Bills Expected to Cut Former 1st Round Pick: Insider

Tavon Austin

Getty Tavon Austin warms up before a Jacksonville Jaguars game.

Tavon Austin’s road to a spot on the Buffalo Bills‘ final roster could be growing more and more narrow.

The veteran was signed in the offseason and expected to compete for a spot as an outside receiver and return specialist. But Austin has fallen down the depth chart as competitors have seen their stock rise, and insiders believe he is now on the outside of the cut bubble looking in.

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Austin Faces ‘Tough Road’

As The Athletic’s Joe Buscaglia noted, Austin has mostly played with the third-string offense through training camp, and would need to prove himself as a kick returner to beat out the competition at wide receiver.

“Tavon Austin has a tough road ahead,” Buscaglia wrote. “He had consistently worked with the 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.”

The opportunities in the return game could be dwindling as well. Through the first two preseason games, the Bills have used speedy veteran Isaiah McKenzie as the primary kick returner and rookie receiver Khalil Shakir as the top punt returner.

Austin is also facing unexpected strong competition from Isaiah Hodgins, a 2020 draft pick who was injured for the entirety of his rookie season and spent the majority of last season on the practice squad. As’s Ryan Talbot noted, Hodgins looks healthy and strong this preseason and has had his “best training camp to date.”

“In his 2022 preseason debut, Hodgins showed that he could be counted upon as a pass catcher,” Talbot wrote. “Hodgins finished the win with 77 yards receiving on nine receptions.”

The former 2013 first-round pick is coming off a difficult season with the Jacksonville Jaguars, where Austin caught 24 passes for one touchdown and returned just two punts for a total of three yards.

Austin had an ominous start to the team’s second preseason game on Saturday against the Denver Broncos. A total of 10 different players had targets in the first half, and Austin was not among them. He ended the game with two catches for 18 yards.

Troubles in Training Camp

Aside from his failure to stand out in a talented receiving corps, Austin has also gotten into a bit of trouble during training camp. At the team’s August 1 practice, he got into a fight with veteran safety Siran Neal, part of a series of scarps that took place during the first few weeks of training camp.

While Bills head coach Sean McDermott has often been strict on player conduct and mental mistakes, general manager Brandon Beane didn’t seem as concerned about the scuffles.

“As long as it’s in a good nature and most importantly, when you walk off the field, it doesn’t carry in the locker room,” Beane said in an appearance on the Toronto radio show OverDrive. “But I would be a little nervous if we went through a whole training camp and we didn’t have some scuffles.”

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