The Buffalo Bills have the worst group of wide receivers in the NFL, and the entire corps is anchored down by its supposed number one target, Kelvin Benjamin. Between bad performance and a poor attitude, it’s time to start wondering: why did the Buffalo Bills brass, otherwise rabid in their obsession with finding competitive football junkies for their roster, think that Benjamin would be the right choice as a role model for the offense? And is Benjamin on the verge of exiting this roster?
It’s common knowledge that the Bills receiver has had a history of problems with his mindset in pretty much his entire career. Dating back to his time in high school, Benjamin ended up as a four star recruit (but was a 21-year-old freshman due to late graduation). At Florida State, Benjamin redshirted, played one season as a backup, then connected with Jameis Winston on a loaded national champion roster, parlaying that success into an NFL draft declaration. He had a terrible Combine workout, but his massive size appealed to the Carolina Panthers, who selected him in the first round of the draft. A strong rookie year had the Panthers thinking they landed a gem, but Benjamin hasn’t hit those highs since. Poor conditioning and weight control has followed Benjamin throughout his whole career, leading to non-contact injuries like an ACL tear and hamstring pulls.
On the field, Benjamin’s lack of focus and effort has been a recurring theme. Benjamin was called out by the mother of second year reciever Zay Jones early this year, in a deleted tweet where she claimed her son had to tell Benjamin where to line up on the field. She may have had a point.
Remember when Zay Jones' mom said he had to tell Kelvin Benjamin where to line up? Lmaoooo pic.twitter.com/KXYvLmvbq4— Steven Ruiz (@theStevenRuiz) October 13, 2018
It’s not just a misunderstanding of the playbook, though. It’s also a question of effort. And Benjamin’s effort is being questioned, not just by fans at home, but by his head coach. Sean McDermott called out his receiver in a press conference, saying he sees the effort he wants to see “at times” in contrast to other players, where it’s “all the time”. In warmups ahead of Sunday’s game with the Houston Texans, Benjamin apparently decided he wasn’t even interested in running some practice routes with franchise quarterback Josh Allen:
#Bills Josh Allen just asked Kelvin Benjamin if he wanted to work on routes pregame during warm ups.— Jenna Cottrell (@JennaCottrell) October 14, 2018
Kelvin’s answer: No
The poor attitude would be understandable if Benjamin were a highly productive player on a downtrodden team, or a competitive player frustrated that he’s not winning games - think an Odell Beckham Jr. situation. But that’s the other side of this coin - Benjamin was brought here to be a number one receiver, and he’s clearly not.
In 2018, Benjamin is one of the worst receivers in the league. He leads the Bills with 26 targets, and caught a grand total of 8. Among all NFL receivers with at least 20 targets, Benjamin ranks dead last with 3.96 yards per target, last with 30.8 catch percent, and second-last in yards per game with 20.6 and yards with 103. He’s running weak routes, he isn’t winning at the catch point, and when he is open, he’s a 50-50 shot to drop the ball.
And it’s not something that can be blamed on the offense as a whole. Yes, Josh Allen is struggling. But while there’s talent lacking, other players have improved. Zay Jones was one of the worst receivers in the league by all measures last season. This year, he’s closer in performance to an average number two receiver, with nearly eight yards per target while catching 62 percent of his passes. This failure is on Benjamin’s shoulders.
So when does Sean McDermott make a statement? It’s clear to anyone watching this team that Benjamin’s attitude runs in stark contrast to McDermott’s proclamations about process, character, and competition. It’s time to show that no one is an exception to that rule - not even a rookie who followed the coach and GM from Carolina to Buffalo. Benjamin doesn’t deserve to start right now, and it’s time to let Andre Holmes, Ray-Ray McCloud, and Robert Foster play over him - if only to send a message.
The team has young receivers on the roster and on the practice squad, and no one could make the case that Benjamin deserves to play over them right now. He definitely doesn’t deserve to be part of this roster in 2019 with new candidates joining the team. Every week that McDermott avoids making a move will make this problem more and more apparent.