Since arriving in Los Angeles on Aug. 12, wide receiver Sammy Watkins has been hard at work learning the Rams' playbook and building chemistry with his new teammates.
While he had only been practicing for a few days, Watkins appeared in last week's preseason game against the Raiders, making a pair of receptions for eight yards. One of those catches was a key third-down conversion, extending a scoring drive.
But given Watkins' reputation as an elite talent and down-field threat, does his presence alone change how opponents defend the Rams? After all, Watkins was on the field for 34 snaps — just one fewer than fellow wideout Robert Woods and quarterback Jared Goff. So even without being the complete knowledge of the playbook, can Watkins create other opportunities for players at different levels of the field?
"I think it certainly could be [the case]. You'd have to talk to the defensive coaches," head coach Sean McVay said after Saturday's game. "But what I do think is that when you look at what Sammy's been able to do over the course of his career, he's a guy we want to get involved. And it's not exclusive to down the field — it's underneath, it's intermediate. We want to be multiple in the way we're utilizing our personnel. But having a player of his caliber with his ability to create down the field, I think, certainly makes defensive coaches mindful of what he has done in the past."
Wide receiver Cooper Kupp has worked with the starting offense in both preseason contests so far, and but said he wasn't sure how much Oakland's defense may have changed its approach based solely on Watkins.
"It's two different teams, so just scheme-wise, I think the Raiders just play a different defense than the Cowboys do. And that's just the nature of the game," Kupp said. "But I will say, being out there with Sammy — he's an explosive player. He's played a lot of football. So having him on the field is definitely a plus for me and for us."
As Watkins continues gain more comfort in the Rams' playbook, the Watkins effect will likely become more pronounced.