Sammy Watkins earned as many touchdowns Sunday versus the Jacksonville Jaguars as he did all of 2018.
The Kansas City Chiefs big-money receiver proved his worth with a nine-catch, 198-yard, 3-TD day in the 40-26 season-opening victory over the Jaguars.
K.C. will likely need more big days ahead with Tyreek Hill suffering a shoulder injury that caused him to be hospitalized during the win. NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported that Hill will not need surgery but is expected to miss a few weeks.
With Hill out for an unknown time period, Andy Reid will need Watkins and Mecole Hardman to step into the playmaking void. Watkins, for his part, told Albert Breer of SI.com that he doesn't think his role will change much.
"I think we got the same roles," he said. "The same particular roles. Same for me. I think we got the other guys to step up. We got Mecole Hardman in the second round. We got Demarcus Robinson. We got so many guys that can step up and play that position. I'm not really worried. Do we need 10? Do we need Tyreek? Yes, we do. I don't think I would've scored a couple touchdowns without him affecting the defense.
"I think he has an intricate part. We're gonna have to find a way to win in the next six, seven weeks with him being out. I think we have the coaches to do that."
The Chiefs have the coaches, indeed. Reid is among the best at utilizing the talents of his playmakers. Not having Hill on the field to distract defenders will be a hindrance, but not one that should stall Patrick Mahomes.
If Watkins can continue to run stellar routes and be a menace after the catch like he was Sunday, the Chiefs will be fine until Hill returns.
"From the first (catch) on, you saw him break tackles and split seams," Reid said of Watkins' big day, per the team's official transcript. "There were no indecisions after catches. He's big, he's fast and he is strong. We're moving him all over the place and he is smart, so that helps. I think that combination is what contributed to that. We asked him to play that zebra position and he didn't blink at that. He said put me in and let me go and I will do my thing. He plays inside and outside."
Watkins' first half was one to remember. The former first-round pick joins former Buffalo Bills WR Lee Evans as the only receivers to record 150-plus receiving yards in the first quarter in the last 25 seasons. Watkins became the only player in NFL history to accumulate at least 175 yards and two touchdowns receiving in the first half of his team's season-opening game, per the Elias Sports Bureau.
Watkins earned a career-high in yards and TDs Sunday, and the second-most receptions of his six seasons.
The issue with Watkins since he was drafted No. 4 overall by Buffalo in 2014 has been injuries. He hasn't played a full 16-game slate since his rookie campaign. Last year, his first with Reid, was characterized by more nagging injuries and disappointment after earning just 40 receptions for 519 yards and 3 TDs. In just one game, Watkins already almost matched those numbers.
"I would also like to say Sammy also did a heck of a job out there today," Reid said unprompted during his postgame presser. "I thought he had a nice game. The kid had worked so hard to get over the whole injury thing he had and has never wavered. He has put it on the back burner and worked his tail off to have a nice game."
If Watkins can finally stay healthy, he could have many nice games down the road, especially with Hill on the shelf.