One factor in Buffalo Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor's emergence last season was the presence of Sammy Watkins. The 6-foot-1, 211-pound wide receiver set franchise records for catches and receiving yards in his first two years with 125 receptions and 2,029 yards.
The importance of shadowing Watkins in Sunday's season opener at 1 p.m. at M&T Bank Stadium is not lost on Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith.
"I think he's a very explosive receiver," Smith said. "He goes up and gets the ball, makes very good plays. He's a deep threat obviously with his speed. He's a real game-changer."
Defensive coordinator Dean Pees compared Watkins – who caught 60 balls for 1,047 yards and nine touchdowns in 2015 – favorably to former Minnesota Vikings great Randy Moss in that they use their size and speed to separate themselves from defenders.
"Randy was always faster than what he looked like," Pees said. "He looked like he was loping, but he was running. What [Watkins] has is an innate ability to go get the ball. You just watch film, and there are just so many times he's covered, and Tyrod puts it up, and [No.] 14 comes up with it.
"That was Randy Moss. He just had a way of never showing his hands running down the field. All of a sudden, a DB is trying to play the hands, he doesn't show them, then all of a sudden he shows them, and they're on the ball. To me, [Watkins] is a little bit like [Moss] in that he is a deep threat every time he lines up, every time he lines up."
But Watkins is not the only Buffalo player who can do damage. Tight end Charles Clay finished last season ranked second on the team in catches (51), tied for second in touchdowns (three) and ranked third in yards (528). Wide receiver Robert Woods added 47 receptions for 552 yards and three scores, and running back LeSean McCoy posted 32 grabs for 292 yards and two touchdowns.
That's why Smith said the Ravens cannot afford to focus solely on Watkins.
"Our game plan is to contain all of their offense," he said. "All of them are explosive playmakers and especially with Shady [McCoy] back there, and we know Tyrod well. All of them can break open a game at any time."