To say the least, the return game for the Buffalo Bills has been a non-factor for the last few seasons.
The last spark the team had on a return most likely came from Tyler Thigpen, who hasn’t played for the team since 2015, or Brandon Tate, who Buffalo chose not to re-sign after the 2017 season.
Up to this point in 2018, the team’s longest punt return has been 13 yards. That came from Ray-Ray McCloud, who’s since been demoted after he coughed up the football twice.
For the Bills (2-5), they saw the hole in their special teams and attempted to try and fix it this week. Their eyes were on Denver Broncos wide receiver, Isaiah McKenzie.
McKenzie’s blazing fast 4.42 second 40-time made him appealing to the Bills brass after they realized McCloud may not be ready or sustainable. McKenzie’s 78-yard punt return for a touchdown along the sideline this preseason showed off that speed.
On Wednesday, their plans changed when Denver released quarterback Chad Kelly. The western New York native was arrested earlier this week, leading to his release.
The Broncos ended up promoting McKenzie from their practice squad to their 53-man active roster this week after Kelly’s arrest and release.
Somehow, a Kelly ends up hurting the Bills’ franchise. The irony.
At the end of the day, Denver and general manager John Elway may have done Buffalo general manager Brandon Beane a favor. Although McKenzie has speed and a 44-yard kick return under his belt, the 23-yard old coughed the ball up six times during his 2017 rookie campaign. That prompted the Broncos to think twice in 2018 and keep him on the practice squad. It’s only now in Week 8 that they’ve decided to give him another shot because the Bills attempt to sign him, which prompted the Broncos to promote him instead of letting the returner walk.
As the season moves along, the Bills may end up looking for another hidden gem to use as a return man. At this point, it may not matter since the team didn’t even field a punt in their Week 7 blowout in Indianapolis. Here’s to hoping that changes.