ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. – In his many attempts to defend quarterback Tyrod Taylor’s inconsistent play, Buffalo Bills head coach Rex Ryan has continually pointed to the injuries that have kept top receivers Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin off the field for varying periods of time. A lack of weapons however, shouldn’t even be a factor this Sunday when the Bills host the Steelers, as Ryan told reporters at the conclusion of Friday’s practice that he considers both Watkins and Woods, “ready to roll.”
“It’ll be good, we get that group healthy at receiver with Goodwin, and Sammy and Robert Woods together, Ryan said. “I think that will be really big for us.”
That aforementioned trio hasn’t played in a game together since Week 2, which happened to be the last time Watkins played before being placed on the IR, then returning two weeks ago. One week prior, in Week 11, Woods unfortunately suffered a gruesome looking knee sprain that ultimately cost him the first two contests of Watkins grand return to the field. It’s Goodwin who has actually appeared in the most games of the group, missing only one of the Bills 12 games with a concussion. Ryan remains adamant that th revolving door of injuries at receiver has greatly altered the Bills 32nd ranked passing offense.
“It is going to be interesting to see how we’ll perform if you have a healthy Robert Woods, a healthy Sammy Watkins, a healthy Goodwin to go along with McCoy, what he’s able to do,” Ryan said earlier in the week. “These weapons, they make a difference and I think for us, we’ve had struggles in the passing game, but I don’t think there’s anybody in the league that if you take out four or five of their best receivers that—I believe every team would have some issues.”
Perhaps he’s got a point. Taylor has played only 12 of his 26 starts as a Bill with both Watkins and Woods at his disposal. His 6.55 yards per attempt without one or both of them increases by nearly two yards when they’re both on the field together. He’s also thrown 11 more touchdowns (21) and one less interception (five) in games they both play versus games where he’s missing at least one of them (10 TDs and six INTs).
“Every receiver is totally different,” Woods explained on Thursday. “Speed, size, cutting ability, quickness. Of course that factors in; how a quick a guy gets in and out of his breaks, how quickly a guy gets his head around. I mean all those things matter. A lot of people say ‘next man up’ which it is, but it’s still the timing and stuff that’s missed.”
Woods also went on to point out that due to Watkins recovery from off-season foot surgery and Goodwin’s preparations for this past summer’s Olympics, he was actually the only receiver who got any kind of off-season work in with Taylor. He’s already noticed the effects of having all three of them in the huddle at practice.
“It’s our huddle. We’re all out there, we got Charles (Clay) back out there and LeSean (McCoy) out there, so from a skills perspective we’re looking at each other ready to go knowing we got all our weapons,” Woods said. “I trust Marquise I know what he can do, I trust Sammy I know what he can do. And I know they’re gonna be in the right spot at the right time, so it’s really just play fast, play our game and everything else should be there.”
When the trio last suited up together the Bills put up 31 points in a Thursday night loss to the Jets and Taylor came up three yards shy of 300 through the air – a feat he has yet to accomplish in his two years as the Bills starter. Their reunion couldn’t come at a better time for the Bills QB, who Doug Whaley said is still being evaluated with four games to go in the season.
“We’re going to wait until that whole year is over and like I said see these last four games, see this chapter that he’s going to write in this year’s book and then we’ll go from there,” Whaley said during an interview on WGR 550 Friday morning. “We’ve said that from day one. We’re going to give him this whole season and after that we’ll sit down with the coaches, the ownership group and make that decision [on his option].”
The pressure is on, and this time a lack of receiving talent isn’t an excuse
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