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Opinion: Dalton Kincaid already a pivotal piece for Buffalo Bills’ offense

It happened so fast

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

Don’t look now, but rookie tight end Dalton Kincaid is the second-best pass catcher on the Buffalo Bills.

A month ago, people were calling for Kincaid to be more involved in the offense. Starting tight end Dawson Knox was placed on Injured Reserve (IR) with an injured wrist, and that was all it took for Kincaid to begin to show out. In the three games since Knox’s departure from the starting lineup, Kincaid has amassed 23 catches for 221 yards and a touchdown. While recognizing that #onpace stats are weird and fluky, it’s still important to put these into context: this run as the Bills’ starting tight end, extrapolated to 17 games, would give Kincaid 130 catches for 1252 yards and six touchdowns. That is “historically great tight end”-level numbers for a rookie tight end in an offense where there’s a clear number-one target who’s been part of this team with this quarterback for years.

It’s patently absurd.

The NFL is a zone-based league. The ability to beat zone coverage as a pass catcher will always be more important than the ability to beat man coverage because you’ll see markedly more of it every week in the NFL. Against zone coverage before the Bengals game, Dalton Kincaid was sixth in the NFL among tight ends in yards-per-route-run against zone coverage.

Even if you counted Kincaid as a first-round wide receiver for comparison purposes, here’s how he would stack up next to his 2023 peers:

  • Jordan Addison = 41 catches, 534 yards
  • Zay Flowers = 45 catches, 472 yards
  • Dalton Kincaid = 40 catches for 339 yards
  • Jaxon Smith-Njigba = 29 catches, 272 yards
  • Quentin Johnston = 12 catches, 114 yards

And Kincaid is accomplishing this with a 59.46% snap count overall for 2023 versus an 83.8% snap count for Zay Flowers and a 76.59% snap count for Jordan Addison (the two “receivers” with more production than him).

But you shouldn’t count Kincaid as a wide receiver. He’s played 122 snaps in-line per Pro Football Focus.

So the Bills first-round tight end is producing like a first-round receiver, he’s not playing exclusively in the slot or out wide, and he’s doing it on fewer snaps than the players who have produced more. What Kincaid is doing at this early stage in his career is insane when put into context, and it should be getting more attention.

..and that’s the way the cookie crumbles. I’m Bruce Nolan with Buffalo Rumblings. You can find me on Twitter an Instagram @BruceExclusive and look for new episodes of “The Bruce Exclusive” every Thursday on the Buffalo Rumblings podcast network!