A ver­ti­cal re­al­ity

Rams trade for Watkins, the deep threat McVay needs

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Gary Klein and Lind­sey Thiry

On the eve of their pre­sea­son opener, the Rams and new coach Sean McVay de­cided to go deep.

The Rams traded for Buf­falo Bills wide re­ceiver Sammy Watkins on Fri­day, giv­ing McVay and quar­ter­back Jared Goff a des­per­ately needed ver­ti­cal threat.

The Rams sent cor­ner­back E.J. Gaines and a po­ten­tially high-value sec­ond-round pick in next year’s draft to the Bills in ex­change for Watkins and a sixth-round pick.

“Clearly, you’re get­ting a spe­cial re­ceiver,” McVay said af­ter prac­tice. “In his ca­reer, when he’s been avail­able, he’s been out­stand­ing in terms of be­ing able to stretch the field ver­ti­cally.

“When the ball’s in his hands, good things hap­pen.”

Watkins might be on the side­line for — but will not par­tic­i­pate in — Satur­day night’s pre­sea­son game against the Dal­las Cow­boys at the Coli­seum.

Re­gard­less of when Watkins makes his Rams de­but, McVay said the ad­di­tion was help­ful to the team, “and es­pe­cially our quar­ter­back.”

The 6-foot-1, 211-pound Watkins has been spec­tac­u­lar at times, but he also has been plagued by in­juries since the Bills traded two first-round picks to move up and se­lect him with the fourth pick in the 2014 draft.

Watkins, 24, has 153 ca­reer re­cep­tions for 2,459 yards and 17 touch­downs. He has av­er­aged 16.1 yards per catch.

But he also has had hip surgery, two foot surg­eries and other in­juries. Last sea­son, be­cause of a foot in­jury, Watkins was lim­ited to eight games. He caught 28 passes, two for touch­downs.

Un­cer­tainty in the af­ter­math of Watkins’ in­juries caused the Bills to pass on ex­er­cis­ing their fifth-year op­tion, which would have cost about $13.3 mil­lion. Watkins will earn $3.1 mil­lion this sea­son in the fi­nal year of his rookie con­tract.

Rams gen­eral man­ager Les Snead said the Rams had been “flirt­ing with Buf­falo and Sammy” since spring. The talks in­ten­si­fied af­ter the Bills de­clined the op­tion on Watkins and the Rams de­clined to ex­er­cise their op­tion on since-traded of­fen­sive tackle Greg Robin­son, the No. 2 pick in 2014.

Watkins caught four passes — in­clud­ing three in the first three plays — on Thurs­day night in the Bills’ 17-10 ex­hi­bi­tion loss to the Min­nesota Vik­ings.

Snead said the Rams stud­ied Watkins’ in­jury his­tory.

“When you dove into it,” he said, “we’re com­fort­able tak­ing the risk.”

If the Rams do not sign Watkins to a long-term con­tract, he will be­come a free agent at the end of the sea­son.

Is this a long-range move for the Rams?

“He’s 24,” Snead said. “You don’t just do it for the now.”

Watkins joins a re­ceiv­ing corps that in­cludes former Bills team­mate Robert Woods, Tavon Austin, Pharoh Cooper, Mike Thomas and rook­ies Cooper Kupp and Josh Reynolds.

He pro­vides the Rams with a proven deep threat, an el­e­ment sorely lack­ing dur­ing train­ing camp, and one that is im­por­tant to McVay’s of­fense.

The speedy Austin and the rangy Reynolds have been side­lined be­cause of ham­string in­juries. Thomas is sus­pended for the first four games of the regular sea­son be­cause of a vi­o­la­tion of the NFL’s per­for­mance-en­hanc­ing sub­stance pol­icy.

Snead said the Rams have been in the mar­ket for a deep threat since the off­sea­son.

“That was on the agenda whether it was this spring, this sum­mer, next free agency, next draft,” he said.

Last sea­son with the Washington Red­skins, McVay called plays for an of­fense that fea­tured re­ceivers DeSean Jack­son and Pierre Gar­con. Both eclipsed 1,000 yards re­ceiv­ing be­fore sign­ing as free agents with other teams.

“You look at some of the suc­cess Washington’s of­fense was able to have with some of the play­mak­ers they have,” McVay said. “We’re try­ing to do some­thing here.”

Woods played along­side Watkins for three sea­sons be­fore sign­ing a free-agent con­tract with the Rams that guar­an­teed $15 mil­lion. Woods said it was a “shock” when McVay in­formed the re­ceivers of the trade Fri­day morn­ing, but that he was ex­cited to play again with Watkins.

“He’ll make it quite eas­ier for us,” Woods said. “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, which al­lows us to just have our one-onone matchups.”

Gaines was start­ing his fourth sea­son with the Rams and was on track to back up Kayvon Web­ster. He had a solid rookie year in 2014 but missed the 2015 sea­son due to a foot in­jury. Last sea­son, he played in 11 games but was slowed by sev­eral in­juries.

McVay said that cor­ner­back Nick­ell Robey-Cole­man could move from the slot to out­side if nec­es­sary and that Troy Hill also was ca­pa­ble. Etc.

Lineback­ers Robert Quinn and Mark Bar­ron, Thomas and pos­si­bly cor­ner­back Kayvon Web­ster are among play­ers who will not play Satur­day as a pre­cau­tion­ary mea­sure, McVay said . . . . Star de­fen­sive line­man Aaron Don­ald re­mains a hold­out. “Not any move­ment.” Snead said. “There is hope. There is hope that he’ll be a Ram a long time.”

Adrian Kraus As­so­ci­ated Press

WIDE RE­CEIVER Sammy Watkins, ac­quired from Buf­falo for cor­ner­back E.J. Gaines and a sec­on­dround pick, has av­er­aged 16.1 yards a catch with 17 touch­downs in three sea­sons but has bat­tled in­juries.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.