PITTSFORD – It would be a stretch to say Sammy Watkins got his feet wet Sunday.
Instead, he just dipped his toes into the NFL pool.
Watkins was among the Buffalo Bills’ starters on offense to play just two series. He was targeted by quarterback EJ Manuel three times, but wasn’t able to make any catches.
“Not at all,” Watkins said when asked if he had any butterflies over making his preseason debut on Sunday night. “Once I’m on the field and have two or three plays, I’m fine. I wish I could have got a ball and got tackled, then it would have been out the window. I can’t wait until I catch a ball and get hit.”
His next chance will come Friday in Carolina.
“I can’t wait to get back out there,” he said. “Hopefully we play a little longer. It’s up to the coaches, but we need to get back on the same page and have great practices and come out and be prepared Friday.”
Bills coach Doug Marrone explained why the starters – led by Manuel – played just 10 snaps.
“That was our game plan going into the game,” he said. “There’s a lot of things that factor into it. The amount of reps they get during the week, the amount of time in the turnaround, the amount we want guys to play and what we’re trying to accomplish. There’s a lot that goes into it and we’ll discuss it as a staff after practice and get ready for Carolina.”
The first pass thrown Watkins’ way Sunday against the Giants was a deep “go” route down the left sideline. Watkins never got much separation from the New York cornerback.
“We’ve just got to keep working on the fades. I mean, going against a great corner (Prince Amukamara), he kind of widened me,” Watkins said. “I’ve got to get a better release. I go against great guys in practice every day – Stephon Gilmore, Corey Graham, Leodis McKelvin – so I feel like I can compete at the highest level. You see different things in how they play you, but at the same time, you’ve just got to do your technique.”
Watkins said the Giants kept things simple defensively, but the physical nature of the game opened his eyes.
“They didn’t show too much. First of all, they was mainly one high, pressing every time,” he said. “So really couldn’t get the flow of the game, but you can tell it’s a way more physical game. Those guys are trying to get their hands on you, so you’ve got to be physical and you’ve got to really go through your steps. That’s being physical and getting off the ball.”
Late in Tuesday’s practice, Manuel found Watkins in the back of the end zone for a touchdown during red-zone work.
Other highlights from practice:
• Rookie cornerback Ross Cockrell blew up a swing pass to receiver Chris Hogan for a stop behind the line of scrimmage.
• Thad Lewis had a pair of good throws – one to tight end Chris Gragg for a touchdown in red-zone work and another on a deep ball to receiver Caleb Holley.
• Receiver Mike Williams beat cornerback Nickell Robey for a completion from Manuel during 7-on-7 work.
Tight ends Scott Chandler (groin) and Tony Moeaki (hamstring) returned to practice Tuesday night, although Moeaki left during the middle of the workout and was done for the night. Tackle Edawn Coughman left because of an abdominal injury.
Cornerback Leodis McKelvin (hip) did not practice. Receiver Marquise Goodwin (hamstring) did not participate in team drills.
Safety Da’Norris Searcy left practice early. He was excused by Marrone for a personal matter.
Manuel announced on his Twitter feed a partnership with Camp Kesem, an organization that provides summer camps for children affected by a parent’s cancer.
With every touchdown Manuel makes this season, he’ll donate $500 toward the camp’s Scoring for Good campaign, which will help send a child to camp.
“I’m excited to support Camp Kesem and Scoring for Good,” Manuel told buffalobills.com. “Their work has made an impact on my life, and I’m honored to help kids who, just like me, have had cancer impact a parent.”
Manuel’s mother, Jackie, battled breast cancer in 2012. Fans can track Manuel’s progress over the course of the season by downloading the Scoring for Good mobile app in iTunes and Google Play.