A season ago, the Buffalo Bills had one of the most dangerous passing attacks in the league as Josh Allen thrust himself into the NFL MVP conversation with a career-building year by passing to a multitude of receivers. Allen seemingly spread the ball around at will in the Brian Daboll-led offense. So, heading into a year where players can miss games at the drop of a hat and injuries can pop up out of nowhere, Buffalo’s wide receiver depth should be one of the Bills’ main focuses heading into this year.
The Bills had the third-best passing offense in the league in terms of yards and touchdowns on their way to a 13-3 regular-season record and an appearance in the AFC championship game. Allen also lit the league on fire with 4,544 yards and 37 touchdowns as 15 different receivers caught passes. The Bills also passed the ball 58-percent of the time last season, meaning their wide receiver depth is one of the most important factors this season.
Stefon Diggs, Cole Beasley, and Gabriel Davis are all back for the 2021 season and caught a combined 244 passes as all three have missed, or will, miss time this preseason. Diggs has sat out and just returned to practice recently after suffering a knee injury. Then, after coming into close contact with a Bills trainer who tested positive for COVID-19, Beasley and Davis were both sent home from the Bills facility and will miss the next five days due to NFL COVID-19 protocols.
What has happened to the Bills throughout the preseason is just an example of what could happen when they put on the pads for real in September. Luckily, they have plenty of talent that they could keep around when it comes to roster cuts. Diggs, Beasley, Davis, and veteran receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who was signed this offseason, are all set to make the roster at the end of the preseason. However, the Bills still have several other receivers who can make a difference this season.
Isaiah Hodgins, Isaiah McKenzie, Allen’s former Wyoming roommate Tanner Gentry, rookie Marquez Stevenson, and Jake Kumerow are all receivers who have found space on the roster this preseason and are fighting for spots. All of them have shown they have the capability to have an impact at some point, and all of them play a role in Daboll’s offense, where talented receivers are consistently needed — especially when any one receiver could go down or miss games during the season.
McKenzie was a mainstay in the offense last season and re-signed with the Bills this offseason on a one-year contract in hopes of proving himself even further this year in Buffalo’s explosive offense. With return specialist Andre Roberts now in Houston, McKenzie also can help the team in the return game as well. But he won’t be alone.
Stevenson, a rookie out of Houston, has also impacted the return game so far through the preseason. He returned a punt 79 yards for a touchdown against the Chicago Bears this past Saturday and could also be a deep threat this offseason. Kumerow has also caught a touchdown pass this preseason, and Hodgins was drafted last season but spent all year on the injured reserve.
At the end of the preseason, the Bills will have to choose who to keep on their roster for the upcoming season. To repeat their success from a year ago, they should focus on keeping as many wide receivers around as they can.
With the state of the league, where players like Davis and Beasley can be sent home or miss time due to close contact protocol, the Bills could be without some of their biggest weapons at any given time, and they can’t necessarily change their offensive attack at the drop of a hat. Although they were able to run the ball at times last year, they finished with the 22nd-best rushing attack in terms of attempts and 13th in terms of yards as they focused heavily on their pass offense.
So, if they can’t improve the running game this season, their passing game will be more important than ever. But having depth could offset any issues that they have this season. Allen was able to click with all of his receivers last season, and the Bills even tied a league record of 13 different receivers with a touchdown pass. So, as long as Allen has weapons at his disposal, Buffalo will be in a good spot throughout the season.
When the Bills choose their 53-man roster in the coming weeks, their depth at wide receiver must be prioritized.