Update: Heading into Week 14, the Buffalo Bills are almost as healthy as can be. There is not much for me to update you all on the injury front, and that’s a good thing as we head to the final quarter of the season. WR John Brown is eligible to return after Sunday night’s tilt against the Steelers. Matt Milano’s snap count is expected to increase from his 19 snaps played on Monday night. Josh Allen donned the brace on his right knee, but it sure didn’t look like it had any impact on his ability against San Francisco. He didn’t run much at all, and maybe the brace was a reason why. It could also be that he was shredding Robert Saleh’s defense with his rocket arm to the tune of 375 yards and 4 TDs. Maybe its just that his legs weren’t needed. His legs appeared fine when maneuvering the pocket and escaping and delivering accurate throws on the run. Let’s hope the team can stay healthy as they attempt to clinch the division for the first time since 1995. In case you aren’t aware of this scenario, with a win on Sunday night vs. Pittsburgh, and a loss by Miami to the Chiefs, the Bills will clinch the division with a win in Denver the following week.
For this week, I’m bringing you guys a summary with some interesting nuggets from the interview Rico did with Bills WR Isaiah McKenzie on the Rico Report on Tuesday. Let’s dive in!
On the 2020 Offseason:
On March 24, 2020, the Bills agreed to terms with Isaiah on a 1-year contract worth $962,500. When talking about the offseason, McKenzie states he “wanted to be in Buffalo”. McKenzie signed soon after the trade for Diggs was made, and GM Brandon Beane later drafted two more guys into the WR room in Gabriel Davis and Isaiah Hodgins. Coming into camp, this room included Diggs, Brown, Beasley, McKenzie, Davis, Hodgins, Duke Williams, and Andre Roberts. Offensive Coordinator, Brian Daboll, told Isaiah “Don’t play the numbers game.” McKenzie then explains that he only focused on what he can control and do his part to ensure he made the 53-man roster. Talk about mental toughness! When you’re fighting for a job, it’s hard to not see the line of candidates trying to take your job, especially in the NFL. We all know it ended with McKenzie on the 53. So far, his stats this season are 18 rec, 171 yds, 3 TDs. 6 rush attempts for 4 yds, 1 completion for 12 yds, and 1 TD.
On the WR Room:
Rico asked McKenzie to describe the WRs with two words. He said, “I’ll use one word: un-guardable.” I think we can all agree that McKenzie couldn’t have described this group of guys any better. They have arguably the league’s best route runner in Stefon Diggs and one of the most underrated route runners in John Brown. Cole Beasley should be in the discussion for the best slot WR in the NFL as well, and guys have continuously said that Beasley is “always open”. McKenzie used the word “sneaky” to describe rookie WR Gabriel Davis, and I LOVED that. Sneaky fits well for Davis. Have you all ever noticed that Davis seems to be wide open on his TD receptions? He was wide open in the game against the Jets in MetLife, but it was called back due to a penalty. He was all alone on the opening TD in Vegas. He was wide open on Monday night as well after Allen fooled the secondary with a beautiful pump fake, which allowed Gabe Davis to almost be at a complete standstill waiting for Allen’s pass to fall into his hands at the goal line. McKenzie’s speed and agility is tough for opposing DB’s to cover as well, especially when they hit defenes with those jet sweeps or wheel routes. Let’s look at a few screenshots from the game on Monday night. Un-guardable was the perfect word from Isaiah to describe this group of WR’s.
Diggs’ sideline awareness and footwork is incredible and there aren’t many other WR’s who are better at this, if at all. How do you guard this?
This is the play where Rico referred to CB Jason Verrett having his ankles, soul, and everything else snatched. Diggs planted and turned to an out route so fast that he made Verrett drop to a knee. Verrett is a good CB in this league, but Diggs was too much for him. Diggs’ route running is too much for almost every CB in this league. Like McKenzie said, un-guardable.
Cole Beasley shows off his own set of footwork and sideline awareness on this first-down catch. Not only does he keep his feet in and make the catch, but look at the separation he created and the amount of space there is between him and the DB. This type of route running and reliability has helped elevate QB Josh Allen’s confidence and overall game. Un-guardable.
Death, taxes and Gabriel Davis wide open for a touchdown. Allen deserves a lot of credit on this specific play for his shoulder pump fake and using his eyes, but Gabriel Davis ran a crisp route and gave himself enough space to be able to make the catch cleanly and walk into the endzone.
Isaiah McKenzie found himself wide open as well for an easy touchdown. Credit Brian Daboll for the play call and ability to put players in positions to succeed. When you get an LB matched up on McKenzie, that’s a mismatch. This WR core is confident. They believe in themselves and their QB. The Bills have one of the best WR groups in the league. Their combination of speed, intelligence, football IQ, and route running makes them…..un-guardable.
Rico also asked Isaiah to describe the vibe of this locker room. Isaiah quickly responded with the word “brotherhood”. The interesting part of this tidbit as Rico and Isaiah went deeper into it, is that Isaiah brought up the coaches as well as the players. It’s easy for us fans to see the videos of the guys dancing at practice or the pregame and post-game speeches. McKenzie went in more detail to talk about the coaching staff being a part of this brotherhood, or family. McKenzie said, “There’s a lot of people in their corner.” He describes the constant encouragement from the coaches, specifically Daboll: “They are always telling us to keep doing you. They let us know when we are doing a hell of a job. Even if a guy gets cut, the coaches will put in good words for you with other teams. They don’t want to burn any bridges.” This was amazing to hear as a fan of this team. You can see the love and trust they have for one another, and the genuine hope for everyone to succeed.
On OC Brian Daboll:
McKenzie uses two words to describe his OC: “great play-caller”. McKenzie goes on to say, “As Josh and the players grown, so does Daboll. He‘s learning his guys and allowing freedom and leeway to the guys. He’s changing it up and not forcing guys to only run select routes.” McKenzie is spot on here. With Daboll, the WRs have the ability and freedom to run the entire tree and be put in a position to succeed. Stefon Diggs was already established as a top WR in the league prior to being traded to Buffalo. In his first year with the Bills, Diggs is having a career year. Diggs’ stat line through 12 games are 90 rec, 1,037 yds, and 4 TDs. His career-high in yards for a season is 1,130 (last season in Minnesota), and he is on track to break that. WR Cole Beasley is also having a career year in his second season with Daboll. Beasley’s stats for 2020 are 66 rec, 797 yds, and 4 TDs. Beasley’s career-high for yards came back in 2016 with Dallas, where he totaled 833 yards. Like Diggs, Beasley is on track to break his career-high as well.
Is there a real chance Daboll can leave for a HC gig?
Credit to Rico for asking the question, which has been talked about almost all season among BillsMafia. McKenzie didn’t answer the question directly, but he went on to say, “All coaches have their own ‘savviness’ to the way they call plays and game plan.” These players are human so, of course, they are aware of the possibility of their OC leaving for a promotion. It happens every single offseason in professional sports. It appears McKenzie has some confidence that there is a guy already in the building (Dorsey named specifically) to get the job done and succeed Brian Daboll but would be done in a different way. He did joke, “Hopefully he can leave his playbook here, though.” That would be just fine for Bills fans too, Isaiah! That being said, let’s hope Daboll stays in his hometown.
New stadium preference?:
When asked what he prefers for playing conditions and weather, McKenzie stated that he prefers playing “indoors and great weather over outdoors”. Rico then asked, “If I were to give the team a survey and say we are bringing a dome, do you want it? Or do you want to stay outdoors?” McKenzie quickly responded with the “whole team taking the dome, for sure”. Over the past few years with Roger Goodell insisting the Pegulas build a new stadium, there has been a lot of discussion over Bills twitter with various polls and surveys by fans on whether they want a new stadium to be a dome or not. It seems many fans would prefer a dome as well. I happen to agree! I was at the game last season in late November against the Broncos, and it was freezing cold and windy. I would much prefer to watch a game indoors and in nice weather. McKenzie states the players feel the same way. Let’s get that dome built!
Weather advantage debunked?
McKenzie talked about the notion that the cold weather games in Buffalo are an advantage for the Bills. However, is that even true? It’s clear the players prefer to play indoors or in optimal weather. He also talked about the majority of the players on the Bills themselves are not from Buffalo or even up north. Many of them are from the South or West and go to schools in those areas. McKenzie explains that “it is difficult for players to adjust to cold weather games” even when it’s your home stadium.
Favorite play call:
McKenzie was asked what his favorite play call is. He says, “I prefer to be in the slot, I love the jet sweeps, but I also want the chance to run some deep routes as well.” Personally, I love the jet sweeps as well. They keep the defense off balance and have the potential to go for big gains. However, McKenzie has earned the right to get some targets on other play calls as well. He ran a beautiful crossing route on the opening drive against Seattle that went for a touchdown. He ran a nice wheel route on Monday night that the defense could not keep up with and resulted in another easy touchdown.
Disrespect from media:
I loved that Rico brought this topic up. All season, the Bills have been disrespected. “Well they haven’t played anyone,” was said repeatedly. We’ve all seen the clips from FS1’s Nick Wright, the avid Josh Allen hater. McKenzie’s response was perfect when asked about the disrespect for Allen and the Bills team from national media guys. He said, “You see what this guy (Josh Allen) does on Monday night, in the game against Seattle, in Miami earlier in the season. We’re not talking about 2018 anymore. This is 2020, MVP candidate. Josh Allen is skyrocketing.” The players believe in their QB. They believe in their coaches. They believe in themselves and the other guys in their position groups. That means more than a TV show host believing in them.
Playing in the Denver altitude:
This was an interesting question from a fan in the chat. The Bills will be traveling there next weekend, and it’s widely known in the NFL that the high altitude in Denver is difficult for traveling teams. McKenzie said, “It’s intense. Even walking up the stairs is bad, and you find yourself catching your breath. After a while, you get used to it though.” It’ll be a tough adjustment for the team during their Week 15 matchup, but they are professionals. They will be well prepared.
Who is the fastest player on the team?
Here is a fun question that is always interesting to get insight from the players themselves. When asked about the fastest guy on the team, McKenzie went on to say “Top 3 is myself, Siran Neal, and Taiwan Jones. You’ve got to understand, Siran and Taiwan are at gunner for a reason on special teams.” Interesting! I think most fans would say, McKenzie, John Brown, or maybe Tre White. However, now that I think of it, Siran Neal does haul down that sideline on punts and kickoffs. For reference, here are their 40 times at their combines:
- Neal- 4.56 seconds
- McKenzie- 4.42 seconds
- Jones- 4.53 seconds
- Brown- 4.34 seconds
I would love to see them all face each other in a race to see who would be the winner. Maybe in the offseason!