Our Lofton Exercise series continues with the offensive side of the ball for the Buffalo Bills. After looking at the offensive line, today we’ll analyze the wide receivers and tight ends.
The pass-catching group was, alongside the OL, a glaring weakness of the Bills’ offense, but after some changes in the final part of the season, it became a more fun group to watch, showcasing lots of speed and potential. Here is how our Cover 1 team ranked them in our Lofton Exercise:
Zay Jones – WR
Can win games for us: 1 vote ( Fernando Schmude)
Can win with him: 3 votes
After a poor rookie season and an even worse first NFL offseason, Jones was able to show consistency and become the team’s number one target throughout the year. He led the team in targets (102), receptions (56), receiving yards (652), and receiving TDs (7).
Just to give you an idea on snap to pressure...Allen escapes as Sirles is pushed into his lap and finds Zay in the back of the end zone. pic.twitter.com/gjqbm6PSYZ— Cover 1 (@Cover_1_) December 3, 2018
In 2019, Zay should continue to contribute, as he has the versatility to play inside and out. He’s a solid possession type at this point, and no doubt Josh Allen trusts him a lot, especially on third down situations.
1st third down. Motion IDs man coverage, easy pitch/catch. Zay was targeted as the primary WR on three third downs, but got 4 total targets on third down. pic.twitter.com/PlnVDfPJC3— Cover 1 (@Cover_1_) October 11, 2018
Robert Foster – WR
Can win games for us: 1 vote (Erik Turner)
Can win with him: 3 votes
After some less than stellar performances during the first half of the season, which resulted in his release from the 53-man roster, the rookie undrafted free agent earned another opportunity and stepped up his game, finishing the season on a high note.
This catch by Robert Foster is incredibly difficult.— Cover 1 (@Cover_1_) November 12, 2018
He is at top speed after blowing by Johnson, then has to track the ball up over his shoulders while continuously adjusting his body to be in position for the catch.
*Hand/eye coordination pic.twitter.com/5GkKP3PIEi
Foster was able to correct some of his deficiencies, especially tracking the ball on deep passes, and with his elite speed and good size became a nightmare for opposing defenses. He finished the year with 27 receptions for 541 yards and three scores. His 20.0 yards per reception and 41.6 receiving yards per game led the team among the wide receivers. More importantly, his chemistry with Allen shone, not only on deep balls, but also on quick timing routes. He’s a nice talent to keep an eye on going forward.
Allen and Foster have really formed chemistry this season. We saw that rapport play out vs the Fins.— Cover 1 (@Cover_1_) January 3, 2019
That and more in my weekly breakdown for @TheAthleticBuf
Link: https://t.co/TmoziBdlon pic.twitter.com/A8dLL38zZK
Isaiah McKenzie – WR
Can win with him: 2 votes (Greg Tompsett and Fernando Schmude)
Need better: 2 votes
The former Bronco was a nice midseason free agent pickup by general manager Brandon Beane. He added some speed to a group that needed it badly and, without anyone having secured the kick return specialist role, he became another option there.
When your QB is in trouble, get into his line of sight and show your numbers..Heady play by McKenzie pic.twitter.com/h0VuLaXqB8— Cover 1 (@Cover_1_) December 3, 2018
McKenzie finished the year with 18 receptions on 30 targets for 179 yards in just seven games, doing damage especially on screen plays. He was also a nice runner in jet-sweep actions, a featured concept added to the offense by OC Brian Daboll, rushing for 66 yards and 2 TDs on 10 carries.
Entering his third year in the league, he’s a player who can still develop and offers Daboll a nice skill set to work with.
We Need Better Group:
TE Jason Croom, TE Logan Thomas, WR Deonte Thompson, WR Ray-Ray McCloud
No player here earned even one vote in the top two tiers, which is worrisome. Croom showed some potential but clearly isn’t ready to be trusted with the number one TE job. He’s a backup at best at this point. Thomas is perfectly replaceable, as is Thompson, who couldn’t recapture the form of his previous stint with the Bills. McCloud failed to impress in the return game, and McKenzie was a clear upgrade at the role envisioned for the former Clemson Tiger.
The Bills will need to find, at very least, one starting caliber player at both WR and TE and add some depth. It’s going to be interesting to watch how GM Brandon Beane approaches free agency and the NFL Draft to fill those voids for his developing quarterback.