The Buffalo Bills are turning to a familiar face to help with their depleted wide receiver depth.
The team announced on December 24 that they signed Austin Proehl to the practice squad after receivers Cole Beasley and Gabriel Davis were placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. Proehl was originally drafted by the Bills in 2018 and bounced around the league a bit afterward, eventually making his way back to Buffalo’s practice squad earlier this season. He had been released in November, but now comes back to add depth.
Proehl not only brings a familiarity with Buffalo’s offense, but also a strong football pedigree. His father is Ricky Proehl, who won two Super Bowls over the course of a 17-year career.
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Bills Losing Depth
Proehl returns to Buffalo to help a team depleted by injuries and infection. In addition to losing Beasley and Davis for Sunday’s critical matchup against the New England Patriots, the team also placed offensive lineman Cody Ford on the reserve list. Fellow linemen Dion Dawkins and Jon Feliciano had been previously placed on the COVID-19 list, but could be eligible to return against the Patriots.
The Bills could be getting at least one bit of good news on offense. As Pro Football Talk noted, veteran wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders is set to return after missing last week’s win over the Carolina Panthers with an injured knee.
But the Bills have been hurt on the other side of the ball as well. Defensive lineman Star Lotulelei also spent time on the reserve list this season, as well as losing time due to injury and was out this week for personal reasons. All-Pro cornerback Tre’Davious White was also lost for the season after suffering a torn ACL in a Thanksgiving night win over the New Orleans Saints.
The Bills could also be without a pair of coaches for Sunday’s make-or-break game against the Patriots. Special teams coordinator Heath Farwell and defensive line coach Eric Washington were also added to the reserve list on Friday, and their status for Sunday was unclear.
Proehl Could Slide Into the Slot
While it’s not clear if Proehl will get a call up to the active roster for this week’s game, the team will likely need to turn to some lesser-used players. Isaiah McKenzie, who this season has been mostly a return specialist and was inactive for two games, will likely slide into the slot to fill in for Beasley. Rookie receiver Marquez Stevenson, a fill-in for McKenzie when he was benched, could also see more snaps on offense.
Proehl was seen as a potential slot receiver at the time he was drafted, with Bills Wire’s Kyle Silagyi noting he was similar to now-Steelers receiver Ray-Ray McCloud.
“At 5-foot-10, 185 pounds, Proehl is the ideal size for a slot receiver,” Silagyi wrote. “On the surface, it looks as though he plays a similar game to that of Ray-Ray McCloud, a receiver/returner hybrid who Buffalo selected in the sixth round. They seemingly fill the same holes. Proehl could end up competing with McCloud for a roster spot in training camp.”
Proehl will now have his third chance to compete for a chance to play for the Bills.
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