The Rams are doing what they can to help wide receiver Sammy Watkins put his best foot forward with a new franchise.
Part of that is insuring Watkins has the proper protection while doing the stepping.
Rams general manager Les Snead said Wednesday that the team’s medical staff is working with Watkins and Nike to develop a shoe that provides the best support possible for his surgically repaired left foot.
“The shoe thing is a very big deal,” Snead told co-host Brady Quinn and me on SiriusXM NFL Radio. “There’s a lot of technology, a lot of smart engineers developing shoes for these athletes, especially based on the type of torque and pressure they’re putting on their bones when you go in and out of a break.”
A lengthy list of leg injuries – plus two procedures on his left foot – has contributed to Watkins missing 11 games the past two seasons for the Bills after a strong rookie campaign in 2014. TheMMQB.com website reported earlier this month that Watkins had stopped wearing adidas, which signed him to an endorsement deal as a rookie, and was working with Nike on a new shoe before being traded last week from the Bills to the Rams.
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Snead said the Rams had an internal discussion about Watkins’ injury history before making the trade and “felt comfortable” with the situation after he passed a team physical.
“When he plays, he produces,” Snead said of a game-breaking receiver who has a 16.1-yard average on 153 career receptions. “What can we do based on what we know to put a plan in place to try and limit those injuries going forward?”
Snead, who first became interested in Watkins in May after the Bills decided not to pick up the fifth-year option on his rookie contract in 2018, admits the timing of the trade several weeks before the regular season opens isn’t ideal. Los Angeles is now trying to balance working Watkins into its offense without slowing the progress being made by second-year quarterback Jared Goff in learning coach Sean McVay’s new system.
“I know what Sean wants to do is get a feel for Sammy and how he’s learning,” said Snead, who sent a 2018 second-round pick and cornerback E.J. Gaines to Buffalo for Watkins and a sixth-round choice. “He’s been doing great so far but I do think what they will do as we get into plans for games is, ‘Where’s Sammy’s at? How comfortable is he? What can he do? How many plays can we actually give him?’
“If you have a 100-play playbook right now and let’s say game-planning it gets down to 30, maybe Sammy only gets 15 the first week (Sept. 10 vs. the Colts) and works his way up. We’ll feel that out over the next few weeks.”
Watkins is receiving extra tutoring from former Bills wide receiver Robert Woods, who was signed by the Rams as a free agent earlier this year. Watkins is expected to make his preseason debut Saturday when the Rams play at Oakland, which will allow him to work with Goff on timing in a game setting.
“Getting on the same page with the chemistry and rhythm a quarterback has with his receiver, that’s something that’s not going to happen overnight,” Snead said. “I think you see that in basketball when some of these dreams are put together. It takes a little while to get on the same page. But I think for the most part, they do.”
Even if Watkins is healthy, how well he fares and whether a big-money contract looms from the Rams or another interested suitor in free agency in 2018 will be largely dependent on how much improvement Goff can make. Goff lost all seven of his starts last season while completing 54.6 percent of his passes with five touchdowns and seven interceptions.
“With him, it’s as simple as you’ve got to learn (the offense), get through the thinking stage, get through the reacting stage and get to the proactive stage as I like to call it’,” said Snead, who traded six draft picks to land Goff with the No. 1 selection in 2016.
“Jared’s getting there. He’s not there yet. That’s what all of these practices and preseason games are for.”
The same goes for taking a risk on Watkins in hopes of giving Goff a leg up himself.
Alex Marvez can be heard from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. ET Thursday and Friday on SiriusXM NFL Radio.