The Bills are in line to once again have one of the league’s most prolific passing attacks in the NFL in 2022. They have undergone some changes at the receiver position, though, setting up a competition for the starting role in the slot to replace Cole Beasley.
Isaiah McKenzie “appears to have an early lead” to land that role, based on his usage during the spring, according to ESPN’s Alaina Getzenberg. The 27-year-old has been a starter for only 18 of the 53 games he has played in with the Bills, so seeing first-team reps on a full-time basis would be somewhat new. McKenzie has played just one-quarter of Buffalo’s offensive snaps the past two seasons, totalling 50 receptions, 460 yards and six touchdowns.
The former fifth-rounder has, of course, showcased his speed on special teams as well. He turned 24 kick returns into 584 yards last year, adding 147 yards on punt returns as well. As a result of his overall production, McKenzie earned a two-year, $8MM extension this offseason. His speed gives him a complimentary skillset to No. 1 wideout Stefon Diggs, and a very different profile to his primary competition for the slot role.
The Bills added veteran Jamison Crowder in free agency, after a three-year stint with the Jets. He had a down year in 2021, but was a consistent presence in New York’s offense the two prior years (137 catches, 1,532 yards, 12 touchdowns), giving him the opportunity to replace Beasley as a dependable chain-mover. In addition, Getzenberg notes that the 29-year-old has stood out during his first spring practices with the team.
Between Diggs and Gabriel Davis, the Bills are set on the perimeter at the WR position. As Getzenberg predicts, though, the competition between McKenzie and Crowder to determine the pecking order in the slot will be one of the most intriguing ones in training camp next month.