The Buffalo Bills will have close to a full contingent of wide receivers in their January 22 divisional-round playoff game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Veteran slot receiver Isaiah McKenzie missed the January 15 Super Wild Card round game against the Miami Dolphins after suffering a hamstring injury in practice last week, but said he’s ready to play in Sunday’s divisional-round playoff game.
Isaiah McKenzie Ready to Return to Bills
Bills reporter Thad Brown from WROC-TV caught up with McKenzie at the teams Friday practice, where the veteran receiver said he was “about 90% healthy” but didn’t run because it was a light practice. When Brown asked if he was good to go on Sunday, McKenzie replied: “Yes.”
McKenzie made a similar statement before last week’s game against the Dolphins, telling ESPN’s Alaina Getzenberg that he felt good and expected to play
“Nah, I should be fine,” McKenzie said, adding, “But we’ll see the next couple days.”
The next couple of days didn’t show enough improvement for McKenzie, who was ruled out against Miami. But there are more good signs for McKenzie this week, including the team’s injury report on Friday that listed him as a full participant.
McKenzie just turned in the most productive season of his career, making 42 catches for 423 yards — both career highs — with four receiving touchdowns and one rushing score.
Bills Spread the Ball Against Miami
With McKenzie out, the Bills got season-best contributions out of the team’s other slot receivers. Rookie Khalil Shakir had three catches for 51 yards while Cole Beasley made two catches for 35 yards and one touchdown.
If the Bills should defeat the Bengals and advance to the AFC Championship game, they could get another key receiver back. Veteran Jamison Crowder has been out since suffering a broken ankle in September, and Bills head coach Sean McDermott said he could be back next week.
“McDermott said Crowder is moving in the right direction, but the veteran wideout still will need a bit more time before making his potential return,” a report from CBS Sports noted. “Crowder resumed practicing last week, just over three months after he suffered a fractured ankle in a Week 4 win. With Isaiah McKenzie having resumed practicing in full, however, the Bills aren’t in serious need of additional receiver depth.”
The Bengals have been hit hard by injuries, losing a trio of key offensive lineman. As ESPN’s Ben Baby reported, left tackle Jonah Williams and right guard Alex Cappa have already been ruled out, while right tackle La’el Collins has been out since suffering a torn ACL in Week 16.
Bengals coach Zac Taylor said the replacement line has been working hard on communication, which could be important as the Bills look to host their first divisional-round playoff game before a full crowd since 1994. The Bills defeated the Baltimore Ravens in a divisonal-round game in Orchard Park in 2021, but the game was played before close to 6,000 fans as the state was still under COVID-19 restrictions.
“I thought they did a good job,” Taylor said of the new offensive line group. “I think they are ready to go and take advantage of their opportunities.”