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Evaluating Robert Woods’ role in the Bills 2016 offense

With Sammy Watkins playing doctor, and everyone’s eyes on the wide-open battle for the No. 3 receiver spot, Robert Woods – one of the Buffalo Bills most dependable receivers the last three years – is flying under the radar.

Whether or not Watkins misses training camp or not, the Bills should be leaning on Woods more than ever before. As of right now, he’s the Bills’ No. 1 guy. If Watkins is ready for Week One at Baltimore, Woods will return to his role at the No. 2 receiver. But that role figures to be even more important this season with the uncertainty surrounding the rest of the Bills wideouts.

Sure, Watkins has been the Bills most productive receiver since his arrival in 2014 and has only missed three games. But injuries have dogged the third-year receiver, having battled rib, hip, knee and calf injuries. He’s had offseason surgeries in back-to-back seasons. The pure volume of his injuries are concerning for a receiver looking to become one of the NFL’s best.

“Of course we want Sammy here,” Woods told The Buffalo News’ Tyler Dunne in May. “We want to work and want to pick back up where we left off. This team has been plagued with injuries. But he should take his time, get healthy and it gives myself and other guys opportunities to step up, make plays and let coaches figure out what they have.”

The Bills need Woods. Last season was Woods’ toughest season in the NFL, as he battled a groin injury all season. He caught 47 passes for 552 yards and three touchdowns, but the injury hampered him.

Houston Texans v Buffalo Bills Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

Woods, now healthy, doesn’t have to put up huge numbers like other No. 2 wide receivers around the league, who often play in three-, four-receiver sets and get the ball thrown their way regularly. Greg Roman’s run-heavy offense usually doesn’t depend on having a pair dynamic wideouts.

In his four-year tenure in San Francisco, Roman’s No. 2 receiving option was primarily Pro Bowl tight end Vernon Davis. But as for wide receivers go, Roman didn’t get much out of his No. 2 guys. In 2011, Kyle Williams caught 20 passes for 241 yards and three touchdowns. In 2012, Mario Manningham had 42 catches for 449 yards and a touchdown and Michael Crabtree’s stat line in 2013 was 19-284-1.

The most production Roman found from his second wide receiver was Crabtree in 2014, when he caught 68 passes for 698 yards and four touchdowns. Woods best season? 2014, when he had 65 catches, 699 yards and five touchdowns, almost identical.

With Watkins’ latest injury, , the Bills need Woods to take a step forward. And with Woods in a contract year, he knows that. If he can produce similar numbers to his 2014 season, the Bills passing offense should be in a great shape.