Veteran Bills WR Poised for Bigger Role Next Season: Insider

Isaiah McKenzie

Getty Isaiah McKenzie catches a pass in warmups before a Buffalo Bills game.

Isaiah McKenzie was something of a specialist for the Buffalo Bills over the last four seasons, but now appears poised to take on a much bigger spot in the team’s offense.

As the Bills opened training camp this week, insider Nate Geary noted that McKenzie appears to have moved into the starting slot position that Cole Beasley held for the last three seasons, falling ahead of the team’s big free agent acquisition. McKenzie, who had been used primarily as a punt and kick returner and jet sweep specialist in the last few years, showed off his potential in the slot last season in Beasley’s absence, and now could take on that role on a permanent basis.

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McKenzie on Top at Training Camp

As Geary noted, McKenzie has been taking reps with the other starting wide receivers for the Bills, Stefon Diggs and Gabriel Davis. That puts him ahead of free-agent acquisition Jamison Crowder.

“I think Jamison Crowder is going to have to take the #3 WR role away from Isaiah McKenzie,” Geary tweeted. “It’s early, so there’s a lot of time to do that but I imagine McKenzie is going to be tough to beat out.”

Geary, the pregame and halftime for the team’s official radio broadcast on WGR 550, said he was surprised at the order in training camp given Crowder’s history.

“I sorta figured Crowder walked off the bus as the defacto starter. I’m not sure that’s right,” he tweeted.

Crowder has been much more productive over the course of the last three seasons, tallying 1,979 yards and 14 touchdowns as the top slot receiver for the New York Jets. McKenzie had 714 yards and seven touchdowns over that same time frame, but had a breakout game last season while starting in place of Beasley. In a critical Week 16 game against the New England Patriots, McKenzie made 11 catches for 125 receiving yards and a touchdown.

Bills Commit to McKenzie

The depth chart at training camp could be a reflection of the commitment the Bills made to McKenzie this offseason. He signed a two-year deal with the team in March, and afterward spoke of his commitment to the franchise.

“For me, I would say I love being here,” McKenzie said. “For me and my life, it’s always been about loyalty. I’ve had the same trainer since ninth grade, I’ve had the same friends since five years old. For me, it’s about loyalty. And the Buffalo Bills have been loyal to me, and I want to stay loyal to them.

McKenzie added that he is happy to have the stability of a two-year contract.

“It feels good,” McKenzie said. “I worked through it, grinded through it, and now I’m here. I get some security, get some stability, and I’m excited. I just want to keep it going. Take it one day at a time, one practice at a time, one game at a time, and just win some football games.”

Aside from his move up the wide receiver depth chart, McKenzie also appears to be stepping into a bigger leadership role with the offense. In practice on July 25, he and quarterback Josh Allen stepped in to help rookie receiver Khalil Shakir when he had difficulty with a route.

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