Sammy Watkins donned a fresh Rams T-shirt and smiled as he walked up the Coliseum tunnel Saturday, but the Rams’ new receiver couldn’t hide the surprise he felt to be there.
“Just a total shock,” Watkins said about the trade that brought him to Los Angeles from the Buffalo Bills. “But I am definitely excited and honored to be here.”
Less than 48 hours earlier, Watkins caught four passes, three in the first three plays, in a Bills preseason game. Shortly after, he was informed that he was traded.
“I just thought I was catching hot,” Watkins said. “I mean they was targeting me pretty quick and then after the game I was like ‘Oh, I probably was out there auditioning.’”
Rams coach Sean McVay expects Watkins, 6 feet 1 and 211 pounds, to provide a much-needed vertical threat for second-year quarterback Jared Goff. General manager Les Snead said acquiring a receiver with size and speed was on the agenda since last spring.
Two hours before the Rams and Dallas Cowboys kicked off in a preseason game, Watkins had yet to meet with McVay and was unsure how he would fit in the offense, but said he was familiar with the Washington Redskins’ offense, where McVay spent the last three seasons as the offensive coordinator, and that he was certain he could be a deep target.
“I just feel like that’s in my game,” Watkins said. “I can be that home run guy.”
Fans cheered Watkins when he was shown on the videoboard standing on the sideline during the fourth quarter.
Watkins, 24, has 153 career receptions for 2,459 yards and 17 touchdowns. He averages 16.1 yards per catch.
But he also has an injury-riddled history that caused the Bills to decline the fifth-year option on his rookie contract. Snead said the Rams “felt comfortable” with the risk.
Last season, because of a foot injury, Watkins was limited to eight games. He caught 28 passes, two for touchdowns.
Watkins said Saturday that injuries were not a concern.
“The foot thing is out the door,” he said. “Probably got to get in a little bit better shape, but other than that I am fine.”
Watkins will reunite with former Bills teammate Robert Woods in a position group that includes Tavon Austin, who has been sidelined because of hamstring injury, Pharoh Cooper, Mike Thomas and rookies Cooper Kupp and Josh Reynolds.
“They got what they need as far as Robert Woods and Tavon and the guys they drafted,” Watkins said. “I’m just here to add to that and just come here and have fun and win some games.”
At times, Saturday’s game looked like a return to college for running back Justin Davis as he broke off a 32-yard run across the Coliseum grass.
Davis, a standout at USC, rushed for 70 yards in nine carries.
But he also fumbled twice in a series and the Cowboys recovered the second fumble.
“Definitely just had to go through some learning pains to get the feel of it because it’s definitely not college,” Davis said, adding, “but every rep I got, I got more comfortable.”
Davis joined the Rams as an undrafted free agent, a somewhat curious choice given the depth at the position with starter Todd Gurley, the acquisition of free agent Lance Dunbar and backups Malcolm Brown and Aaron Green.
But the choice has seemed to pay off.
Dunbar, who played five seasons with the Cowboys, was sidelined for most offseason workouts and has not participated in training p drills because of a knee injury.
Davis was inserted in the game after short appearances from Gurley and Brown.
Gurley rushed for two yards in four carries and Brown rushed for 25 yards in five carries.
Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald, a three-time Pro Bowl selection, continues his holdout for a renegotiated contract.
Fifth-year pro Michael Brockers, third-year pro Ethan Westbrooks, and Louis Trinca-Pasat, who was on the practice squad in 2015 and spent last season on the injured reserve, started against the Cowboys in new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips’ 3-4 defense.
“It didn’t feel any different,” Brockers said of the new scheme. “We still attacked, we’re still getting up the field, but maybe we’re a little rusty.”
The trio helped hold the Cowboys’ to a three-and-out in the first two series.
Kupp caught two passes for 35 yards, including a 19-yard reception and tight end Gerald Everett caught two passes for 12 yards.
9:59 p.m.: This article was updated with additional details.