ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WIVB) — Bills tight ends Dawson Knox and Quinton Morris have been ruled out with injuries for Thursday night’s game against the Buccaneers, forcing Buffalo’s offense to adapt from a tactical shift made in the offseason.
With Knox undergoing wrist surgery this week, and Morris sitting out his second game with an ankle injury, rookie Dalton Kincaid is the only healthy tight end on the 53-man roster. Joel Wilson, an undrafted rookie tight end on the practice squad, could be elevated to the active squad for this week’s game, and fullback Reggie Gilliam can be used at tight end.
Buffalo’s defense could get a boost against Tampa Bay from the return of lineman Ed Oliver, who missed Sunday’s loss in New England with a toe injury. Oliver was a limited participant in practice this week, and is listed as questionable for Thursday’s game. Linebacker Baylon Spector has been ruled out with a hamstring injury. With defensive tackle Jordan Phillips also limited in practice with a back injury, the Bills re-signed Eli Ankou to the practice squad Wednesday after he was released from the practice squad.
The first-round selection of Kincaid transformed a Bills offense that used multiple tight end formations fewer than any other team in the NFL last season. With Kincaid playing in six of the first seven games, the Bills have used two tight ends on 32% of snaps, the fourth-highest rate in the league, and have the 12th most expected yards per play from that alignment, according to Sumer Sports tracking data.
Kincaid is coming off his best game of the season, catching all eight passes he was targeted on for 75 yards in against the Patriots, after missing the previous week’s win over the Giants while in the NFL’s concussion protocol.
Thus far, Kincaid’s main role has been flexed out in “11.5 personnel,” as general manager Brandon Beane described after trading up to select the sure-handed tight end from Utah with the 23rd overall pick.
More of the traditional in-line tight end responsibilities will fall upon Kincaid now with Knox and Morris out, Buffalo could use more “11 personnel” sets with three wide receivers on the field. A staple of the offense in past seasons, the Bills currently rank 26th in the NFL using three receivers on 53% of snaps, down from 71% in 2022. The Bills have been the third-most efficient offense from that formation through seven games.
Wilson, an All-Mid-American Conference third team performer for Central Michigan last season, signed with the Bills in May after being release by the Saints.
Jonah Bronstein joined the WIVB squad in 2022 as a digital sports reporter. The Buffalonian has covered the Bills, Sabres, Bandits, Bisons, colleges, high schools and other notable sporting events in Western New York since 2005, for publications including The Associated Press, The Buffalo News, and Niagara Gazette. Read more of his work here.