by Mario Granata
A position that has received a little press this offseason for the Buffalo Bills has been the wide receiver core. True, the Bills went out and signed Percy Harvin, who is electric on special teams and can be a matchup nightmare for teams, but how does this group of pass catchers fit in the ground-and-pound scheme?
The Bills took a gamble in the 2014 Draft by trading up for Watkins in a very deep receiver class. When one looks at the fallout of that move, they ultimately had to be aggressive this offseason with the lack of a 1st round pick. LeSean McCoy, Richie Incognito, Jerome Felton, Percy Harvin, Matt Cassel and the resigning of Jerry Hughes were all a result of the Bills not having a first round selection this year. They had to get players in free agency to make a splash in 2015. Watkins is an explosive player who can be a game changer for the Bills. He has the skill set to be on the perimeter or inside.
As mentioned on Hashtag Sports, the Architect Doug Whaley probably likened Woods to Hines Ward: a tough-nosed player who isn’t shy about getting his hands dirty. Woods has played special teams and isn’t shy to throw a block, which will fit nicely in Greg Roman’s run first approach. A crisp route runner, he can move the chains for the Bills in 2015. If you plan on covering him in man-to-man, good luck.
With the likelihood that the Bills will run mostly 2 WR sets, look for Harvin to be in various specialty packages. When the Bills do decide to run a 3 wide set, the coverage cannot be slanted toward Watkins, as teams will have to account for Harvin’s speed. Look for the Bills to run either Watkins or Harvin in the slot, and keep both of them on the same side of the field to present a match-up nightmare for opposing defenses. His contribution on special teams will also be key for Buffalo.
Good ole 7-11 proved last year that he can be a formidable player at the wide receiver position. Although his contributions are on special teams as well, he is a younger, faster version of Michael Crabtree, someone who Greg Roman is very familiar with. If any injury issues develop with Harvin, look for Hogan to step into the slot role…brother.
Easley has made his mark as the special teams player who is also a wideout. Now, a lot of speculation has been floating around the 716 as to the future of Easley: will he move to safety, will he show the Bills what he did in the 2013 preseason, or will he be something else? He provides depth for the Bills and could be a solid contributor if he is able to step up.
Marcus Thigpen and Marquise Goodwin:
Six of one, and half dozen of the other, Thigpen and Goodwin are two players cut from the same cloth. Just as Hogan will be asked to step into the slot role if Harvin has injury issues, look for either Thigpen or Goodwin to step into the special teams returner for Harvin, but not both. One of these players will probably be cut before the 53-man roster is decided, and at best, one will be inactive during game day.
The Bills receiver core is shifty, speedy and explosive, but do they lack the size needed for a 16 game season in the NFL? Some of the teams that the Bills will face will have a decided size advantage in the secondary, so will the speed ultimately win out for the Bills? Also, in the projected run heavy offense of Greg Roman maybe the thought process is that teams will have to play off of these receivers, allowing lanes to open up for McCoy and Fred Jackson, which will make the blocking for the receivers easier. With the speed and sheer athleticism of the Bills receivers Greg Roman has something that he didn’t really have in San Francisco: options.
Bottom Line: Good luck covering these guys.