Words like polished, refined and savvy were used to describe second-round pick Robert Woods. It's only been two NFL regular season games for the rookie receiver, but the signs are positive that he'll be contributing more and more in the coming weeks.
His first career reception was an 18-yard touchdown catch in Week 1 from EJ Manuel, but that was all he would post on the stat sheet by game's end. This past Sunday Woods was a bit more involved in Buffalo's passing game posting four receptions for 68 yards, second-most behind Stevie Johnson. He also had a big two-point conversion to tie the game at 14 late in the third quarter.
Woods had to dive for the ball to pull it in, but he said the play is designed that way on purpose.
"That's one of our go to plays in a situation like that and the ball is low just for protection if a linebacker or safety is coming over," Woods said. "Putting the ball low is protecting me from the hit."
"I thought Woody was going to make a great play and that's what he did," said Manuel. "He got off the ball great, got inside and made a great catch."
The budding chemistry between the two rookies is apparent. This past week Manuel looked for Woods mainly on early downs, but Woods believes he's a capable option at any time.
"I just play my game, go out there and be a good target for him, try to be open and be at the right spot at the right time because the ball is always going to be there," Woods said.
Two his longer receptions came on back-to-back plays as Woods effectively worked the middle of the field with Johnson. On the opening drive of the second half, Woods facing off coverage took advantage of it, broke his route off and Manuel hit him for a 15-yard pass play. The next play he faced man-off coverage and Woods created separation taking his route over the middle for a 28-yard gain.
"The middle was where it was this past week and then it's just trusting EJ that the ball is going to be in a great spot and he'll protect me as well," said Woods.
With the need for an alternative to Johnson on the outside in the passing game, Woods' exploits are appreciated by Buffalo's top wideout.
"I'm excited about him," Johnson said. "He's shown that he can play with these elite cornerbacks, against these elite defenses. He's poised just like EJ. I guess you don't see that too often, but nowadays you do with how the league is going and rookie quarterbacks, but I still feel the same way about Robert Woods. He's ready and I'm happy to play alongside him."
Even though Marrone and his offensive staff bought into Woods being one of the most NFL ready receivers in the draft, coaches by nature tend to deal more with results than potential. To this point Woods has shown he's capable of handling the responsibility of making plays in the NFL game.
"Robert has been a professional in that he has performed on Sundays," said Marrone. "That's what puts him in the category of yes, he's ready. The first game, he averaged 18 yards a catch. We were able to go to him on the two-point play, which was a big play in the game. They're all obviously big but that was a big play. It was a good catch, a tough catch."
Johnson believes what helped to prepare Woods was the pro-style system he played in at USC.
"I think the system has helped him," said Johnson. "I think you can come from any division or any team or any school to come to the league. If you've got the talent, you've got the talent. But just the system he was in that pro system it was easier to pick up on things here because that was the case for me coming from Kentucky."
Woods' main focus now is not letting opposing defensive backs get a book on him now that he's turned in some plays.
"You've got to make it all look the same, whether I'm going out or in," he said. "It's got to all look the same and just be convincing on every route. You've got to be able to set them up. It's a game."
For Woods having consistent success in Buffalo's passing game is less of matter of if and more a matter of when.
"He was ready when he came here and he's shown that," said Johnson. "I'm excited to see how far he can go."