CANTON (AP) — It’s approaching show-time for Buffalo Bills rookie receiver Sammy Watkins.
After dazzling teammates and fans during the first two weeks of training camp, the rookie receiver is awaiting the chance to kick off the preseason before a national TV audience against the New York Giants in the annual Hall of Fame game on Sunday night.
It’s not lost on Watkins that Andre Reed will be on hand at Fawcett Stadium, a day after the former Bills star receiver’s induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“I definitely want to go out there and put on a great show for him,” Watkins said. “And I want to get a win. That would just start the team up and build confidence for everybody.”
Watkins has shown glimpses of why the Bills regarded him so highly in the draft. Buffalo gambled by trading its 2015 first-round pick to Cleveland and moved up five spots to select the Clemson player at No. 4.
He’s shown breakaway speed by making numerous deep catches along the sideline, eliciting huge cheers from the stands.
Watkins became a YouTube and Twitter sensation after videos showed him stumbling and nearly falling before recovering to make a one-handed catch in the end zone.
Despite a slim, 6-foot-1, 211-pound frame, he’s proven fearless in making catches in traffic. That was apparent during a full-team drill on the second day of camp.
Quarterback EJ Manuel’s pass was tipped at the line of scrimmage and fluttered high into the air. Watkins raced back to make a leaping grab amid three defenders and came down with the ball in a pile of players. He also got poked in the eye.
“There are two things I can do: I can wait for it to get picked off, or I can go make a play on it,” Watkins said. “My first reaction was the ball was in the air, go make a play on it.”
Center Eric Wood is among Bills veterans impressed by Watkins.
“At this point, it wasn’t like shocking. I almost expected it,” Wood said, referring to Watkins’ one-handed catch. “He is exactly what you’d hope for given what we gave up to get him and how we took him.”
That’s an encouraging step for a Manuel-led passing attack that lacked consistency and big-play ability during the quarterback’s rookie season last year and contributed to the Bills’ 6-10 finish.
“As a coach, you have expectations, but he’s performed better than I would’ve expected,” coach Doug Marrone said of Watkins. “I think a lot of people are excited.”
Giants safety Stevie Brown is looking forward to a closer view of Watkins.
“He was definitely deserving to be the top receiver taken,” Brown said. “He can jump over you and then take it 20 yards more. He’s got the ability to make tough catches. If he catches the ball, I can never let up on getting after him.”
The Giants will unveil a new offensive style under new coordinator Ben McAdoo. They’re introducing a quick-paced, no-huddle attack to help take the pressure off quarterback Eli Manning, who threw a career-worst 27 interceptions last season.
“I think we are going to put us right to the test and see how well we know the offense, know how well this thing can perform at a high level,” receiver Victor Cruz said.
Cruz returns as Manning’s top threat, and third-year receiver Rueben Randle has moved into the No. 2 spot after the Giants lost Hakeem Nicks in free agency.
The Giants also used a first-round draft pick on a receiver, selecting Odell Beckham Jr. with the 12th pick. However, Beckham hasn’t participated fully in practice since hurting his hamstring on the first day of camp.