Jason Vrable is pumped up to be working with Sammy Watkins again. Vrable, the Green Bay Packers’ wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator, got to know Watkins when he played for the Buffalo Bills from 2014-16, when Vrable was on the Bills’ staff.
Now, after Watkins signed a one-year free agent deal with the Packers this offseason, Vrable is reunited with Watkins. He knows what the former Clemson wide receiver is capable of doing on the field and is certainly happy to be back on the same team with him.
“I mean, honestly, what’s funny is he’s been a free agent a couple of times now,” Vrable said to the media this week. “So, I’ve wrote up Sammy for the reports with Gutey (Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst) and those guys. I told them, I’ve been with Sammy, I know how he can catch, I know how strong he is, a lot of the good things he can do. So, I was with him for that time.”
After being drafted by the Bills out of Clemson with the fourth overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, Watkins battled injuries early in his NFL career and has since been with four different teams (Los Angeles Rams, Kansas City Chiefs, Baltimore Ravens and now the Packers).
Watkins had career lows in catches (27), receiving yards (394) and touchdowns (one) with the Ravens last season and hasn’t reached 700 receiving yards since posting the lone 1,000-yard receiving season of his career in 2015 with the Bills.
Still, Watkins has had a productive NFL career. Since 2014, he ranks No. 7 in yards per reception among NFL players with 300 or more catches, while he is one of five wide receivers in the league with 300-plus receptions, 5,000-plus receiving yards, 30-plus receiving touchdowns and an average of 14.5-plus yards per catch since 2014.
The former Tiger All-American also played a key role on the Chiefs’ Super Bowl LIV championship team in 2019, and Vrable feels the 28-year-old still has plenty left in the tank to offer the Packers now that he is in Green Bay.
“I talked to Sammy about it the other day,” Vrable said. “I said, the way that he was running some routes and catching, it reminded me of him when he first walked onto the field. So, the biggest thing with him had been some injuries, if you looked at the thing. But he knows he’s going to work as hard as he can.
He’s here doing all the workouts right now and conditioning, feels good where his body’s at. One thing you’ll see with him is he plucks the ball different. He has hands that you’ll hear the pluck, and running through catch and his play strength – there’s a reason why we drafted him that high.
He’s had a lot of, I’d say, successful years in his career. That Kansas City Super Bowl run was him in the playoffs, when they were doubling Tyreek (Hill), he had a one-on-one and he was winning those, when you watch the tape.
“So, I’m fired up about him. He’s learning the playbook. He said to me, ‘Man, it’s different. I’ve been in four systems in the last four years.’ So, he’s like, ‘Just getting back to what you coach…’ He’s like, ‘Vrabs, it’s been fun hearing you coach the same stuff then as now,’ and he knows the details.
So, he’s in a good place right now, and I’m really excited about him.” Not only is Vrable high on Watkins as a player, but Vrable loves who Watkins has matured into as a person as well.
“We went out to dinner, we broke some bread,” Vrable said. “We got to talk, catch up, hear about his three kids, and just good old times. Just see where he’s been and his maturity has just been exceptional. He was just a young rookie before and now he’s a grown man with a family and just living life the right way and trying to do as much as he can to get back and get another Lombardi, which he’s one of the few guys that has held one up that I’ve been around. So, that’s kind of his goal. And like I said, Sammy’s just smiling. He’s happy to be in a building where he feels a good fit right now. So, I’m fired up he’s here.”