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2023 Buffalo Bills rookie report: Week 8 vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Kincaid hits a milestone; one rookie outright benched

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Buffalo Bills Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

The Buffalo Bills are back to their winning ways after holding off the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24-18 last Thursday night. Quarterback Josh Allen had a strong showing despite throwing a bit of a fluky interception — but he’s also not playing healthy at the moment. The team as a whole has taken its lumps in the early season and the schedule isn’t getting easier, but the offense just operates at a more optimal level with one tight end on the field.

Speaking of tight end, the Bills’ rookies had some fascinating performances to note, starting with a career milestone for Buffalo’s first-round pick.

TE Dalton Kincaid

The Bills’ first-round pick finally reached the end zone for the first touchdown of his NFL career. Kincaid came up absolutely massive in this game with that touchdown on a 3rd & 12. He later picked up a huge third down in the third quarter. Both key receptions were the result of complete improvisation to help his quarterback on extended plays.

Kincaid’s proving to be a headache athletically for linebackers and safeties. Buccaneers safety Ryan Neal had a tough time handling Kincaid multiple times in coverage. When allowed to improvise a bit, he and Josh Allen already seem to have a fantastic chemistry — and Kincaid has the football IQ to find the right space.

Kincaid’s role is expanding in a drastic way at the midpoint of his rookie season. Without tight end Dawson Knox, he’ll have to continue growing up quick for Buffalo’s offense on the field. So far Kincaid is succeeding and he has a legitimate chance to be stats leader amongst rookie tight ends in 2023 with his newly discovered prominent role.

OG O’Cyrus Torrence

Torrence was much better against the Buccaneers. It was helpful that star defensive tackle Vita Vea didn’t play, rendering Tampa Bay’s interior defensive line fairly pedestrian. Torrence was solid in Week 8 after taking on water during the last pair of games. This was an important one for Torrence to get his bearings back after getting rocked multiple times a week ago by New England Patriots defensive tackle Christian Barmore.

He’s certainly not lighting it up in 2023 and has overall been the Bills’ worst starter on the line based on the eye test. But he’s not a net negative. If Torrence can improve his play in pass protection in his young career, he’s going to be a solid starter at minimum in the league.

Watch below how Torrence nails the defensive tackle to create a huge lane for left tackle Dion Dawkins to pave through on the run play below. Torrence chipping on the interior defensive lineman allowed center Mitch Morse to easily seal off the gap. Torrence then climbed to the second level and simply moved Lavonte David out of the way. Great rep from the rookie.

LB Dorian Williams

Williams has officially lost the starting Will linebacker job after having a couple of weeks to start there after the loss of star linebacker Matt Milano. Williams didn’t record a defensive snap against the Buccaneers. When new starting linebacker Tyrel Dodson wasn’t in the game, the Bills were running a Dime personnel package and brought safety Taylor Rapp onto the field with starting Mike Terrel Bernard.

It’s obviously not a great sign that Williams has already fallen completely out of favor with the staff — now failing to even record a snap. This was a prime opportunity that was only going to happen in 2023 if Milano was injured. That happened and Williams showed flashes to give future confidence, but head coach Sean McDermott seemingly didn’t think it was consistent enough for him to have a role right now.

Milano likely isn’t coming back anytime soon. If Dodson struggles again for a period of time, Williams could work his way back onto the field on the defensive side. But, for now, it appears Williams will be back to special teams only.

WR Justin Shorter

The fifth round receiver draft selection remains on Injured Reserve (IR) with a hamstring injury. It wasn’t apparent how the injury occurred at the time. While the Bills cannot outwardly say it, we will. It seems that the team is essentially putting Shorter on ice for the time being with no injuries to receivers to avoid a conflict for roster management. The offensive injuries have been few and far between with only two rostered offensive players nursing injuries — running back Damien Harris and tight end Dawson Knox.

If an injury for any length of time to a receiver were to occur, don’t be surprised if you magically see Shorter back to health and coming off IR.