Watkins shocked by trade, but is ex­cited to be in L.A.

Los Angeles Times - - INSIDE BASEBALL - By Lind­sey Thiry lind­sey.thiry@la­times.com Twit­ter: @Lind­seyThiry

Sammy Watkins donned a fresh Rams T-shirt and smiled as he walked up the Coli­seum tun­nel Sat­ur­day, but the Rams’ new re­ceiver couldn’t hide the sur­prise he felt to be there.

“Just a to­tal shock,” Watkins said about the trade that brought him to Los An­ge­les from the Buf­falo Bills. “But I am def­i­nitely ex­cited and hon­ored to be here.”

Less than 48 hours ear­lier, Watkins caught four passes, three in the first three plays, in a Bills pre­sea­son game. Shortly after­ward, he was in­formed that he was traded.

“I just thought I was catch­ing hot,” Watkins said. “I mean they was tar­get­ing me pretty quick and then af­ter the game I was like, ‘Oh, I prob­a­bly was out there au­di­tion­ing.’ ”

Rams coach Sean McVay ex­pects Watkins, 6 feet 1 and 211 pounds, to pro­vide a much­needed ver­ti­cal threat for sec­ond-year quar­ter­back Jared Goff. Gen­eral man­ager Les Snead said ac­quir­ing a re­ceiver with size and speed was on the agenda since last spring.

Two hours be­fore the Rams and Dal­las Cow­boys kicked off in a pre­sea­son game, Watkins had yet to meet with McVay and was un­sure how he would fit in the of­fense, but said he was fa­mil­iar with the Wash­ing­ton Red­skins’ of­fense, where McVay spent the last three sea­sons as the of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor, and that he was cer­tain he could be a deep tar­get.

“I just feel like that’s in my game,” Watkins said. “I can be that home run guy.”

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

But he also has an in­juryrid­dled his­tory that caused the Bills to de­cline the fifthyear op­tion on his rookie con­tract. Snead said the Rams “felt com­fort­able” with the risk.

Last sea­son, be­cause of a foot in­jury, Watkins was lim­ited to eight games. He caught 28 passes, two for touch­downs.

Watkins said Sat­ur­day that in­juries were not a con­cern. “The foot thing is out the door,” he said. “Prob­a­bly got to get in a lit­tle bit bet­ter shape, but other than that I am fine.”

Watkins will re­unite with for­mer Bills team­mate Robert Woods in a po­si­tion group that in­cludes Tavon Austin, who has been side­lined be­cause of ham­string in­jury, Pharoh Cooper, Mike Thomas and rook­ies Cooper Kupp and Josh Reynolds.

“They got what they need as far as Robert Woods and Tavon and the guys they drafted,” Watkins said. “I’m just here to add to that and just come here and have fun and win some games.”

Home-f ield ad­van­tage

At times, Sat­ur­day’s game looked like a re­turn to col­lege for run­ning back Justin Davis as he broke off a 32-yard run across the Coli­seum grass.

Davis, a stand­out at USC, rushed for 70 yards in nine car­ries.

But he also fum­bled twice in a se­ries and the Cow­boys re­cov­ered the sec­ond fum­ble.

“Def­i­nitely just had to go through some learn­ing pains to get the feel of it be­cause it’s def­i­nitely not col­lege,” Davis said.

Davis joined the Rams as an un­drafted free agent, a some­what cu­ri­ous choice given the depth at the po­si­tion with starter Todd Gur­ley, the ac­qui­si­tion of free agent Lance Dun­bar and back­ups Mal­colm Brown and Aaron Green.

But Davis’ choice has seemed to pay off.

Dun­bar, who played five sea­sons with the Cow­boys, was side­lined for most off­sea­son work­outs and has not par­tic­i­pated in train­ing camp drills be­cause of a knee in­jury.

Davis was in­serted in the game af­ter short ap­pear­ances from Gur­ley and Brown.

Gur­ley rushed for two yards in four car­ries and Brown rushed for 25 yards in five car­ries.

De­fen­sive line

Rams de­fen­sive line­man Aaron Don­ald, a three-time Pro Bowl se­lec­tion, con­tin­ues his hold­out for a rene­go­ti­ated con­tract.

Fifth-year pro Michael Brock­ers, third-year pro Ethan West­brooks, and Louis Trinca-Pasat, who was on the prac­tice squad in 2015 and spent last sea­son on the in­jured re­serve, started against the Cow­boys in new de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Wade Phillips’ 3-4 de­fense.

“It didn’t feel any dif­fer­ent,” Brock­ers said about the new scheme. “We still at­tacked, we’re still get­ting up the field, but maybe we’re a lit­tle rusty.”

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