Sammy Watkins is Andy Reid’s new toy (PFN Film Room)

The loss of Tyreek Hill will certainly hurt the Kansas City Chiefs. Luckily, a healthy Sammy Watkins will give Andy Reid a new offensive toy to play with.

Coming out of Clemson, Sammy Watkins was one of the most heralded wide receiver prospects we have seen this decade. He was a sure-fire hit according to most draft pundits, and the Buffalo Bills traded up to take him fourth overall in the 2014 NFL draft.

His time in Buffalo did have its moments, including a 1,000-yard season in 2015, but was mostly defined by injuries. When a new regime took over, the Bills moved on from Watkins and traded the former first-round pick to the Los Angeles Rams.

While he was effective in Los Angeles, scoring eight touchdowns, it wasn’t enough for the Rams to retain him for 2018. Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid saw the potential in Watkins. Soon Watkins was offered a contract paying him $16 million annually in free agency. He again fought injuries all of last season, only catching 40 passes. However, the front office continues to believe in Watkins ability.

Fast forward to opening Sunday of the NFL and Watkins rewarded them with a breakout performance. Watkins exploded for nine receptions on 11 targets for 198 yards and three touchdowns. His accomplishments not only helped the Chiefs win the game but lessened the blow of losing Tyreek Hill to injury. 

During his week one explosion, Watkins displayed why he was a such a highly-touted prospect, finishing with an 82% success rate on all his receptions. His first down rate was an extremely high (45%), and he added four explosive plays according to sharp football stats.

When it was all said and done, Watkins finished with a perfect passer rating when targeted and displayed his YAC ability with 135 total yards after the catch.

Andy Reid used Watkins in a variety of ways to get him touches. Let’s look at the film to examine how Reid put the former first-round pick in a position to succeed.

YAC Ability

Watkins has always been an explosive player. In his first game of the 2019 season, Watkins came out blazing, looking like a player we have not seen in years.

His first big play of the game came in the first quarter on Kansas City’s first drive of the season. The Chiefs lined up in 11 personnel with Hill as the running back, and LeSean McCoy to Patrick Mahomes‘ left as the slot receiver. Travis Kelce lined up tight and to the right with Watkins outside to Mahomes’ right. The Jacksonville Jaguars are in quarters coverage and will be pattern matching depending on which receiver comes into their area.

Before the snap, Hill motions to the right, creating the look of a wide receiver screen. The play begins, and both Watkins and Kelce appear to be blocking for the screen, sucking in the linebackers to the left. The look opens up the middle of the field and forces the safeties to hesitate to pick up players who come into their zones. The hesitation from the defensive backs gives Mahomes the window he needs and finds Watkins in the middle of the defense. He then makes Jalen Ramsey look silly and finishes things off with a 68-yard touchdown.

Sammy Watkins from the slot

Reid used Watkins all over the field, and he was able to shine lining up in the slot in different formations. He has excellent mental processing working inside and can find holes in the defense against zone coverage. Head coach Andy Reid knows this and set him up to win.

On this play, the Chiefs come out in five-wide with Watkins lined up at the inside slot position to Mahomes’ left. All three receivers to the left will be running in-breaking routes against the Jaguars cover-3 defense.

After the snap, Watkins does an excellent job of finding the hole in between the linebackers, and the quarterback quickly finds him right in the hole of the zone for a significant gain.

On another play, the Chiefs took a page out of the Los Angeles Rams playbook. The Rams ran this same play last year against the Minnesota Vikings in their Thursday night matchup.

The Chiefs are in a 2×2 tight formation with Watkins lined up at the inside slot position. The play is a play-action leak concept with the slot receiver running an inside wheel route. The design helps sell the play fake because the receiver appears to block initially to influence the linebackers at the second level. The Jaguars are in a cover-3 robber coverage.

Mahomes sells the play fake and drifts to his left. Additionally, the dig route helps move Ramsey out of his third of the field. The routes help create massive space on the right side. Watkins does an excellent job disguising his route with the play fake, and the linebacker completely dismisses him in coverage. The linebacker believed Ramsey would be in his third of the field. The mistake allows Watkins to roam free and makes an easy toss for Mahomes, creating another big play for the offense.

Are there other receiving options for the Chiefs?

With the loss of Hill, the Chiefs will be missing a critical piece of the offense. Watkins will fit that role as the primary receiver, but the team will need other players to step up. None of them had an actual impact after the injury early in the game with a high percentage of targets going purely to Watkins.

The leader of targets outside of Kelce and Watkins was Demarcus Robinson. Robinson finished with two targets, and one reception for zero yards. The other wide receiver target went to second-round pick Mecole Hardman, who dropped an easy screen pass that almost ended up a fumble. Along with Hardman, expect running backs, LeSean McCoy and Damien Williams, to fill in for some slot receiver work until Hill returns from his injury in two months.

Regarding the number one, Watkins will be heavily targeted this week against Raiders secondary that has already been bitten by the injury bug. While duplicating his week one stat line is unlikely, expect Watkins to continue his hot start to the 2019 NFL season.

Marcus Johnson is a writer for Pro Football Network’s Film Room. Follow him on Twitter @TheMarcJohnNFL.

RELATED
FANTASY
NFL
RELATED POSTS