PITTSFORD, N.Y. (WIVB) – There’s a different feel for Bills wide receiver Gabe Davis as he gets ready for his third season in the NFL. For the first time in his career, he’s the undisputed, number two wide receiver, expected to start opposite of Stefon Diggs on the outside.
“Ever since I came into the league that’s the mindset I always had, is just no matter what position I’m in be able to execute at a high level and now I’ll have a little bit more opportunity to do that and I feel like it’s gonna be a fun and good year for all of us. I feel like we’ve got the right pieces of the puzzle to do what we wanna do this year and when it comes to just us as a team, as a whole it’s gonna be real special,” Davis said after practice on Wednesday.
It’s not that Davis didn’t have the ability or talent his first two seasons, the opportunities just weren’t there as other guys were in front of him on the depth chart so this is a position he’s never been in yet.
“Obviously it will be different, I’ll be getting a lot more snaps than I’m used to but I’ve trained for it, I’ve been working really hard for this moment and excited to be able to go out there and have the opportunity to do well,” Davis explained.
Davis has made some head turning plays when given the chance through his first two seasons. Many times it’s been his toe tapping catches along the sideline to stay in bounds for a big gain. But he stepped up in a huge way, in a huge game last season in the divisional round against the Chiefs with four touchdowns setting an NFL playoff record.
“Just total confidence in Gabe. From day one he’s made plays in that first year and then last year, I know what he wanted last year, he wanted that chance last year and there were a few players around and above him in terms of the depth chart but he worked, he worked, he worked and that’s a great lesson to those who don’t get their shot right away. When he was given his shot he made the most of it and I think the world saw that in particular at the end of the season there,” Sean McDermott said before practice on Tuesday.
But with Davis’ new role and being relied upon much more and as one of the primary contributors in this offense, he’s not going to be sneaking up on anyone or taking teams by surprise so seeing how he responds and steps up when teams are game planning for him will be something to watch.
“As far as his ascent into that number two spot or whatever I think that still remains to be seen. That’s a little bit of a different deal there and people know, opponents know, you know there’s a little bit different focus on that spot as opposed to the three or four spot from time to time. So do I think he can do it? I absolutely do. I have full confidence in Gabe Davis but he knows he’s gotta earn that spot,” McDermott explained.
That’s why the break between spring workouts and training camp was all business.
“When it came to the work wise, no vacations nothing like that just straight work, you know it’s a big season this year, I know how important it is to everybody in the room and I wanna be able to have those guys be able to trust me so I know I have to be confident and to get my confidence up is being able to train at the best that I can and as many times as I can, being smart obviously,” Davis said.
“I just feel like when it came to me I feel like there was always more work that needed to be put in. Obviously I wasn’t in the best position for myself that I wanted to be in when I first got into the NFL and even when I got to college I feel like it was kind of slow for me as well so being able to make sure I’m prepared to be able to take on this role and be the number two guy that people are expecting me to be.”
Davis also pointed out while he would more opportunities right away, it was beneficial to learn from some of the older guys in the room and he feels much more prepared than he did two years ago. Speaking of, offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey reflected on some of his first impressions of Davis when the Bills drafted him in the fourth round in 2020 out of Central Florida.
“I think year one obviously there was talent but you didn’t know kind of where that was gonna go just based off of the college film and the things he did you know I think he did a lot of good things in college but you didn’t know, you never really know especially at any position but the receiver position kind of where that’s gonna blossom and how that’s gonna develop and a lot of times that’s up to the player of the mental and then how hard they work at it,” Dorsey said before practice on Wednesday.
“Not many guys you draft at receiver don’t have the physical tools, at the end of the day it’s gonna come up to one, the mental, can he handle the mental workload and then two, how hard does he work at it and for Gabe he’s got both those qualities at an extremely high level. Great mentally, as smart as any receiver I’ve ever been around and works his tail off so that’s why I think you see that trajectory with him to continue to get better and better and better each year because he’s never complacent.”
Looking at his stats, Davis’ numbers from his rookie season and last year are very similar. In 2020 he had 35 catches on 62 targets for 599 yards and seven touchdowns. Last season he had 35 catches on 63 targets for 549 yards and six touchdowns. Davis also had a touchdown catch in the Bills dominant performance against the Patriots in the wild card game before exploding a week later in Kansas City with 8 catches for 201 yards and those four touchdowns as mentioned, one coming with 13 seconds left.
If that kind of performance is any indication of what’s to come from Davis and his chemistry and connection with Josh Allen, this Bills passing attack will pick up right where it left off from a year ago. On Wednesday, the fourth day of training camp, the offense had its best day yet, absolutely firing on all cylinders and Davis was a big part of that as Allen threw touchdown after touchdown after touchdown. The big question is how will Davis rise to the occasion when teams expect him to be a primary target.
Heather Prusak is a sports reporter who joined the News 4 team in 2020. See more of her work here.