Every year NFL teams build a 90-man roster in preparation for an intense competition that unfolds at their annual training camp. Battles for starting roles, roster spots, and even a place on the practice squad are had all around the league as coaches and fans alike analyze their players. Since Sean McDermott accepted the head coaching role back in 2017, he has completely rebuilt the Buffalo Bills’ roster to suit his vision and one area that has always developed slowly is the wide receiver position.
Last season, the Bills wide receiver group was headlined by Kelvin Benjamin, Zay Jones, Andre Holmes, Corey Coleman, and Jeremy Kerley. Even before the season started, analysts believed the Bills had one of the worst receiving corps in the league and they were absolutely right. As it turned out, Buffalo’s receiver group performed terribly in 2018 and was one of the biggest hindrances of both the team’s and rookie quarterback Josh Allen’s success. Twelve months later, Benjamin, Kerley, and Holmes have all been cut, none of which are currently on an NFL roster.
Needless to say, there has been a lot of change in Buffalo’s wide receiver room. Many new faces have now joined the team and although last year’s receiving battle was intense, this year’s will likely match the intensity of last year’s but with much higher quality. Let’s take a look at this revamped receiving corps and each players’ projected role on the team as we prepare for training camp.
Unlike last year, there are actually quite a few players who are locks to make the team, leaving only a few slots remaining for the rest of the group.
Fresh off of a decent season with the Baltimore Ravens, John Brown signed a three-year deal with the Bills in March. Brown who has been commonly referred to as a “late bloomer” has found his niche a little bit later in his career. Brown, 29, appears to be Josh Allen’s deep threat and the two will hopefully connect on plenty of long bombs in 2019.
Much to Cowboy nation’s chagrin, Beasley Dallas to join Buffalo this offseason. Beasley, who went undrafted in 2012, quickly made a name for himself, becoming one of the best slot receivers in the league. Beasley’s agility mixed with his ability to get open makes him a match up nightmare for any defense. Although Beasley has been unable to practice in OTA’s, he has already started trying to get on the same wavelength with Allen to ensure they are ready to build chemistry come training camp.
Jones, now entering his third year in the league, Jones is beginning to make the strides we had all hoped he would. Once Benjamin and Holmes were cut last season, Jones took over as the number one receiver for the Bills and developed quite a crisp chemistry with Allen. It is safe to say that Jones has the best chemistry with Allen of all the receivers on the roster which makes him a safe bet to have a big part of Buffalo’s 2019 offense.
When Robert Foster went undrafted out of Alabama last year, many thought he would not stick in the NFL, if he even got a chance. Fortunately, Foster got his chance and with his former college coach in Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll. Foster had a slow start to his career and when his work ethic was in question, he even got cut by the team and put on the practice squad as a wake up call. When he returned to the 53-man roster, Foster took the league by storm, taking over as Allen’s primary deep threat. With John Brown now in the picture, Foster may take a lesser role in the offense, but I would love to see some packages with Brown and Foster both on the field.
On the bubble
With four spots already locked up, McDermott may only keep 1-3 receivers on the roster. That being said, here are some of the players most likely to take those last few spots.
McKenzie was picked up by the Bills midseason after being waived by the Denver Broncos and quickly became a big part of the offense after easily climbing the depth chart. He was an excellent utility piece in Dabolls’ offense and could provide a similar role in 2019 if he is awarded a roster spot. McKenzie’s knowledge of the playbook and connection with Allen makes him a prime contender for one of the last spots on the roster but depending on the results of training camp and preseason, he may on the way out.
Coming off of a pro-bowl season as a kick returner as well as having a bone to pick with the New York Jets, Roberts seems like a perfect fit for a Bills team that struggled in the return game last year. Roberts signed with the Bills in March after extension talks with the Jets went south. Although Roberts doesn’t provide much for the offense, his special team capabilities are invaluable.
Possibly the most interesting player on the roster is former Auburn receiver Duke Williams. Williams joined the Bills after being the leading receiver in the CFL. Williams’ large 6’2 frame gives the Bills a nice red zone threat. He may even be what Kelvin Benjamin never was for the Bills.
Ray Ray McCloud
The Clemson product did not make a big impact for the Bills in his rookie season. McCloud often vanished in the Buffalo offense and also muffed a few kick returns, as he was designated as the primary return man early in the year. He seems to have made strides in the offseason, looking decent at OTA’s, but will it be enough to carve out a role for the 2019 season?
Outside looking in
The last category is for players that will not likely earn a spot on the 53-man roster, but may get a spot on Buffalo’s practice squad. With how improved the Bills’ receiving group is in 2019, it would be surprising if one of these players earned a spot on the team. These players include: David Sills, Victor Bolden, Cam Phillips, D’mari Scott, and Nick Easley.
What to expect
Training camp will be very exciting this year with chemistry building with Josh Allen on the front end and a heavy competition on the back end. As of right now, my desired receiving corps is Brown, Beasley, Jones, Foster, Roberts, Williams. That group would provide the Bills with an dynamic group of athletic individuals with a variety of different skill sets that would put Josh in a position to succeed.