On Thursday, Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott spoke with the media and provided updates on a number of players. One of those players is second-year wide receiver Marquez Stevenson.
The former University of Houston wide receiver was unlikely to factor much into the offense this year with the depth they have at the position but he had a good chance to win the job to be the primary return man on kickoffs and punts.
This is one area where the starting role is seemingly up for grabs at this point of training camp and Stevenson was in that discussion. However, Stevenson suffered a foot injury during practice this week and McDermott said that he will “be out weeks” according to ESPN’s Alaina Getzenberg.
Who will emerge as the Buffalo Bills returner in the preseason?
There was likely a good chance that Stevenson was the favorite, especially considering McDermott described the injury as “unfortunate” and that he was having a good camp. The Bills will now need to go through preseason without getting a chance to see how Stevenson does in live action.
Last year, Marquez Stevenson got a chance to be the returner late in the season but was in and out of that role as he struggled with ball security. Earlier in training camp, special teams coordinator Matt Smiley said ball security is pivotal for whoever the returner is.
Now with Marquez Stevenson likely out of the competition for the rest of training camp and Isaiah McKenzie probably not a factor either as he looks to be in line for the starting slot receiver position, this opens the door for Tavon Austin to earn a spot on the 53-man roster.
Austin was a late free agent signing and didn’t join the team until the beginning of June. He is probably the most experienced in this part of the game with 190 career punt returns and 25 kickoff returns. However, he hasn’t done this recently with only five punt returns over the past two years.
This position battle will likely play out during the preseason and some other players worth watching are wide receiver Khalil Shakir and running back Raheem Blackshear. Both players have experience returning kicks and should be in the discussion.