Last year, Return Specialist Andre Roberts had a spectacular year. He accounted for just under 1,300 total yards of offense with 961 yards from kick returns. Despite never taking one the distance, Roberts averaged 30.03 yards per return, good for first in the entirety of the NFL. Return Specialists are often overlooked, but replacing that production should be a huge concern for this coaching staff. That being said, I went to Twitter to see who the community would like to see return kicks and punts for the Bills this upcoming season.
Isaiah McKenzie (53.2%)
The clear “winner” from this poll was the gadget-man himself, Isaiah McKenzie. Last season, McK had three total returns, one of which went 84 yards for a touchdown against Miami. Despite being a shorter player, McKenzie is fairly stocky and arm tackles seem to only accelerate him. In the short sample size of returns we’ve seen from him, he often struggles to find a true lane. He often guesses and hopes for positive yards. What you want to see in a King Returner is the “cut and go”, something that Andre Roberts was very good at. If McKenzie can improve his decision-making, then I am alright with him being the Kickoff Specialist. But there are some other intriguing options as well.
Marquez Stevenson (27.7%)
Late in the 2020 NFL Draft, Beane & Co. took a speedster receiver out of Houston. Marquez Stevenson said claimed to have ran a 4.38 40-time, per the Houston Chronicle. He has been grinding in the weight room, as well as crisping up on his routes. One aspect that Stevenson has been overlooked in is his foot quickness and quickness in the five-yard area. His three-cone time was a 6.46, which is in the 100th percentile. This makes him, technically, one of the quickest players in NFL history before taking a single snap.
Based on testing and measurements, Stevenson is looking more and more like a Jaylen Waddle clone. And I’d sure as hell would like Jaylen Waddle returning kicks for my team. Stevenson might not have the hype or skill to play at Receiver this year, but he might shock the world with his return ability.
Christian Wade (12.5%)
Christian Wade gained quite a media following a couple years ago as a former rugby player who played amazing in the pre-season. Now, entering his third year, it’s time for Wade to find a niche on this team or it might be the cutting block for him. One of my favorite Bills sound-bytes of all time came in 2019, when Wade was told by coaching staff members and players to “go play rugby”. And he did. Wade’s first ever snap went for a 65-yard touchdown, where he displayed great vision and twitchiness. Once again, like Marquez, Wade is unlikely to play and snaps at his true position. But, come training camp, could fight for a job as a either a Return Specialist, or designated Kick/Punt Returner. I’d personally love Wade as the punt returner for next year due to his vision and big-play ability.
Matt Breida (6.6%)
The newly signed speed-demon Matt Breida failed to gain any traction from Bills Mafia as a Returner option. According to GPS-tracking, Breida has had the two fastest plays in the NFL over the past two seasons. However, in kick and punt returns in the past, Breida has failed to produce. In five kick returns in 2017 with San Francisco, he averaged 16.6 yards per return. That’s not very good, to say the least. Breida’s home is at Running Back. And I think the Bills have enough players to compete at all return spots that Breida will not have to be called on.