After a breakout rookie campaign, it seemed as though Sammy Watkins was on the fast track to becoming one of the NFL's elite wide receivers. Injuries and a lack of targets early in the season derailed that for the time being, but he still expects to reach that plateau in the future.
"I'm just trying to get to that elite category if I'm not already there," Watkins said via Tyler Dunne of the Buffalo News. "Just trying to play my game and every week impose my will on the opposing secondary. Just keep playing hard. I think I'm finishing blocks. I'm running great routes and just trusting my preparation."
Watkins said earlier in the season that he needs 10 targets per game. That hasn't happened recently, but the Bills have found a winning formula over the past month.
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"Yeah, I'm not getting the ball," Watkins said, "but when I have my opportunities, those big plays I catch, I'm good with those."
Although he hasn't been targeted as much as he wants to be, Watkins is still making a huge impact for the Bills. His receiving yards have increased despite not catching many passes. That's mainly due to the number of deep routes he's run, and is averaging 18.7 yards per catch, fifth-best among receivers with at least 20 receptions.
Rex Ryan and the coaching staff have been working on ways to get Watkins the ball -- rather than just sending him deep -- by moving him into the slot and running shorter routes.
"I'm moving in a lot of different directions," Watkins said. "Moving all over the field, motioning in, running just about every route. Slot routes. Across-the-field routes. Deep balls. Just trying to move where I can't get doubled every play, to where it creates different match-ups on a linebacker, on a nickel, that's what we're doing."
Watkins should be in for a big day against the secondary of the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. They're 24th in the league, allowing 258.8 yards passing per game.