NFL AM: Watkins Health Tied To Bills Success


Watkins Is Key To Bills Future

If you listen to Buffalo Bills head coach Rex Ryan, the team with the longest current playoff drought in the National Football League is also the team to beat entering the 2016 season.

“I’m excited about this team,” Ryan said after the Bills’ final minicamp practice. “Obviously a lot of things have to happen, and we’re a month or so away, but I told our players today to ‘win July.’ We won the offseason. I would challenge any team. I think we’ve won the offseason.”

The Bills managed to re-sign offensive tackle Cordy Glenn, but as a team they were 32nd in the league in free agent spending.

Clearly Rex likes his roster from last year, a team that finished 8-8 which was their second straight non-losing campaign.

“Again, I don’t know about these other teams — I’m sure they’ve had some great camps, too — but I’ve been really impressed with this group,” Ryan stated.

The player who could take Buffalo over the top and end their 16-year playoff drought is wide receiver Sammy Watkins.  The Bills fell in love with the former Clemson star in the draft and they moved all the way up in the first round to select him.

Through two seasons, he has proven himself to be a valuable weapon….when healthy.

Although he’s only missed three games in two seasons (Buffalo finished 1-2 in those contests), Watkins has had nagging injuries that have consistently slowed him down.  A stress fracture slowed him for much of last season and he had offseason surgery to help repair it.

“All I know is that Sammy won’t miss time in the regular season,” Ryan said, via the Buffalo News.

When he is healthy, he’s the type of weapon that keeps defensive coordinators up at night.  His 4.3 speed can blow the top off a defense and he can take a simple hitch, force a missed tackle and take it to the house.  His 15 receiving touchdowns in 29 career games speaks of that.

Watkins health is certainly the most important factor for the Buffalo offense.

“For training camp, I think I’ll definitely be available,” Watkins said, via “I might sit out two or three days. It’s all about how I feel within those days. The goal is to come back and be prepared for training camp.”

The threat of a healthy Watkins on the outside makes the Bills offense complete.  It makes quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who’s playing for a contract that much more dangerous.

The team was hesitant to talk contract extension with Taylor after just one year of starting, but he’s the closest thing the Bills have had to a franchise quarterback since the days of Hall of Famer Jim Kelly.

“I’m sold. I’m definitely sold,” Watkins said about Taylor in an ESPN interview. “He’s just grown as a leader on our team.”

For Taylor to get paid, the Ryan family to keep their jobs, general manger Doug Whaley to keep his and a good part of upstate New York to keep their sanity this winter, Sammy Watkins is going to have to be healthy and play 16 games.

Shorts Takes Pay Cut From Texans

Houston Texans wide receiver Cecil Shorts was supposed to be the missing piece in the defending AFC South champs passing woes.

After signing a two-year, $6 million deal as a free agent, Shorts had an injury plagued, inconsistent 2015 campaign with Houston where he caught just 42 passes for 484 yards with a pair of touchdowns.

Any Jacksonville Jaguars fan can tell you that 2015 season is exactly who Shorts is.

According to the Houston Chronicle, Shorts has accepted a pay cut. He’ll now make a base salary of $1.2 million instead of the $2.75 million his contract originally called for him to make.

Shorts and his agent were wise to accept the cut.  There’s not a huge market for a guy with inconsistent hands and nagging injuries and although he had a few solid seasons in Jacksonville, the team’s passing game took off in 2015 once he was gone.

It’s unlikely Shorts would have received more than the $1.2 million he’s due and his new salary is in line with a No. 3 or 4 receiver, which is what he is.  The six-year veteran from Mount Union will compete for reps with rookies Will Fuller and Braxton Miller, and second-year receivers Jaelen Strong and Keith Mumphery opposite Pro Bowler DeAndre Hopkins.

With his new salary, Shorts would likely get the benefit of the doubt in a roster competition over an undrafted rookie.


About Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein is the managing football editor for Football Insiders and has covered the NFL for over a decade.  Charlie has hosted drive time radio for NBC and ESPN affiliates in different markets around the country, along with being an NFL correspondent for ESPN Radio and WFAN.  He has been featured on the NFL Network as well as Sirius/XM NFL Radio and has been published on Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated, ESPN as well as numerous other publications.