Buffalo Bills looking for Dawson Knox, tight ends to ‘elevate’ in 2021


BUFFALO, N.Y. — Whereas there was some room for debate about which place group deserved probably the most blame when GM Brandon Beane mentioned the Buffalo Payments wanted to run the ball higher following the 2020 season, he did not mince phrases when it got here to critiquing the tight ends.

The group struggled to make a lot of an influence statistically in 2020, combining for 442 yards and eight touchdowns on 40 catches between 2019 third-round decide Dawson Knox, Lee Smith and Tyler Kroft. Smith and Kroft are not on the workforce, and improved play from that place is a focus for the 2021 season.

“I believed it was up and down, to be sincere with you,” Beane mentioned in January concerning the play of the tight ends. “On the finish of the 12 months, I believed we did a bit of bit, Dawson began to get his groove, but it surely was by no means the place the opposing protection was like, ‘Man, we have to cease their tight ends from going off.’ … We would like to have a man like what we simply confronted in Kansas Metropolis [All-Pro Travis Kelce] — they do not come fairly often. However that is what we wish.

“We have got some guys right here we need to proceed to develop and see what occurs.”

Presumably changing Smith and Kroft are 2019 seventh-round decide Tommy Sweeney, who missed the whole 2020 season with a foot damage and myocarditis stemming from COVID-19, and former Seattle Seahawks reserve Jacob Hollister.

Sweeney and Hollister are anticipated to contribute, but it surely’s Knox for whom the workforce has large expectations this coming season. After a promising rookie 12 months, the Mississippi product had an underwhelming sophomore marketing campaign whereas coping with a handful of accidents and COVID-19 after the coronavirus pandemic thwarted his first full NFL offseason. With restrictions loosening, Knox has made probably the most of this offseason, notably spending time with Payments quarterback Josh Allen in California.

“It was nice being with Josh … It was good hanging out off the sphere, however on the sphere was nice, too,” Knox mentioned. “We simply did a bunch of routes and it was throughout our first part of Zoom conferences. So if there was a brand new play or route idea Dabes [offensive coordinator Brian Daboll] was putting in, we have been in a position to take it straight to the sphere. [Allen] sort of would work by way of a number of the factors the place he would inform me what he was searching for. When to provide him eyes on sure routes and actual little particulars that we have been in a position to hammer down on a number of the new stuff, which was good.”

Knox, who dropped 10 passes (20% of his targets) as a rookie in 2019 and 4 (9.1%) in 2020, additionally labored with what he described as a “hand-eye coach,” Ryan Anderson, to handle the problem.

He mentioned Anderson works with a number of skilled athletes, utilizing issues like touchpad challenges and a machine that shoots pingpong balls, making them curve (and harder to catch).

“I used to be with him on daily basis for about six weeks or so,” Knox mentioned. “Among the stuff was loopy. It could work your eyes in a means the place you’d really feel such as you’re nearly hypnotized. I felt like my progress from my first day with him to my final day was fairly nice.”

Knox’s offseason work ethic was, partially, impressed by Beane’s need to have a decent finish like Kelce, who caught 18 passes for 183 yards and 4 touchdowns in two video games towards the Payments final season. Knox mentioned he spoke with Kelce after Buffalo’s loss to the Kansas Metropolis Chiefs within the AFC Championship Sport and took part within the “Tight Finish College” summit hosted by Kelce, George Kittle (San Francisco 49ers) and retired former Professional Bowler Greg Olsen in Nashville this month.

His improvement goes past rubbing elbows with one of the best tight ends within the league. Knox has taken a extra cerebral strategy to the place he’s nonetheless studying to play; he transformed from a highschool quarterback to fullback at Mississippi, and finally to tight finish.

“I need to get to the purpose the place I’m that weapon for our workforce and Travis is one of the best within the league proper now at what he does,” Knox mentioned. “Nevertheless it simply comes from watching movie and getting on the sphere and beginning to really feel out a number of the stuff that he can see fairly shortly. It is actually not simply working your route and being in the correct spot. It is how properly are you able to modify on the fly? How properly are you able to learn coverages when the ball is snapped? As a result of defenses are so good at disguising coverages and safeties are transferring round and linebackers are exhibiting blitz after which they’re dropping out.

“So it is simply with the ability to catch on to a few of these issues, which I felt like I used to be in a position to do increasingly more because the 12 months went on. … I undoubtedly really feel assured that I will be capable to try this this 12 months.”

Behind Knox, Payments coach Sean McDermott mentioned Sweeney is “off to begin” after absolutely recovering from the guts situation that ended his 2020 season. Sweeney has been within the Payments’ facility all offseason to coach. Allen lauded the workforce’s choice to signal Hollister, whom he performed with in school at Wyoming. Hollister ended spring practices doing primarily facet work throughout the two-day minicamp, however he, Sweeney and Knox every turned in stable performances all through OTAs and minicamp.

Nonetheless, with the Payments’ Tremendous Bowl window as open because it has been because the early Nineteen Nineties, there stays loads of hypothesis as as to whether the tight finish place is as much as a championship commonplace. If the Payments come to the conclusion it isn’t, they may commerce for Philadelphia Eagles tight finish Zach Ertz, whom the Eagles have obtained a number of affords for over the previous few months.

Ertz, 30, is a three-time Professional Bowler and was a first-team All-Professional in 2018; he would give the Payments a former Tremendous Bowl champion and somebody who was a top-three participant on the place earlier than accidents derailed his 2020 season.

Knox was requested about the opportunity of including Ertz, as a result of the Payments have been linked to him greater than as soon as this offseason. Knox likened it to his expertise at Mississippi, the place he earned a beginning job regardless of his background as a walk-on.

“[At Ole Miss] I used to be studying behind Evan [Engram], who was an All-American,” Knox mentioned of the present New York Giants starter. “He graduated they usually introduced in three four-star recruits that very same 12 months, and I really feel like that elevated my degree of play.

“Then I used to be in a position to are available in as a rookie [with the Bills] and earn the beginning spot. Irrespective of who they bring about in, whether or not it is a rookie or All-Professional like Zach, I feel it will be nice simply to raise the competitors. Iron sharpens iron and that is an enormous philosophy that I’ve. It is nice having [Hollister] right here, too, and we’re studying issues from one another. We’re competing, but in addition constructing some good workforce chemistry to make use of multiple-tight finish units and stuff like that. It is actually not what can I do to be higher than the man subsequent to me. It is what can I do to make myself one of the best participant I can.”


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