Bills training camp questions: What's Kincaid's encore, and how does that impact Knox?


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This is the fourth in a 10-part series of questions previewing Buffalo Bills training camp. Today: What’s Dalton Kincaid’s encore, and how does that impact Dawson Knox?

Buffalo Bills tight end Dalton Kincaid made a splash as a rookie last season. Coach Sean McDermott knows that based off Kincaid’s tenacious drive, he should build on that, but is cautious not to let those expectations turn into too much pressure.

“To do even more, I think you’ve got to be careful there. Right? Of, hey, expectations changing means this player has to do now this, as opposed to this,” McDermott said in May. “Those guys are driven already that way.”

Bills tight ends Dawson Knox, left, and Dalton Kincaid during organized team activities on May 21 at the ADPRO Sports Training Center. Harry Scull Jr., Buffalo News
Last season, Kincaid had 73 receptions – the second-most on the Bills – for 673 yards and two touchdowns. His 91 targets were also the most behind wide receiver Stefon Diggs, who was traded to the Houston Texans in April, quickly making Kincaid a trusted target for quarterback Josh Allen.

As Kincaid gears up for his second season with the Bills, a few things have changed. The receiving corps has seen a massive makeover, and Joe Brady enters the season as offensive coordinator.

The stated goal for the Bills offense is for everyone to eat. Kincaid should be a big part of that, but he is not jumping to any conclusions.

“I feel like we have quite a bit of weapons on offense, so I wouldn’t (say), per se, that I’m the guy. And the offense is just going to go through so many people this year that it’s going to help everybody out,” Kincaid said in May. “We’re going to open everybody up, and with Josh back there, he’s going to get everybody the ball.

“So, I think definitely a couple more targets this year, which will be nice, but our room looks good and the weapons we have on offense is pretty cool.”

But Kincaid has changed, too. Tight ends coach Rob Boras noted that when the 24-year-old came to OTAs, Boras could see a “physical maturation.” Kincaid also had specific things he has been working on this offseason.

“Press was a big one for me, press and man, getting better in those facets of the game,” Kincaid said. “Especially, guys coming up and try to press you, slow you off and kind of throw off your rhythm and routes. So that was the biggest emphasis for me, besides lifting weights and getting stronger.”

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Boras is careful with Kincaid – as with any of his tight ends – not to set statistical expectations given the multifaceted nature of the position.

“You can be a very efficient or good tight end, however you want to say it, without necessarily putting up numbers, you know? So that we don’t get caught up in that stuff,” Boras said.

But even so, it is easy to project that Kincaid’s numbers will go up this year, perhaps his catches up in the 80s.

One thing Kincaid could look to build on is being a valued target later in the game. Last season, 60 of his 91 targets came in the first half of games. He was targeted in the fourth quarter just 11 times.

With Brady at the helm, the tight-end usage will vary. That will impact both Kincaid and Dawson Knox, entering his sixth season.

“It just goes week to week just depending on how teams – there’s always sometimes an understanding of how teams, how are they going to play a 12 personnel,” Brady said. “So, there’s so many different variables to it.

“But we’d love to grow that package and just get them comfortable and putting them in different situations, different spots that they haven’t been in and see how they kind of respond to it.”

The Bills in September 2022 signed Knox to a four-year contract extension, months before trading up to draft Kincaid in the first round of the draft. While Kincaid has clearly taken over at the position, the Bills believe there can still be a role for Knox.

Knox had 22 receptions on 36 targets for 186 yards and two touchdowns last season.

He missed five straight games starting in late October with injuries. It was during that stretch when Brady took over as interim offensive coordinator, and when Knox returned, he had seven catches on eight targets over the final five games.

If he can stay healthy this season, Knox should see an uptick over his 22 catches. With Diggs on the Texans and Gabe Davis with the Jacksonville Jaguars, there are targets to go around.

But outside of statistics, Knox should impact the team in other ways.

“Dawson, going on Year 6, it’s so fun to see him turn into and develop his own leadership style,” Boras said. “He’s one of the most unselfish players I’ve ever been around.”

Just five current players have been with the Bills longer than Knox, and just two of them are on the offensive side of the ball in Allen and left tackle Dion Dawkins. With plenty of new faces in the locker room, Knox is making sure he gets to know all of them.

“I think guys genuinely respect Dawson,” Boras said, “And that helps with leadership and relationships.”

Boras and Knox say the same thing: the tight end is not much of a “rah-rah” guy. But that is not stopping him from finding ways to connect with his teammates.

“I think it’s just taking leadership to the next level,” Knox said. “Having that extra confidence to speak up when I see something that might not be going right. Or, you know, really check on a guy that might be not doing well off the field. So, I think it’s definitely added level of responsibility, but I’m enjoying it so far.”