PITTFORD, New York. Buffalo Bills wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie loves to get in his teammates’ ears and find ways to get on their nerves. Fellow wide receiver Gabe Davis, whom he considers a brother, is no exception.

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“He could run a hell of a route and catch a ball or whatever, and I’m like, ‘Yeah, Gabe, but you have to hit the ball,’” McKenzie said. “He’s like, ‘Put the ball in?’ He gets mad at this. Anything related to him will annoy him.

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But MacKenzie also likes to repeatedly say something positive to Davis: “I want to see [you] get big money.”

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For Davis to earn a bigger salary going forward – he has two years left on his rookie contract – a 2020 fourth-round pick should benefit from an expanded offensive role. Over the past two years, his 125 targets have ranked third on the team but far behind. Stephon Diggs (332) and Cole Beasley (220).

Now that Beasley and wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders are gone, expectations have risen. Bills need him to step into the role of wide receiver No. 2 and perform consistently alongside Diggs and McKenzie, who are putting together a strong training camp, and the rest of the offense.

The 23-year-old isn’t as expressive as McKenzie, but his teammates follow him naturally, and wide receiver coach Chad Hall urged Davis to be a more vocal leader.

“Now he’s just got more responsibility,” Hall told Sportzshala, “he’s finally in a position where he’s got the ability to start, that he could have started all three years.”

Last year, it took Davis until the second half of the season to rack up a significant rep count despite the impact he had when he was on the field (a team-high 15.7 yards per reception). After hitting five targets and two hits including a touchdown in week 1, he had no games with more than two targets in weeks 2-6.

Disappointment crept in, but he didn’t complain. “You just have to wait, it will be there. Just be ready,” Hall told him.

“I feel that patience is the key to this game. These two years have taught me a lot. I learned how to get it,” Davis said. “At the time, I had to sit back and watch. I learned from many great players.”

When opportunities arose, especially in the second half of the 2021 season, he took them.

Against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 14, Davis played over 52% of snaps (83.3%) for the first time. Four of his six touchdowns came in weeks 13-15, and he played over 80% of his snaps for the remainder of the regular season (with the exception of one game against the New England Patriots, which was missed due to COVID-19 protocols). He finished the season with 35 catches for 549 yards.

Davis then introduced himself on the national stage, catching four touchdowns in the team’s loss in the divisional playoff round to the Kansas City Chiefs. He scored just two more touchdowns in the regular season than he did on a single January night at Arrowhead Stadium.

“Nothing surprised me that he made this game,” Diggs said. “He had a hell of a game. But right now, Gabe has a hell of a career if you take into account the young guy… and in his sophomore year, all he did was make the leap into his sophomore year, at least for me. .”

Despite Davis’ limited options in 2021, quarterback Josh Allen has shown that he enjoys looking in the end zone for the 6-foot-2 Davis, who finished eighth in the league in end zone goals last season (13).

Davis acknowledged that he would be getting “a lot more shots than I’m used to”, while general manager Brandon Bean noted how hard the wide-angle receiver worked. Hall points out that Davis has been working on becoming a more complete route runner without any indication of his route as a strength for him. This summer, the recipient did not take any holidays or days off. Mackenzie said Davis is at the gym at 6am every morning, even though it doesn’t open until 7pm.

Can Davis take on a bigger role?

“In the end, it comes down to 1) mental, can he handle the mental load? And then 2) how hard you work on it,” said offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey. “As far as Gabe is concerned, he has both of these qualities at a very high level.”