The 2018 Buffalo Bills WR corps weren’t expected to light up the NFL in any fashion but did have several bright spots from young contributors from which the team can possibly build off of going into 2019. Today’s article will review all the injuries sustained during the 2018 season at the wide receiver position.
A total of 12 players suited up for the Bills throughout the season with varying degrees of success. The total wide receiver statistics were: 149 receptions on 290 targets for 1,989 yards and 11 TD’s. While these stats do not jump off the page, they do represent the wide variety of talent on the roster and will identify who is likely to come back next year.
The first players that will be addressed will be veteran players who suited up for the team but have since been released for a variety of reasons and are unlikely to see 2019 in a Bills uniform. Those included are: WR Jeremy Kerley, WR Terrelle Pryor, WR Andre Holmes, and WR Kelvin Benjamin. Starting off with Kerley, he saw action in one game for the Bills this season before his eventual release. He was initially released to provide DT depth moving forward with plans to bring him back into the fold, but that never materialized. Kerley’s stats were as follows: 1 game, 4 targets for 2 receptions and 7 yards and 0 TD’s. He did not suffer any injuries and is not a player that is expected back next season.
WR Terrelle Pryor spent the first part of the season with the NY Jets and was released due to a groin injury. Once healthy, he was quickly signed by Buffalo appearing in 2 games with 1 rushing attempt for -1 yard, 8 targets for 2 receptions for 17 yards and 0 TD’s. He is also another veteran that did not suffer any injuries while in Buffalo and will not find himself on the Buffalo sideline in 2019.
WR Andre Holmes spent the entire 2017 season with the Bills and part of 2018 until his release late in the season. In the 12 games he appeared in, he started 3 and was targeted 23 times for 12 receptions for 157 yards and 0 TD’s. He was eventually released and picked up by Denver and played sparingly for them until an ankle injury forced him to IR. During his time with the Bills, he did suffer a neck injury that did not force him to miss anytime this year but he has had neck injuries in the past; 2017 saw his season end due to a neck injury. It is possible the Bills could take a look at him during free agency, but unlikely as he is no longer productive and is getting older.
Finally, WR Kelvin Benjamin, the receiver that is one Popeye’s biscuit away from a TE according to Booger McFarland. The much maligned wideout suffered a knee injury and brutal hit to the head during this season that did not force him to miss any games. Despite being available every week, appearing in 12 games and starting 10, Benjamin was only able to amass 62 targets for 23 receptions for 354 yards and 1 TD. The overall lack of production along with many instances in where he did not go all out on plays or fight for contested balls led to his eventual release where he was quickly picked up by the Kansas City Chiefs. However, he was found to be a non-factor in the playoffs and his season ended in the AFC championship game not even seeing one snap. Unless the Bills build a Chick-Fil-A in the team facility, there is no way Benjamin will come back to Buffalo and as a result, the Bills are far better off without him.
Next up is young receivers who could make the roster based on strong training camps in 2019 who include: WR Cam Phillips, WR Da’Mari Scott, WR Victor Boldin, and WR Ray-Ray McCloud.
WR Cam Phillips appeared in 2 games hauling in his only target for 1 reception for 9 yards and 0 TD’s. While his playing time was severely limited this year, it appeared as though the coaching staff were enamored by his abilities which led them to keep him on the practice squad after his initial release from the active roster. He may be a quality depth/special teams player going into the 2019 season and as he did not have any injuries, makes for an attractive, cost effective option moving forward at WR.
WR Da’Mari Scott appeared in 3 games for the Bills after spending most of the season on the practice squad for the Cleveland Browns. While Scott did not record any stats during his time with the Bills, he did contribute to several offensive plays and special teams. Like Phillips, he may be a quality depth/special teams player that the front office wants to keep around going into next season if he has a strong training camp.
WR Victor Bolden was another late season addition to the roster after spending most of his season with the 49ers. Like Scott, he did not produce any offensive stats, only receiving 5 kick returns for a total of 116 yards. Based on what the front office sees in him, he could be another option on special teams moving forward until they find higher quality players.
WR Ray-Ray McCloud was a surprise addition to the roster at the beginning to the season following a knee sprain during the Bears preseason game that forced him to miss 2 games as a result. He was able to come back after fully healing and spent most of his time on special teams appearing in 10 games, starting 1. He had 2 attempts for 4 yards rushing to go along wit 6 targets for 5 receptions for 36 yards. As he was a 6th round pick that did not produce when it counted, he may be a player who has to fight in training camp in order to secure a job next season. I see him as a strong possibility to return but buried on the WR depth chart or relegated to primarily special teams.
Others that saw time at the WR position this season in a limited role was WR Deonte Thompson. The veteran receiver spent time with Buffalo last year before returning after a stint with the Dallas Cowboys. During his time in Buffalo, he appeared in 5 games, starting 2. He was targeted 10 times for 3 receptions and 37 yards with 0 TD’s. He dealt with an Achilles strain shortly after he rejoined the team that did not force him to miss any games. Unfortunately, he later suffered a toe injury in the loss to the Patriots in Week 16 which caused him to miss the season finale. I had suspected that he suffered turf toe or a plantar plate injury which would cause him to miss time but as it was the season finale, the team elected to not dress him and shut him down for the year. That injury moving forward would not affect him going into 2019, however, due to his veteran status and lack of production this year, he may be a candidate that the Bills let hit free agency knowing there’s cheaper options after the draft.
Next is the 3 players that made the most impact in the and are certain to make the roster next year. First up is WR Robert Foster. The UDFA burst onto the Bills roster after an up and down training camp appearing in 13 games with 3 starts garnering 44 targets for 27 receptions and 541 yards with 3 TD’s. Along with the unexpected production, Foster did suffer several injuries including very hard shots to the head/neck area and thigh region that thankfully were not serious.
The most significant injury Foster suffered was what appeared to be a thumb injury in the win over the Jets midway through the season which may have been a dislocated thumb. He exited the game briefly but was able to return with a possible thumb spica and gloves to finish the game. This thumb injury was most likely his most serious injury but should not have any long term impact going into next season. Considering the type of relationship that Foster developed with QB Josh Allen, he appears to be a lock on this roster moving forward.
WR Isaiah McKenzie was incredibly productive after being picked up on waivers from the Denver Broncos midway through the season. He appeared in 7 games with 1 start demonstrating versatility with 10 rushing attempts for 66 yards and 2 TD’s to go along with 30 targets for 18 receptions for 179 yards and 0 TD’s. McKenzie appeared to suffer several serious injuries that required the use of the gator to remove him from the field this season but none of the injuries were even remotely serious. He suffered a toe injury in practice back in December that did not appear to affect his mobility in anyway followed by minor ankle tweaks and cramping in his calf which brought on initial fears of an Achilles tear. Thankfully this was not the case, but due to the violent nature of the game, he got banged up pretty good. However, McKenzie should be able to rest up and prepare his body for another year of pro football and build off his excellent 2018 season.
Finally, the most productive receiver on the Bills this year, WR Zay Jones. He appeared in all 16 games for 15 starts with 102 targets, 56 receptions and 652 yards with 7 TD’s. While at times he was streaky with his production, he took a big step forward in both his statistics and health, avoiding the injury report all together this season after a trying off-season in which he got his labrum in his shoulder repaired along with a bizarre incident in LA which resulted in him cutting his knee open trying to kick through a glass window. That knee injury along with the resulting surgeries did slow his participation in the preseason but he quickly was able to come to form during the regular season. He began to show flashes of why he was able to leave college as the NCAA career leader in receptions and will hopefully be able to build off this going into 2019.
Overall, the wide receiver position will have significant turnover with only Jones, McKenzie, and Foster as locks to return in 2019. Phillips, Scott, Boldin, and McCloud are all practice squad or depth options moving forward, but we have seen every preseason someone make that next leap forward as in the case of Foster. In addition, the Bills signed WR Duke Williams out of the CFL to help shore up the WR corps going into training camp. I believe that the WR position is something that will be addressed somewhat in free agency but will be further addressed in the draft. While there are tempting targets early in the 1st round along with big fish in free agency with Antonio Brown and Golden Tate, I believe Brandon Beane when he says they will be judicious and avoid some of the flashy moves that have put the Bills in a bad spot in years past.
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