With Benjamin and Holmes gone, McCloud says he's ready to take advantage of his chance

December 06, 2018 - 11:36 pm

Like most players on the Bills’ roster, Ray-Ray McCloud is there after practice every day and almost always available to talk to the media.  But for most of the 2018 season, reporters haven’t have much of a reason to walk over and get a few quotes from him.

That changed this week when the team released veterans Kelvin Benjamin and Andre Holmes, and suddenly McCloud found himself as one of only five wideouts on the active roster, putting him in a legitimate position to be active Sunday against the New York Jets, and a chance for him to prove he belongs on the field.

The Clemson product, taken by the Bills in the sixth round of this past draft, made the team’s initial 53-man roster back in September, but was inactive the first two weeks of the season, watching helplessly from the sidelines as the offense struggled and they lost to the Ravens and Chargers.  McCloud finally got his chance to see the field, making his NFL debut week three at the Minnesota Vikings and suited up the next couple weeks against the Packers and Titans, as well.  He even had a big catch and run on the final drive against the Titans to help out the Bills in position to kick a game-winning field goal.

Then came Houston.

On the opening kickoff of the game against the Texans, McCloud caught the ball around his goal line, returned it eighteen yards, then fumbled.  Luckily for the rookie it was recovered by his teammate, Siran Neal.  But he wasn’t so fortunate less than eight minutes later when he attempted to make a fair catch on a short punt.  McCloud ran forward, waving his arm high in the air to signal fair catch, but couldn’t camp himself under the ball well enough to make a routine catch.  He dove forward and fell to the ground.  So did the ball, after hitting McCloud.  The Texans recovered at the Bills’ 29 yard line and scored a touchdown six plays later.

McCloud hardly saw the field the rest of the day.  He didn’t return any more kicks or punts.  On top of that, he sat the following week at Indianapolis, he didn’t even make the trip with the team when they took on the Colts.  It’s easy to connect the dots and believe that the fumbles were part of the reason McCloud didn’t play the following week, but the receiver said he had already out it behind him, even if the coaching staff hadn’t.

“Any coach I ever played for, they know, I feed off mistakes,” McCloud told me this week.   “I’ve had some of my best games off mistakes.  On the first play of the game, before halftime.  Some of those were the best games ever of my life.  I was upset about it, like ‘dang, it’s time to show up now.’  I never got an opportunity later in the game to show that, but everybody learns from it.  I made that second mistake before, and it was behind me ten minutes later and it was time to move on and grow up and that’s just part of the game.”

McCloud did suit up the next three contests, but has been inactive since the bye week, failing to play the last two weeks.  He said he’s not used to that, but that the experience has been good for him both physically and mentally.

“Being mentally tough,” he said of what he learned over that time period when he wasn’t playing.  “I’ve never been the type to sit.  I still don’t have the mindset that I need to sit and develop.  I feel like I’m ready.  I feel like I’ve been ready.  You can always learn.  But I just feel like I’ve been ready to go play ball.  Sitting down kind of humbled me.  Now I just try to take advantage of it, be hungry, and just go out there.  Now that I’m really heathy.  When I was playing at the beginning of the season I never felt myself.  Now I just feel relieved.  I feel like my body, I got no (nicks) on me, and it’s just right now my body feels a hundred (percent).  I can go out and really just play ball without having to think about anything and just go out there and have fun. 

Tuesday, the Bills released Benjamin and Holmes.  That left McCloud as one of only five wide receivers on the active roster, along with Deonte Thompson, Day Jones, Robert Foster, and Isaiah McKenzie, who wound up hurting his toe and not finishing practice.  

That all means McCloud could be in line to go back in the lineup and maybe even have a bigger role in the offense.

“Coach has been talking to us about being developing in these leadership meetings,” McCloud said.  “And he told us, ‘your time is going to come and take advantage of these opportunities,’ and that’s what I’m going to do.  Just every day, grind.”

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