Bills GM Hints at Bigger Role for WR After Breakout Playoff Performance

Khalil Shakir

Getty Khalil Shakir catches a touchdown in a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

After a light workload in his rookie season and a breakout performance in two playoff games, Buffalo Bills wide receiver Khalil Shakir could be headed to a bigger role in Year 2.

The Boise State receiver came to the team with some high expectations, with ESPN’s Matt Miller calling the fifth-round pick a “steal” and comparing his skill set to San Francisco 49ers star Deebo Samuel. But Shakir struggled to find a consistent role in the offense, making just 10 catches for 161 yards and one touchdown in the regular season. The Bills even coaxed Cole Beasley out of retirement for the final stretch of the season to give quarterback Josh Allen a more consistent target out of the slot.

But Bills general manager Brandon Beane hinted that Shakir will play a bigger part in the offense next year. Speaking on April 29 after the completion of the NFL Draft, Beane said the team is trying to add more weapons to their offense and believes Shakir will be a part of that.

“We were looking for guys to add to our skill positions that can be matchups and whether it’s receiver, tight end, whatever it is, just a guy, another weapon to say, ‘Hey, you can’t double Stef every play,’ ” Beane said. “If you do, we’re expecting this guy to win his one-on-one matchup or Gabe to win his one-on-one matchup. Khalil Shakir, we’ve got a lot of hope for him. I thought he really played well down the stretch when he had his opportunity.”

Bills Showing Faith in Khalil Shakir

As WGR 550’s Sal Capaccio noted, Beane made several references to Shakir’s play in his post-draft press conference. Beane pointed to Shakir’s increased production as the season went on, especially the playoffs. Shakir saw his best two-game stretch in the team’s two postseason games, catching five of his seven targets for a total of 91 yards.

Shakir could be in line for a bigger role in the coming year, as the team’s top slot receivers have not returned. Beasley and veteran Jamison Crowder had not re-signed with the team after hitting free agency, and the Bills already cut ties with speedy slot receiver Isaiah McKenzie.

Others have already identified Shakir as having the potential for a big season in 2023. Pro Football Focus named him a top breakout candidate for the coming year, noting his ability to bring a different skill set to the offense.

“Buffalo needed an injection of playmaking into its receiving corps this season, and the answer may have been staring them in the face all season in the form of rookie Khalil Shakir,” the outlet noted.

“Including the playoffs, Shakir saw just 23 targets all season despite running 171 routes. The Bills will be looking for ways to diversify that passing attack without breaking the bank, and upping Shakir’s workload is an obvious pathway.”

Bills Want New Looks on Offense

In his post-draft presser, Beane hinted that the Bills would bring a more versatile look next season, making better use of their skill players and taking the pressure off Allen.

“So we’ve just tried to look for different things different pieces to use so that (offensive coordinator) Ken Dorsey and the offensive staff can come out and kind of be in multiple formations, multiple looks, different game plans,” Beane said. “This week we need to air it out. This week we need to run it a little bit more, adding Damien Harris, probably a more physical guy. James Cook in year two. Nyheim [Hines] coming back from seven, eight games with us, has the whole offseason to learn our offense and special teams. So all of it is to make it to where Josh can play quarterback and not feel like he’s got to do everything.”

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