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Buffalo Bills training camp battles: Tight end

We thought they might bring in another veteran, but they still have not.

The Buffalo Bills kicked off training camp this week, and we are taking a look at the biggest battles on the board. Today we look at the starting tight end position.

Dawson Knox vs. Jacob Hollister (vs. Zach Ertz)

When the Bills picked Dawson Knox in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft, most hoped he would develop into the tight end the team has needed for a long time. To this point, he hasn’t. Despite flashes of talent, his consistency hasn’t instilled confidence in the fan base, albeit at a notoriously slow-developing position.

When fans were looking at how Buffalo could upgrade their offense, Knox was one of the few places where folks saw potential, and they pined over a tight end that was made available on the trade market. Zach Ertz of the Philadelphia Eagles has had a solid career and is on the market due to a high cap hit, injuries, and age, but at his best, he’s a clear upgrade.

But the Bills didn’t bring in Ertz this offseason (yet), instead signing veteran Jacob Hollister for the veteran minimum. After trading Lee Smith and letting Tyler Kroft walk away, Hollister as the lone replacement might seem a bit underwhelming, but his time in Seattle was solid and he worked with QB Josh Allen when the pair were at the University of Wyoming.

Hollister is a legitimate threat to Knox’s playing time, and with a solid training camp could steal reps in the offense. If Knox continues to underperform in Year 3 of his NFL career, Buffalo is going to have no problem starting to move on. (They traded Zay Jones during Year 3 after making him a second-round pick, if you remember.)

Beane spoke about continuing to upgrade the tight end position during his camp-opening press conference, but also gave credit to the guys on the roster.

“I thought our tight ends had a good offseason,” said Beane on Wednesday. “I thought Dawson really did a great job, Tommy Sweeney got back in there, we added Hollister, we got some young players. I think we’ve got some guys we’re excited about and we want to give them an opportunity but any position we think we can upgrade... if we see a chance [to upgrade at any position], I’ll definitely look to add him.”

I anticipate Knox will start the year as TE1 with Hollister TE2 and Sweeney as the blocking tight end. I don’t think they’re going to trade for Ertz. Until I see it from Knox, there’s going to be this nagging thought in the back of my mind that Hollister is going to see more and more playing time.