Bills receiver Khalil Shakir doesn't want to call himself comfortable as he pushes himself in Year 2


Staff member

Adam Henry was still fairly new in his role as the Buffalo Bills’ wide receivers coach when he gave second-year receiver Khalil Shakir a challenge.
“During the offseason, I told him, ‘You need to take ownership of the slot position and really excel in it,’” Henry said Friday. “And he’s done that.”

Shakir took the challenge as “a vote and a boost of confidence,” Henry said.
“That’s all because sometimes when a new coach comes in, you don’t know particularly how’s this going and what’s going on,” Henry added. “And just that I reiterated that in training camp also, just to make sure that he knew we were 1,000% behind him.”

Through 15 games, Shakir had 29 catches for 467 yards – both nearly triple his numbers last year as a rookie. His 29 receptions also come on 35 targets, whereas last year he had 10 catches on 20 targets.

One of his most notable catches came last week, a critical pickup on third-and-4 late in the game, with the Bills trailing the Los Angeles Chargers 22-21. Shakir caught the ball and appeared to score a 28-yard touchdown, but after a replay review, Shakir was ruled down by contact after a 15-yard gain.

The Bills scored the game-winning field goal a few plays later.
“I just had a wheel route, clearing out,” Shakir said. “We had a post on the outside, and I don’t know if you want to say awareness or whatnot – I thought they had brought some nickel pressure. Then, usually, we have a different hot route for that. But the nickel kind of backed up after he had crossed my face.

“And something just told me to just turn. I don’t know what it was – I mean, that’s God right there. Turned around and (the) ball was right there. And, obviously, (quarterback) Josh (Allen), I mean, backed up, he had 20 guys in his face and just put it right there.”

It wasn’t unusual for Allen to see Shakir in the right spot. Shakir’s 29 catches have resulted in 20 first downs. He’s been targeted on third down eight times, and he has seven catches, all good for first downs, with an average of 17.1 yards per catch. Additionally, 25 of Shakir’s 29 catches have come in games decided by a touchdown or less.

“Khalil’s the guy that’s going to be exactly where he needs to be on every single play,” Allen said Wednesday. “He’s extremely smart. He’s extremely reliable. I was just hoping that the safety or the guy who was covering went over the top of the post, and, thankfully, he did and allowed us to make a play. And we’re one millisecond away from scoring a touchdown there with his second effort.”

Shakir calls himself a “feel player” based off his strong feel for the game. His coaches realize how valuable that is.

“Those are the things you can’t coach – the instincts,” head coach Sean McDermott said Friday. “When you have players that have instincts like Khalil does, there are things that, for instance, when you’re standing in a meeting room, and you’re saying, ‘Hey, do you understand what we’re talking about here?’ – he can see the game. Players with instincts generally can see the game in their mind. Whereas, other players who have height, weight and speed struggle sometimes with that, and so there’s a gap that you have to close in those situations.”
Based off the way Shakir prepares, Henry isn’t surprised to see Shakir execute.

“I see it because of the film study he puts in, and we talk about certain things,” Henry said. “He’s a guy that sees certain things on tape. And then once you talk about it, like, he gets it right. So, he does the work. He prepares every day, like, clearly is the same person every day. And so, for him, I’m just so excited and happy that it’s all coming together for him.”

But don’t call it a level of comfort just yet. Shakir tries to avoid feeling complacent, so much so that he avoids even saying “comfortable” when he can, or he catches himself as he says it. Still, whatever the word choice, the second-year receiver looks much more at ease.
“I think just getting more comfortable playing at this level and the speed and, like, just the jump from college to the NFL,” Shakir said. “I think that’s the biggest thing is – I don’t ever like using the word comfortable – but I guess somewhere in that room of I feel like I’m able when I’m out there. I just feel better."