Jake Kumerow is a name that is well known around the NFL, but not necessarily for the right reasons – yet. Kumerow’s release by the Green Bay Packers during training camp last year was apparently the straw that broke the camel’s back and led to a wild, and very public spat between quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the team’s front office. Now in Buffalo, Kumerow’s name is still making the news, thanks to his strong play through one week of Bills training camp as he fights for a spot on the team’s 53-man roster.
Buffalo signed Kumerow to their practice squad in September last season and he was active for a handful of games, primarily being used on special teams. His lone reception was a 22-yard score on one of the most impressive throws from Josh Allen’s MVP-caliber 2020 campaign. The 29-year old has bounced around the NFL since signing with the Cincinnati Bengals as an undrafted free agent in 2015 but became a favorite of Rodgers’ in Green Bay – so much so that the future Hall of Famer called him the second-best receiver on the team behind Davante Adams at the time of his release.
Now, Kumerow is looking to stick in a loaded and uber-talented Bills wide receiver group that already has their top four options – Stefon Diggs, Emmanuel Sanders, Cole Beasley and Gabriel Davis – locked into roles. Kumerow’s primary competition for the final receiver spot is Isaiah Hodgins, the team’s sixth-round draft pick from a season ago. Hodgins is a player that fans hold in high regard as many had pinpointed as a possible breakout candidate. But through the first week of training camp, it hasn’t really been much of a competition at all, as all Kumerow has done is make plays.
In addition to his role within the offense, Kumerow has been working with all four special teams units – something that will undoubtedly help his chances of not only securing a spot on the 53-man roster, but the active gameday roster as well. Kumerow has taken advantage of every rep he’s earned and during Saturday’s public practice at Highmark Stadium in front of approximately 15,000 roaring members of the BillsMafia, the 6-foot-4, 209-pound pass-catcher got the chance to run with the first-team offense in place of Diggs, who had a rest day. And boy, did he make his presence known.
Super Valuable, untradeable asset Jake Kumerow getting rightful reps with the 1st team pic.twitter.com/0f3tkR59Gw
— Greg Cover 1 🏈 (@GregTompsett) July 31, 2021
Kumerow seized the opportunity, making several impressive catches while running with the 1’s, including a touchdown on a “Wave” concept, structured to create explosive pass plays against man coverage with double posts and a deep deep crosser from the weak side. Cornerback Levi Wallace, who’s fighting for his starting job again, is the victim here and plays tight man coverage against Kumerow, who is running the crosser. Kumerow beats Wallace off the snap and gains inside leverage before getting upfield. He breaks inside, getting over the hashes, and adjusts his body to make a tough grab while being draped by the defender before waltzing into the endzone for a touchdown. Just an all-around impressive play that proves he’s worthy of having a role on the team.
Bills running the Wave concept over the years.
It’s subtle but watch how Allen peeking at the RB forces TJ and TE to react. Wallace is in tight trail technique but Kumerow is able to pluck it out of the air.
— Cover 1 (@Cover1) August 2, 2021
After Saturday’s practice, second-year cornerback Dane Jackson spoke to the media and had high praise for Kumerow, explaining that he’s faster than his size would indicate and he’s been a tough matchup throughout training camp.
“He’s like an all-around good receiver in every aspect–blocking, catching, running after the catch,” Jackson said. “He just sneaks up on you, really. You don’t really see it off the rip, but when he’s out there running it’s crazy. He can run, he can catch and he can do it all. His size is deceiving.
“You don’t think bigger guys are fast but he’s really fast. He gets up on you quick when you’re playing off and when you’re pressing he can take that speed release and he’s gone.”
Bills CB Tre’Davious White speaks on lessons that turned him into one of NFL’s elite
Kumerow has been making plays on offense and his skills as a receiver have certainly caught the eyes of his teammates, but it’s his special teams experience and prowess that will provide him with an edge against his competition in the wide receiver room. In 2020, Kumerow was on the field for 95 special teams snaps in the six games he was on Buffalo’s active gameday roster – a significant number. If Kumerow can prove that he’s capable of being one of the “core four” players that can play all four phases – kickoff, punt, kick return and punt return – the 29-year old will be an extremely tough out for general manager Brandon Beane come cutdown day.
With Isaiah Hodgins going largely unnoticed through the team’s first week of training camp, the ball is in Kumerow’s court. If he can carry his strong play from practices into the preseason, he has a real shot of making the team and playing a significant role both on offense and special teams during the regular season.