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Billieve Podcast: State of the tight ends

Can Dawson Knox be THE man for the Bills?

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On the latest episode of the Billieve Podcast, in the fourth installment of our State of the Buffalo Bills series, hosts John Boccacino and Jamie D’Amico break down and review the contributions the Bills got from their tight ends in 2020.

This is arguably Buffalo’s worst positional group on the roster. Featuring Dawson Knox, Tyler Kroft, Lee Smith and Reggie Gilliam, Buffalo’s tight ends ranked 31st in the NFL in both receiving yards (458) and receptions (42). It’s a fact made slightly easier to swallow considering the strength of Buffalo’s wide receivers on a potent offense that finished third in the league in passing yards (4,786) and passing first downs (240); tied for third in passing TDs (40); and fourth in pass plays of at least 20 yards (66).

Still, general manager Brandon Beane made a point to call out the lack of productivity from the tight ends in 2020 as something the team wants to address moving forward. So what do the Bills have at tight end?

Knox, who missed the first four games due to a foot injury and a COVID-19 diagnosis, possesses all of the tools you’d want from a tight end. As Buffalo’s No. 1 tight end, Knox had 24 receptions for 288 yards and three touchdowns last season. He has shown a penchant for making the acrobatic catch downfield and is a good route runner, but he only caught 55 percent of the passes thrown his way in 2020 and sometimes struggled making the routine catch. Knox is raw and athletic—someone who still has issues with the drops while being a slightly above-average blocker.

Knox is clearly Buffalo’s best tight end and, for what it’s worth, he came on at the end of the season—including catching a season-high six passes for 42 yards and a TD in the AFC title game vs. the Kansas City Chiefs.

Behind Knox on the depth chart sits Kroft, who caught 12 passes for 119 yards and three TDs. He has been injury-prone during his time in Buffalo. He’s a pending free agent, and outside of catching two TDs (including the game-winner vs. the Los Angeles Rams in Week 3), Kroft did virtually nothing with his opportunity.

Smith is primarily a blocking tight end and locker room leader who is reportedly mulling retirement, while Gilliam made his mark on special teams but could get a longer look this training camp.

We debate whether Knox can be the answer at tight end, discuss why the Bills would be better off letting Kroft and Smith go, whether Beane would consider signing a free agent like Jonnu Smith, Kyle Rudolph or Dan Arnold to bolster the tight ends, and more.

Check out the latest Billieve Podcast for our thoughts on Buffalo’s tight ends, then join the conversation by leaving your thoughts in the comments section below.

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