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Is Isaiah McKenzie the Starting Slot Receiver for the Buffalo Bills?

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Isaiah McKenzie is having a phenomenal offseason. The self-proclaimed face of the franchise is doing everything right so far in camp, and he may have already earned himself a bigger role in the offense moving forward. Though there are stipulations, McKenzie currently looks like the Buffalo Bills’ starting slot receiver this season.

Buffalo Bills on Twitter: “QB Josh Allen: “Isaiah McKenzie just keeps making plays for our offense. He’s a little muscle hamster.” #BillsMafia pic.twitter.com/jCS3yCOhks / Twitter”

QB Josh Allen: “Isaiah McKenzie just keeps making plays for our offense. He’s a little muscle hamster.” #BillsMafia pic.twitter.com/jCS3yCOhks

There are plenty of snaps up for grabs amongst the Bills receivers, of course. The losses of Buffalo’s top two snap leaders out of the slot, Cole Beasley (who was second league-wide in slot snaps in 2021) and Emmanuel Sanders, make for a hole that needs filling.

PlayerSlot SnapsSlot Rate
Cole Beasley53682.1%
Emmanuel Sanders11616.1%
Isaiah McKenzie10743%
Per PlayerProfiler.com

Beasley’s absence will, undoubtedly, be felt and Sanders did his fair share of slot work too. Still, McKenzie took 43% of his snaps from the slot in 2021, so experience isn’t what he’s lacking; just opportunity. When given the chance, he’s excelled.

A Shot at Slot for Isaiah McKenzie

Isaiah McKenzie New England Patriots Buffalo Bills Stefon Diggs
Winslow Townson/AP

When Beasley and Gabe Davis (Covid list) were out Week 16 against the New England Patriots last season, it was McKenzie who stepped up. His play was crucial to Buffalo’s success on offense. New England didn’t have an answer for the Bills’ game plan of having McKenzie running away from linebackers on crossing routes and slants. He delivered 11 catches, 125 yards, and a TD on 12 targets. They were all career highs.

Iestyn T Harris on Twitter: “Isaiah McKenzie put on a show against New England last season, with the division on the line. Both Beasley and Davis were out, so he got the slot to himself. Lil Dirty racks up 11 catches for 125 yards and 1 TD. Future starting slot? #BillsMafia pic.twitter.com/sj6kbUucPF / Twitter”

Isaiah McKenzie put on a show against New England last season, with the division on the line. Both Beasley and Davis were out, so he got the slot to himself. Lil Dirty racks up 11 catches for 125 yards and 1 TD. Future starting slot? #BillsMafia pic.twitter.com/sj6kbUucPF

“The biggest adjustment is going to be the potential for stepping into a full-time role.”

– Sean MCDermott on McKenzie in 2022, video Press conference (01/08/22)

As a result of that game, we have exactly one game on file of McKenzie as the starting slot receiver in this offense. As teams game plan to beat him, his production per-game would be expected to decrease from that surprise performance, but his skillset allows him to draw coverage and break up zones to help teammates get open.

An Opportunity to Seize

Isaiah McKenzie Slot Receiver Buffalo Bills Training Camp Practice
Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News

So, where did his front-runner status come from? It wasn’t just the absence of Beasley and Sanders that brought this on. His main competition for the role, recently signed Jamison Crowder, has been hurt and unable to participate. Rookie WR Khalil Shakir is drawing plenty of attention for his play, but has been working with the second-string in practice thus far.

It’s been reported by numerous outlets that McKenzie has made the most of his starting time, and has been a topic of discussion during plenty of the team’s press conferences. He’ll have to keep it up – with the preseason only a week away, Crowder returns to practice. The 29-year old was a notable signing for the Buffalo Bills this offseason, and won’t take this competition sitting down. The team also signed Tavon Austin, the former eighth-overall selection in the 2013 NFL Draft.

Bills will feature outstanding competition for top slot receiver

Cole Beasley for three seasons filled a crucial role with expert precision and total reliability. When the Buffalo Bills needed a first down, quarterback Josh Allen could almost always count on his 5-foot-8 slot receiver to be in an open position at or past the marker and to haul the football in when it was delivered.

What do you think? Is Isaiah McKenzie capable of filling the slot WR role for the Buffalo Bills? Let us know!

Featured Image: Winslow Townson/AP

One of the owners The Sports Wave, and a Journalist at Buffalo Fanatics, I'm an English immigrant living in Canada. A huge Buffalo Bills fan, I also love my Boston Celtics, Toronto Blue Jays, and Queens Park Rangers.

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