The Rams began the process of integrating wide receiver Sammy Watkins into their offense on Monday afternoon.
Donning No. 2 — which will likely be his number during the preseason before making a more permanent selection in September — Watkins walked out on the field to stretch for practice about 45 minutes early. Assistant wide receivers coach Zac Taylor joined him on the field and started going through routes and plays. Head coach Sean McVay and wide receivers coach Eric Yarber would join them for the pre-practice session, too.
It’s all about getting Watkins caught up, a process the wideout said he feels shouldn’t take all that long.
“Maybe a week and a half just to get everything dissected and to master the playbook — know the ins-and-outs, know the X, Y, Z, F [positions] and the formations,” Watkins said on Monday. “That’s the biggest thing. Once you know that, you can come out here and compete and have fun.”
McVay has stated the goal is to get Watkins completely comfortable with the scheme for Los Angeles’ Sept. 10 opener against Indianapolis. And while that date is under a month away, the head coach feels it’s a task he and the staff can accomplish.
“The level of urgency is just a little bit higher. And you’ve just got to be mindful of the progression with him, where he might have to take a little bit extra time,” McVay said. “And just like you teach all of these guys, there’s a foundation that you have to start with, and then our concepts and our offense kind of builds off one another where we try to make sure that there’s a rhyme and a reason.
“So he’s going to start from behind. It’ll take him a while,” McVay continued. “But our goal — if we’re intentional about it, and that’s the plan — is for him to be up to speed and kind of have a good feel for the entire offense by the time the regular season rolls around.”
Yet even for this week, McVay said he’s expecting Watkins to be far enough along to take some reps against the Raiders on Saturday.
“He’ll be ready to play some plays,” McVay said. “Unless something changes, that’s our plan, is to get him a handful of snaps and get him some looks.”
For Monday’s practice, however, the Rams kept it light for Watkins. The team didn’t practice in pads, but Watkins was mainly a spectator. He did take part in individual drills, and caught a few passes from quarterback Jared Goff against air. But he took just one rep in one-on-ones between the wideouts and corners, and then did not do any work in 7-on-7 or 11-on-11 drills.
“With all the traveling that he’s done, little jet lag, we wanted to just be mindful of his workload and we’ll start to work him into practice starting tomorrow,” McVay said.
Watkins and Goff did stay on the field after the conclusion of practice, working on a few routes to improve their chemistry and timing. But the wideout admitted there hasn’t been much time as of yet to work with his new quarterback both on and off the field.
“I’m just trying to really catch up on the formations and the concepts. I really haven’t gotten time to really talk to Jared or anything like that,” Watkins said. “I’ve just been with the coaches trying to learn the formations and the plays. Once I get that down, I can actually start to have fun. Right now it’s just really business. I’m just trying to learn the playbook.”
But even from the limited work and coaching Watkins received on his first day in horns, McVay came away with a favorable impression.
“He’s able to articulate what he’s supposed to do within the framework of his role and the concept and know where his split alignments and different things like that are,” McVay said. “So, until we get out there, it’s always tough to say, but I think for the most part, he’s done a nice job. And [I’ve] been very impressed with just the way he’s handled himself as a person.”