The wide receiver room in Buffalo just got a bit less crowded as the Bills parted ways with veteran Tavon Austin.
The Bills announced the release on August 22, just two days after a preseason game in which he saw limited snaps. Austin, 31, was originally seen as a candidate for a spot as both a receiver and return specialist, but those duties have fallen to other members of the Bills, including a surprising third-year player who had been hampered by injuries.
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Move Was Not Unexpected
Austin joined the Bills in June as a free agent after spending a year with the Jacksonville Jaguars. A former first-round pick in 2013, Austin played a light role with the Jaguars, making 24 catches for 213 yards with one touchdown last season.
Through two preseason games with the Bills, Austin had just two catches for 18 yards.
Austin’s release was not unexpected. The Athletic’s Joe Buscaglia wrote on August 18 that Austin had played mostly with Buffalo’s third-string offense during training camp, and his path to making the team had narrowed to the return game. Instead, the Bills had veteran receiver Isaiah McKenzie returning kicks and rookie Khalil Shakir as the primary punt returner.
“Tavon Austin has a tough road ahead,” Buscaglia wrote. “He had consistently worked with the [quarterback Matt] Barkley offense when healthy and also missed a handful of practices. To make it, he’d need to wow the Bills as a kickoff and punt returner the rest of the summer. It would be difficult to justify him making the roster otherwise, but he remains an intriguing practice squad candidate.”
Austin also ran into a bit of trouble at training camp, getting into a fight with safety Siran Neal at a practice on August 1.
Surprise at Wide Receiver
Austin’s release could pave the way for a surprising wide receiver to make the final 53-man roster. Third-year receiver Isaiah Hodgins has been one of the top receivers through two preseason games, making a team-high 12 catches for 105 yards while also making key contributions on special teams.
Hodgins was a 2020 draft pick but missed his rookie season with an injury and spent most of last year on the practice squad. Now fully healthy again, Hodgins has looked impressive in training camp and earned some big praise from Bills head coach Sean McDermott.
“Two years of injury and fighting back, that resilient nature that he has,” McDermott said, via SI.com’s Bills Central. “He’s just a great human being and his teammates love him. Great to see him work himself back into position to make those plays, and for him to make those plays and come through for us was outstanding.”
Hodgins said that he’s not trying to worry about battling for a spot on the final roster.
“I feel like I just try to take it day by day and just go out there and have fun with my teammates and just focus,” Hodgins told reporters on August 21. “I don’t try to look at camp battles and who’s making the team and who’s not, I just take it day by day and go out there and play my best.”
Austin could also rejoin the Bills as a member of the practice squad. As a veteran, he is not subject to waivers after being released.
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