin injury. For a player like Kyle Williams or Fred Jackson, that lack of participation might not be a problem on game day. But for a rookie like Watkins -- despite his talent -- it could be a hard obstacle to overcome in coaches' minds. If Watkins can't play, expect Robert Woods and Chris Hogan to start at wide receiver. As for the third receiver, Marquise Goodwin is probable for the game and the top option to fill that role, meaning Mike Williams' playing time could again be limited. If Watkins can play, Williams isn't likely to be active.

2. Monitoring the backfield: The second injury situation to watch for the Bills is at running back, where Fred Jackson (groin) is questionable. He practiced all week on a limited basis, but Doug Marrone didn't give an optimistic take Thursday or Friday, saying Jackson wasn't ready to play. If Jackson is active, I'd still expect the Bills to lean more on Anthony Dixon. One area to watch is third downs, where Dixon said he's been receiving some reps this week. For most of this season, that's been one of Jackson's roles. If Jackson can't play, Bryce Brown slides onto the radar. At this point, I'd consider Brown's role secondary to Dixon's, whether Jackson plays or not.

3. Chiefs' pass rush: The Chiefs boast one of the NFL's best pass rushes, sacking opposing quarterbacks on 9.3 percent of dropbacks, the second-highest rate in the league. For a Bills offensive line that has struggled in both pass protection and run blocking this season, Kansas City's defensive line poses a significant challenge. Not having Watkins would be a blow to Kyle Orton, but the real hits would come if the offensive line can't hold up. The more the offense sputters -- as it did for a large chunk of the Bills' win over the New York Jets -- the more pressure will be put on the defense to carry the game.

4. Double take: The next week of the calendar could have a major impact on the outcome of the Bills' season. A win Sunday over the Chiefs would set up an even more important matchup next Thursday against the Miami Dolphins. Win or lose, expect players in the locker room after Sunday's game to talk about turning the page and preparing for a road trip on a short week. If the Bills can pull off back-to-back wins and improve to 7-3 by next Friday, it will be an exciting time in Buffalo and the playoffs will be within grasp. Lose both games and the Bills will fall back to .500 and slide deeper into the pack of what is a historically strong AFC.

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins and running back Fred Jackson are both listed as questionable for Sunday's game against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Watkins did not practice Thursday or Friday after leaving Wednesday's practice with a groin injury.

"I think it's something to be concerned about, obviously," coach Doug Marrone said of Watkins' lack of participation in practice this week.

Watkins, speaking Friday for the first time since the injury, said he underwent an MRI this week but was not aware of the results or if he will play Sunday.

"That's the coach's decision about whether I should play. It's a long season so I'm really clueless right now. I don't know," Watkins said. "They didn't update me or really tell me what's going on."

Running back Fred Jackson practiced on a limited basis again Friday.

"We're still not where we need to be for him to go out there," Marrone said. "We're still progressing with that."

Jackson returned to practice this week after suffering a groin injury in an Oct. 19 win over the Minnesota Vikings. Doctors initially gave him a monthlong timetable to return.

"There's always a chance. So I'm always excited about that. It would be good to get back out there," Jackson said Friday. "We still got a couple days, see how everything reacts and see what they decide."

Here is the Bills' full injury report from Friday:

WR Sammy Watkins (groin; did not participate)
RB Fred Jackson (groin; limited participation)
CB Ron Brooks (groin; limited participation)

G Cyril Richardson (not injury related; did not participate)
WR Marcus Easley (knee; limited participation)
WR Marquise Goodwin (hamstring; limited participation)
LB Ty Powell (ankle; limited participation)
WR Robert Woods (back; full participation)
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins was not spotted at the start of Thursday's practice.

Watkins left Wednesday's practice with a groin injury and did not return. While the Bills do not believe his injury is serious, ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported that Watkins was scheduled to undergo a precautionary MRI.

In Watkins' place, receivers Robert Woods and Chris Hogan lined up with the first team in warmups Thursday.

The Bills will have a brief practice Friday before hosting the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.

Meanwhile, running back Fred Jackson was present at the start of Thursday's practice. He returned to Wednesday's practice but was a limited participant.

Guard Cyril Richardson (non-injury) remained out of practice Thursday.

Midseason report: Buffalo Bills

November, 5, 2014
Nov 5
video » AFC Report: East | West | North | South » NFC: East | West | North | South | HOME

Can the Buffalo Bills sustain their early-season success and snap their 14-season playoff drought?

That's the burning question halfway through the season for a team that has started 5-3 for the first time since 2011. That season, the Bills lost seven of their last eight, a collapse that mirrored similar 5-3 starts in 2008 and 2002.

If the story is different this season -- and the Bills can gain their first postseason berth of this millennium -- it will be a stamp of approval to coach Doug Marrone's surprising decision to bench second-year quarterback EJ Manuel in favor of Kyle Orton after just four games.

Orton, who has brought a steady veteran presence to the offense, is 3-1 in his first month at the helm. Along with rookie receiver Sammy Watkins and a stout defensive front, Orton and the Bills are gearing up for a second-half push to the playoffs.

MVP: Defensive tackle Marcell Dareus. In truth, this award is shared by the entire defensive line, but Dareus' performance has risen above the rest. The fourth-year defender, who was in the news for the wrong reasons last offseason after two arrests, has excelled under new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. Through Week 9, his seven sacks are tied for eighth in the NFL and he is just a half-sack shy of his career high, set last season. Dareus is just one piece along a dominating defensive line that also includes Pro Bowlers Kyle Williams and Mario Williams, along with rising defensive end Jerry Hughes. The Bills have the NFL's second-most sacks, with 28.

Biggest disappointment: Manuel. There's little doubt about this one. The Bills reached by selecting Manuel in the first round of the 2013 draft, making him in the first quarterback taken in what has proven a weak class of signal-callers. Manuel, who showed flashes of promise in between knee injuries last season, was healthy this September but regressed. His QBR fell in each of his four starts, from 59.1 in a season-opening win in Chicago to 7.4 in a Week 4 loss in Houston. The Bills surrounded Manuel with plenty of offensive weapons, and he proved too raw to take advantage of the opportunity.

Best moment: Watkins' 2-yard, game-winning touchdown catch against the Minnesota Vikings. This Week 7 moment defined the Bills' first half of the season. It was hardly pretty, but the Bills were able to pull out a win with some last-minute heroics. Down 16-10 to the lowly Vikings at home, Orton led the Bills on an 80-yard drive that looked close to ending before a 24-yard catch by tight end Scott Chandler on fourth-and-20. Several plays later, Orton found Watkins for the go-ahead score with one second remaining. Had the Bills not pulled out the win, they would have fallen to 1-3 at home and 3-4 on the season.

Worst moment: J.J. Watt's 80-yard pick-six in a loss to the Houston Texans. This might prove to be one of the final acts of the Manuel era in Buffalo. Early in the second half in Week 4, with the Bills leading 10-7, Watt pulled down a short pass by Manuel and went the distance to give the Texans a lead they wouldn't surrender. Before that play, the Bills were outscoring teams 72-52. After that Texans score, the Bills' offense wouldn't take the field again with a lead until Week 8.

Key to the second half: Running the ball. Orton and Watkins have received much of the attention in recent weeks, and for good reason: Their connection through the air looks to only be getting better with time. Yet ask Orton and he'll tell you that there must be a more balanced offensive attack. "We play in Buffalo, so obviously at some point the weather is gonna come and we're gonna have to grind out a win running the football," Orton said last week. "No doubt about that." The Bills were the NFL's third-worst rushing team in October, averaging 3.15 yards per carry. Getting workhorse Fred Jackson back from a groin injury sometime in November will help, but the Bills will be hard-pressed to make the playoffs without an improvement in the running game.
Last week, Buffalo Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins was named the NFL's offensive rookie of October.

On Tuesday, Watkins took home another prestigious honor when voters named him the midseason offensive rookie of the year for ESPN's "NFL Live" program.

Watkins earned the most votes in 48 states. Only North Carolina and Hawaii voted in favor of fellow rookie receiver Kelvin Benjamin.

The Buffalo Bills' quarterback switch has been kind to wide receiver Sammy Watkins.

Since Kyle Orton replaced EJ Manuel in the starting lineup at the start of October, the rookie has seen an across-the-board increase in production.

On Thursday, the NFL named Watkins its rookie of the month for October.

Watkins caught 21 passes for 393 yards and three touchdowns over the past month. It's a marked improvement from his September performance, when he had 17 catches for 197 yards and two touchdowns.

He becomes the first player in Bills history to win the NFL's offensive rookie of the month award. Last season, linebacker Kiko Alonso won the NFL's defensive rookie of the month honors for September.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Buffalo Bills' 43-23 win over the New York Jets:
  • Watkins
    Coach Doug Marrone wasn't happy about Sammy Watkins' premature celebration that cost him a touchdown on an 84-yard catch in the second quarter. "There's a lot of people that were upset," Marrone said. "We weren't hurt by it because we were able to come back and score, and I don't really expect a guy like Sammy to ever do that again." Marrone pulled aside Watkins after the play. "I said, 'There were people on that sideline' -- meaning his teammates -- 'that were upset. We're playing our butts off, and we don't have time for stuff like that,'" Marrone said. "Those are the things we have to work on -- winning and growing up."
  • As noted by the Buffalo News before Sunday's game, the Jets were the first team with a 1-6 record to be favored over a winning team in recorded betting history. Marrone used the Jets' three-point edge by the oddsmakers as motivation for his team in a pregame meeting. "We were the underdogs tonight," wide receiver Mike Williams said. "A lot of guys took it personally, and we went out and played." Center Eric Wood called it "insulting," adding, "They have a good football team, but based upon records and everything you would have assumed we would have been favored."
  • After Kyle Orton's fourth-quarter touchdown pass to tight end Scott Chandler, Williams returned to the locker room to find a dime for his quarterback. According to Williams, Orton asked "What's this?" when Williams presented the coin to Orton. "I'm giving it back to you because you just threw one," Williams responded. "I think he was hitting tonight," the veteran receiver added.
  • As for Williams' future with the team, the NFL trading deadline is Tuesday, and the possibility of a trade still exists. "Of course, a lot of interest out there. But I love being here and I keep telling [my agent] that, too," he said. "I'm a Bill until otherwise." Williams said he will stay in town during the upcoming bye week. "Stay with the team and whatever and listen. Hopefully I'll be a Bill next week," he added.