The Buffalo Bills lineup at wide receiver last year was widely decried as being abysmal. The leading pass catcher on the team was running back LeSean McCoy, with tight end Charles Clay behind him. The Bills attempted to address the need in the offseason, by signing journeymen Kaelin Clay and Jeremy Kerley while drafting rookies Ray-Ray McCloud III and Austin Proehl. Finally, they brought in Cam Philips and Robert Foster as undrafted free agents. The plan then was to unleash all these players, have them compete with one another, and have the chips fall where they may. Early returns during training camp have shown some surprising results.
During the first few sessions of training camp, commentators were quick to mention a new offensive lineup by Bills coordinator Brian Daboll. Daboll decided to experiment a little by moving top target Kelvin Benjamin to the slot and trotting out both Malachi Dupre and Andre Holmes on the outside. That formation would bring some serious height onto the field, as all three players are over 6’2.” It’s unknown if this lineup demonstrates a preference Daboll has towards receivers with height, or if it will be used situationally in the red zone or on third down.
Logjam in the Slot
Jeremy Kerley has spent the early portion of training camp establishing himself as the likely starting slot wide receiver thanks to his experience. (Even if Benjamin kicks down inside, Kerley is the most likely third receiver.) However, the competition to be Kerley’s backup has barely gotten off the ground. The trio of candidates, Ray-Ray McCloud, Austin Proehl and Kaelin Clay have failed to stand out and have begun to garner a fair share of bad press for it. Roster spots are not guaranteed for any of them, so unless they can some a modicum of improvement in the next few weeks, all three may be off the team.
Undrafted Players Impress
Robert Foster started training camp with a leg up when compared to his fellow wide receivers. His familiarity with Daboll’s offense ensured that he could hit the ground running and for the first few practices of training camp, and that’s what happened. His deep speed is particularly helpful when his quarterback has been Josh Allen, a player who can unleash bombs from any area of the field. However, it appears that the undrafted rookie’s momentum has slowed the past few days. WKBW’s Joe Buscaglia points out that Foster has been dropping and double-clutching “more than a handful” of passes and hasn’t stood out recently as a result.
The undrafted wide receiver consistently mentioned as a top performer by multiple press observers has been Cam Phillips. Praised for both his chemistry with quarterback Josh Allen and his strong hands in the red zone, Joe B. recently predicted that the former Virginia Tech Hokie will soon get a call up to the second team offense. Phillips will likely see extended snaps during the August 9th preseason game against the Carolina Panthers.