In 2014, the Buffalo Bills traded up to draft Sammy Watkins fourth overall. Watkins had 125 catches for 2,000+ yards and 15 touchdowns through two seasons in Buffalo but struggled in 2016, catching just 28 balls for 430 yards and two scores in eight games.
Well, now he’s gone. The Bills traded Watkins and a 2018 sixth-round pick to the Rams for cornerback E.J. Gaines and a 2018 second-round pick.
That was not expected.
“It was definitely a little surprising,” Bills linebacker Preston Brown said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “(He came into) the locker room giving out hugs and handshakes. Everybody’s like, ‘What’s he doing?’ You never thought that that would be a guy on the way out, but you never question management or what they’re doing. They have a different view of the team and what we need to have done, so we always trust in them and know they’re doing the right thing.”
The Bills, who went 7-9 last season, haven’t made the playoffs since 1999 and are hoping to end a 17-year playoff drought – the longest in the NFL. To that end, Buffalo added wide receivers Anquan Boldin and Jordan Matthews and welcomed hew head coach Sean McDermott, who spent the previous six seasons as defensive coordinator in Carolina.
“It’s been a really long time, and no city deserves it more than these fans,” Brown said, referring to the playoff drought. “Each and every game, they’re out there in the snow – 70-, 80,000 people out there rooting us on no matter what’s going on. So we got to go out there and put a better product on the field. I think it started when we got Coach McDermott here. We’ll be doing a lot of different things on offense and defense. We’re going to a 4-3 scheme, which I think will help us out there. We know we got to get to the playoffs, and (the fans) will go crazy when we do.”
McDermott replaces Rex Ryan, who went 15-16 in Buffalo. From a personality standpoint, McDermott and Ryan couldn’t be more different.
“The biggest difference is just with the team meetings,” Brown said. “Everybody’s seen Rex on Hard Knocks and how he is. He’s definitely cracking jokes. But with McDermott, it’s all about business. Even when he does tell a joke, we don’t know if we’re allowed to laugh.”
Brown said that McDermott, a former safety at William & Mary, has a military presence about him.
“He definitely has that face,” Brown said. “He makes sure you’re doing the right job – and if you know you’re not doing it right and he looks at you, you know it’s time to correct it because you don’t want him looking at you that way.”
McDermott will definitely be looking at quarterback Tyrod Taylor this season. The 28-year-old has turned in back-to-back seasons of 3,000+ passing yards, 500+ rushing yards, and 20+ touchdowns.
He also got into a scuffle at practice Monday – first with Shaq Lawson and then with Jerry Hughes.
“It’s our basically last night here in camp,” Brown said, chuckling. “Guys get a little testy. It hasn’t really been many fights throughout camp, but guys got a little aggravated today. But no punches thrown, nothing like that, just a little pushing and shoving, guys waiting for it to get broken up. It wasn’t nothing serious.”
Buffalo opens the season at home against the Jets on Sept. 10 before a trip to Carolina on Sept. 17. Both games kick off at 1 p.m. ET.