Buffalo Bills Breakout Candidates (2023)
The Buffalo Bills relied heavily on their rookies and young players last year, from Christian Benford and Kaiir Elam to James Cook and Khalil Shakir. You could even throw in Greg Rousseau, who started the entire season and saw his role increase after Von Miller went down with an injury.
With very little cap space to swing any big additions this offseason, the Bills didn’t make any splash signings in free agency. With that comes great expectations for their young players by fans and the media.
So, who is bound for a big 2023 season?
CB Christian Benford
Christian Benford, a sixth round pick of the Bills in 2022, saw a big role in the secondary last year after outperforming Kaiir Elam through training camp and the preseason. That could continue into this season as well. The Bills will need him to shine in the secondary if Tre White isn’t back to his prior self once again this season. If he does continue to shine, the Bills secondary is in great hands, short term and long term. Last year, Benford totaled 24 tackles, one INT, and five passes defended in nine games (five starts).
WR Khalil Shakir
The Buffalo Bills drafted Khalil Shakir in the fifth round last year, and many saw him as the starting slot receiver after the season began. However, the coaching staff didn’t see it that way and stuck with Isaiah McKenzie in that role; they even brought Cole Beasley out of retirement. But in the short time he did see the field, Shakir shined, totaling 10 receptions for 161 yards and one TD, along with five catches for 91 yards in the postseason. With an extended look through camp and the preseason, the coaching staff should look to give Khalil Shakir a bigger offensive role this season.
RB James Cook
The Bills drafted James Cook with the hope that he would be one of the final pieces to make their offense unstoppable. One could argue it was, but just not consistently last year. Cook battled for snaps with Devin Singletary all season, and he will again this year with Damien Harris. However, he most likely won’t have to worry about Harris getting 177 rushes this year as Singletary did in 2022. Cook will likely see an uptick in targets through the passing game, and more rushing opportunities to go with it. He finished last season with 507 rushing yards and two TDs, along with 180 receiving yards and one TD on 21 receptions.
WR Trent Sherfield
The Bills signed Trent Sherfield to a one-year, $1.7 million deal in March after a strong performance last season with the Miami Dolphins, where he totaled 417 yards and two TDs on 30 receptions. Buffalo wanted to get bigger at the receiver position this year, and with Sherfield being 6’1”, they will likely use him as a bigger speed option; to go along with his size, he ran a 4.45 40-yard dash. The 27-year old likely serves as the third boundary receiver, or WR4 on the depth chart. Because of his size and speed, Sherfield also serves as an excellent run blocker.
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