Buffalo Bills wide receiver Jake Kumerow entered training camp under the spotlight, and for all the wrong reasons.
The 29-year old’s release from the Green Bay Packers a year ago sparked a dramatic and highly publicized spat between the franchise and future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who said Kumerow was the team’s second-best receiver and a lock to make the roster, just one day before he was cut.
On Saturday, Kumerow will suit up and close out an impressive stretch of training camp pracctices and preseason games against his former team and should lock up the sixth receiver spot on Buffalo’s depth chart – with Rodgers watching.
Kumerow signed to the Bills’ practice squad last September and was active for a handful of contests. Used primarily on special teams for the six games he saw action, Kumerow did work his way onto the field offensively and gained notoriety among the fanbase for his 22-yard touchdown reception against the Denver Broncos – his lone catch of the year with the team. He was subsequently waived and claimed by the Saints, but made it back to Buffalo shortly after.
This offseason, Kumerow was viewed as a bubble player that would be competing with Isaiah McKenzie, Isaiah Hodgins and Marquez Stevenson to round out Buffalo’s receiver corps. But Kumerow quickly made a strong impression and steadily rose up the depth chart. When Stefon Diggs suffered a knee injury, the 6-foot-4, 209-pounder stepped up and made the most of his reps with the first team offense.
“It’s big time,” Kumerow said Wednesday about earning first-team opportunities in Diggs’ absence. “You never want to have guys out, guys missing days. But you know, having that happen, it definitely gives me a few more reps and a few more opportunities and I like to take advantage of those as best as I can. Having (Diggs) out somewhat hurts us in a way, though. I like to watch him and learn from him and steal some of his moves. Use his energy to help me get through the practice. So it’s been good and bad.”
Kumerow has done it all this summer. Whether it’s beating Tre’Davious White in one-on-ones, making special teams tackles, catching touchdowns, or high-pointing passes on the sideline in preseason action, Kumerow has consistently proved that he belongs.
And it’s that effort and versatility that has “Touchdown Jesus” just one week away from entering the 2021 NFL season on Buffalo’s final 53-man roster.
“He’s had a productive camp. He’s a smart, tough dependable player,” offensive coordinator Brian Daboll said of the receiver on Wednesday. “Offensively, those are three things we highly covet – you gotta have smarts. You got to be able to play, usually, multiple positions – especially if you’re not a starter.
“And you have to have a toughness about yourself, which he exhibits offensively and in the kicking game, and you’ve got to be dependable. He’s been out here, he’s made plays when the ball’s come his way. He’s got open and caught the ball. He’s had a nice camp.”
Once the regular season comes, it will be tough for Kumerow to make the type of impact he has thus far in the preseason. Buffalo boasts one of, if not the deepest receiver corps in the NFL, and snaps will be difficult to come by. But his versatility on offense and his ability to contribute on special teams will grant him enough chances to be impactful, even if it’s in a limited capacity. He’ll surely be a “core four” special teamer, after playing 95 snaps on all four units in his six games with the team last season, and his unbelievable play throughout camp could prove difficult to keep him on the sidelines during the regular season.
But none of this matters to Kumerow, who isn’t worried about snaps, or what his offensive role will look like. The journeyman knows what he brings to the table and is excited to play his part. He knows that when his time comes, he’ll be ready.
“The way that coach Dabs has the offense drawn up, I’d like to be able to help any way possible,” Kumerow explained. “Whether it’s being an outside guy, inside guy, being able to make blocks, being down on the line of scrimmage making blocks. Also on special teams. Being able to not only fit in on the offense but being able to fit in there – making plays, helping us out, giving us good field position, just being an all-around player. So I love it here.”
From an unceremonious release by one of the NFC’s powerhouse franchises at this time last year, to suiting up against that team in his final audition to make an AFC juggernaut’s 53-man roster, things have come full circle for Jake Kumerow. And when he suits up Saturday, the seventh-year pass-catcher knows what’s on the line, and he’ll be ready.
“It’d mean everything,” Kumerow said about cracking the final 53-man roster. “That’s what my goal is. That’s what I’ve been working for. That’s what the offseason was for. That’s what going hard in camp was for. That’s what this week’s game is for. And I’m going to do everything I can to hold down a spot.”