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Examining Buffalo’s in-house outside WRs

Will the Bills elevate Gabriel Davis to take over the No. 2 WR role?

With Josh Allen at quarterback, the Buffalo Bills have established themselves as one of the best and most dangerous passing attacks in the NFL. The Bills boast one Pro Bowl wideout on the outside in Stefon Diggs, who has racked up back-to-back campaigns with at least 100 catches, 1,200 receiving yards and eight-plus touchdowns in his first two seasons in Buffalo.

But what else do the Bills have at the outside wide receiver position?

Entering the 2021 season, Bills fans were clamoring for Gabriel Davis to take on a larger role following a breakthrough rookie season that saw him haul in 39 passes for 684 yards with seven touchdowns in 16 games (11 starts).

The team brought in veteran Emmanuel Sanders during the offseason, and Davis went from starting 11 games his rookie season to only four last year.

But Sanders, 35, who appeared in 747 offensive snaps while catching 42 passes for 626 yards with four touchdowns this year, is an unrestricted free agent. His time with the Bills might be finished.

The Bills could elevate Davis, entering his third year with Buffalo, into the starting role opposite Diggs. Allen and Davis clearly have an established rapport, as Davis was one of Allen’s favorite downfield targets during his rookie season and finished with 791 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns on 45 receptions in 2021.

Last year, despite only making four starts, Davis was a difference-maker to Buffalo’s aerial attack. He had a touchdown catch in three straight games in December, including two in a 31-14 win over the Carolina Panthers on Dec 19.

Over the final five weeks of the regular season, Davis had at least three catches in every game—he missed the Week 16 clash with the New England Patriots when he was placed on the COVID-19 list—including a pair of five-grab performances vs. the Panthers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

In the 2021 playoffs, Davis really came into his own. First, he hauled in a 19-yard touchdown toss from Allen and finished with 41 receiving yards in a 47-17 romp over New England in the Wild Card round.

Then, taking on the Kansas City Chiefs in the Divisional round, Davis put forth one of the greatest postseason performances ever by a wide receiver. Davis became the first wideout to ever have four touchdowns in a postseason game, finishing with eight grabs for 201 yards in an eventual 42-36 setback in overtime. He became just the ninth player in league history to amass 200-plus receiving yards in a playoff game.

Davis seems like a natural (and cheaper) solution to Sanders on the outside. But is Davis ready to assume a larger role on offense and take over as the No. 2 wideout? Or would the Bills opt to add another veteran wideout through free agency or a trade, and instead keep Davis as the team’s third wide receiver?

Besides Diggs and Davis, the only other outside receiver under contract for 2022 is Isaiah Hodgins, a sixth-round selection out of Oregon State in the 2020 NFL Draft. Hodgins spent most of his rookie year on the Injured Reserve list after suffering a shoulder injury during training camp.

Hodgins, who has both great hands and the flexibility to play inside and out, has the size to play outside, but thanks to his solid route-running ability, he could move into a slot role for Buffalo. Hodgins impressed Allen and head coach Sean McDermott with a series of impressive performances during mandatory minicamp and the preseason before suffering a knee injury during the preseason contest against the Detroit Lions.

Last year, Hodgins spent the entire season on the practice squad before being activated for Buffalo’s Week 16 road game vs. the New England Patriots, seeing four snaps. In January, Hodgins was signed to a reserve/future contract and will have a chance to contribute in 2022.

Buffalo might have a starting option at WR on their roster, but if Davis moves up, they will still need to address the depth at the position.

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