Is Dalton Kincaid a Tight End?
The drafting of Dalton Kincaid set off a semantics debate among the Buffalo Bills faithful. Should we consider Kincaid a tight end? A receiver? An offensive weapon? Ultimately it doesn’t matter. Dalton Kincaid was an extraordinary catcher of the football in college. How can he and the recently extended Dawson Knox both exist and thrive within the Bills’ offense?
Kincaid was a particularly deadly option from the slot. 55 percent of Kincaid’s snaps in 2022 came from the slot as opposed to 35 percent inline. 592 of his 890 receiving yards came out of that alignment. Dawson Knox has similar alignment numbers, lining up in the slot 48 percent of the time and in line 31 percent of the time. But only 184 of his 517 yards came from the slot as opposed to 290 coming off inline alignments. Knox’s slot percentage jumped by 7 percent in 2022, likely due to the departure of Cole Beasley and the Bills’ inability to find a reliable slot option.
The two also thrive in different areas of the field. 62 percent of Kincaid’s targets came with 10 yards of the line of scrimmage vs. 43 percent for Dawson Knox. Another 43 percent of his targets came 10 yards or further downfield, as opposed to 33 percent for Kincaid.
So how can they both exist? In 2022 Buffalo played with two tight ends just six percent of the time, the second-lowest rate in the NFL. Year after year, the Bills have signaled they want to run more two tight end sets with no follow-through once meaningful football starts. The addition of Kincaid allows Buffalo to run 12 personnel, where both tight ends are threats to catch the football. Kincaid will have the opportunity to be the slot option the Bills couldn’t find last season while allowing Dawson Knox to play in line.
Spencer Brown will start again.
If you are a Bills fan reading this, I probably don’t need to remind you how bad Spencer Brown was this past season. But let’s refresh anyways. Spencer Brown gave up the eighth-most pressures among all tackles and had the sixth-worst efficiency rate among 59 tackles to play at least 50% of their team’s pass-blocking snaps. The Bills took Top 30 visits from several potential replacements, but when the draft ended, the Bills walked out without a single tackle. They added Noah Henderson out of Eastern Carolina as an undrafted free agent, but he is unlikely to compete with Brown. Davis Quessenberry looked equally problematic in his one start for Brown, although he was playing on a torn ACL. So that leaves us with Spencer Brown for the third straight season. Perhaps he can improve, or the improvement across the line can mask his deficiency. But following free agency and the draft right tackles is the remaining liability.
Ryan Bates’ Future Is Unclear
A year after the Bills matched the Bear’s offer sheet on Ryan Bates, he seems to be out of a starting job. His contract carries a $1.7 million dollar dead cap hit if the Bills were to cut him, so he is still likely to be on the team in 2023, but what will his job be? Bates has played in clean-up duties at both tackle positions. He played 77 snaps at tackle in 2019, 45 in 2020, and 2 in 2021. Bates also played as a center in emergencies. Is he insurance for Spencer Brown? Is he a Mitch Morse succession plan? At this point, we don’t know, but his future is unclear, and the Bills can save 3 million dollars moving on from him in 2024.
Size and Physicallity
It feels like yesterday, Sean McDermott was calling his receiving room smurfs. Today the room includes 6-foot tall Stefon Diggs, 6-foot Khalil Shakir, 6-foot-2 Gabe Davis, and newest Bill, 6-foot-4 Justin Shorter. And that is without mentioning 6-foot-3 Dalton Kincaid’s role in the passing game, as I detailed above. Bills have leaned into size and physicality when it comes to their pass catchers. Gabe Davis is a well-documented force in the run game, and scouts praised Justin Shorter’s power as a blocker.
On the offensive line, the Bills leaned away from their standard archetype of leaner, more athletic offensive linemen and went all size with O’Cyrus Torrence. Torrence lacks the athletic numbers of players like Mitch Morse and Spencer Brown but makes up for it by being a 330-pound behemoth with a powerful and physical style of play.