Mecole Hardman 'Ready for the Challenge' of Filling in for Sammy Watkins

Joe Andrews

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes recognizes the benefits wide receiver Sammy Watkins brings to the table.

So far in 2020, Watkins is the Chiefs’ No. 3 receiver, catching 21 passes for 222 yards and two touchdowns — even while missing the bulk of two games due to two separate injuries: a neck injury/possible concussion in Week 2 and a Week 5 hamstring injury that could cause him to miss some time in the upcoming weeks.

Watkins’ skills go far beyond the stat sheet, though, and are something Mahomes knows the Chiefs may miss in weeks without Watkins on the field.

“He’s someone who does everything,” Mahomes said. “I mean, he’s able to catch and be explosive, he blocks very well, he gets other guys open and whenever you have those type of playmakers on the field, defenses really have to take notice of that and that’s why you see the subtle differences and production and stuff like that.”

Watkins did not practice Thursday or Friday and reports indicate he’ll likely miss at least two weeks due to the hamstring injury — though head coach Andy Reid said the Chiefs don't plan to put Watkins on the three-week-minimum injured reserve.

“I think we’re just going to let him heal up and take it from there,” Reid said on Thursday.

Wide receiver Mecole Hardman is the probable main candidate to fill in for Watkins. Hardman has seen the highest offensive snap counts of his career following the injuries of his teammates.

So far this year, Hardman is the Chiefs’ No. 4 receiver in terms of yards, recording 194 yards and two touchdowns off 13 receptions. 

He said he’ll be ready if his name is called upon to fill in for Watkins this week.

“I think I’m ready for the challenge,” Hardman said. “I don’t think it’s anything that I can’t handle. I’m practicing hard, doing what I need to do, so whenever I get that opportunity, I’m going to take advantage of it.”

Also in candidacy to see an increased role is wide receiver Byron Pringle, who’s been primarily a special teams player through his three-year NFL career.

After Watkins exited the Chiefs’ 40-32 loss to the Raiders with his hamstring injury, Pringle hauled in a single catch for 23 yards, his first offensive stat of the year.

He caught 12 passes for 170 yards and a touchdown through 16 games last season.

Hardman said both he and Pringle will need to take on Watkins’ blocking and route running style to help the Chiefs succeed.

“Those things right there are where me and (Byron) Pringle have to step up if he is out of this game and fill those roles and some of the production that he has,” Hardman said. “Stuff like that, you’ve definitely got to take notice of what Sammy does. Not when the ball is in his hands but what he does without the ball in his hands.”

Mahomes agreed, adding preparation will be the main key succeeding throughout Watkins’ absence.

“You’re hoping guys can step up like Mecole (Hardman) and (Byron) Pringle and all these other guys and make up for some of that production,” Mahomes said. 

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