Robert Woods quiet since Bills QB change

October, 29, 2013
10/29/13
5:00
AM ET
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- A lot of well-deserved attention has been given to one of the Buffalo Bills' second-round picks -- linebacker Kiko Alonso -- but their other second-round selection also came out of the gates strong this season.

Wide receiver Robert Woods was considered as one of the most NFL-ready players in April's draft and has lived up to that billing, starting the first eight games of the season for the Bills.

With top pass-catcher Stevie Johnson dealing with a preseason hamstring injury, Woods seemed to develop an early rapport with rookie quarterback EJ Manuel. The 21-year-old receiver and 23-year-old quarterback connected on the Bills' first touchdown of the season -- and for each, of their pro career -- in a season-opening loss to the New England Patriots.

For the month of September -- when Alonso was named the NFL's defensive rookie of the month -- Woods was among the offensive nominees, named by NFL coaches.

But in the three games since Manuel went down with a knee injury, Woods hasn't been the same.

Consider his performances with Manuel at quarterback:

Week 1 vs. Patriots: 2 targets, 1 receptions, 18 yards, 1 touchdown
Week 2 vs. Panthers: 6 targets, 4 receptions, 68 yards, 0 touchdowns
Week 3 vs. Jets: 8 targets, 2 receptions, 35 yards, 0 touchdowns
Week 4 vs. Ravens: 8 targets, 4 receptions, 80 yards, 1 touchdown
Week 5 vs. Browns: 13 targets, 5 receptions, 64 yards, 0 touchdowns

Since Thad Lewis has taken over the starting role, Woods' numbers have dipped:

Week 6 vs. Bengals: 6 targets, 2 catches, 9 yards, 0 touchdowns
Week 7 vs. Dolphins: 4 targets, 3 catches, 24 yards, 0 touchdowns
Week 8 vs. Saints: 4 targets, 1 catch, 7 yards, 0 touchdowns

Asked Monday about Woods' recent drop-off, Bills coach Doug Marrone noted that it hasn't been Woods' playing time that has fallen off; it's been his production.

"I think his production numbers are down," Marrone told ESPN. "But not his playing time. He's playing more than anybody."

Woods has played in 565 of 592 offensive snaps so far this season, a 95.4 percent clip.

Marrone hinted that defenses may be targeting Woods, who has been a bright spot in the Bills' 30th-ranked pass offense.

"We just have to see where we fit him in and find him ways to put him in the progression. What teams have been doing has been taking away some of the progression, what we do," he said. "It's not from his lack of playing well."

Digging deeper, ESPN Stats & Information tracks whether a receiver runs a pass route on any given play. Through Week 5, Woods was targeted on 22.7 of plays where he ran a route. Since Week 6, he has been targeted on only 14.1 percent of such plays.

With Lewis the quarterback for the immediate future, there is a simple conclusion on how to get Woods' numbers back up.

"We need to get him the ball," Marrone said.

Mike Rodak

ESPN Buffalo Bills reporter

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