Gabriel Davis waited a very long time for a game like this.
The Buffalo Bills wide receiver, coming off a strong rookie season, saw his place in the team’s offense decline in his second year until an injury to Emmanuel Sanders gave him a big chance. Davis made the most of it, catching two touchdowns along with a game-high 85 yards in a 31-14 win over the Carolina Panthers. For one analyst, it was a little too long in the making.
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Bills Criticized for Davis’s Role
The veteran Sanders came to the Bills last offseason as one of the few splashy free-agent signings. The Bills prioritized keeping their own free agents and didn’t target many big-name players, but the former Pro Bowl wide receiver was signed in part to replace deep threat John Brown. Jerry Sullivan, a longtime Bills reporter and columnist for The Niagara Gazette, said the emergence of Davis may prove that the Sanders signing was unnecessary — especially given the team’s other needs.
“Gabe Davis now has 63 career receptions and 12 touchdowns. Did the Bills really need Emmanuel Sanders?” Sullivan tweeted. “Could have spent the money on an OL.”
As Sullivan hinted, the Bills have struggled at offensive line at times this season, in part due to injuries and COVID-19 infections.
While Davis has emerged as a top target for the Bills, Sanders has still enjoyed a strong season. The former Denver Broncos receiver has 40 catches for 606 yards and four touchdowns. Davis now has 29 receptions for 470 yards on the season along with six touchdowns, but went long stretches early in the season with little to no targets.
Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll addressed Davis’s role earlier this season, saying at the time that he was the team’s No. 4 receiver.
“Brian Daboll says he still has full confidence in Gabriel Davis and knows he’ll produce when called upon, but he’s behind Stefon Diggs, Cole Beasley, and Emmanuel Sanders and that’s why he’s not as involved as some may have expected,” tweeted beat reporter Jon Scott. “Stats don’t tell everything he’s brought.”
Davis Building Trust
After his big game against the Panthers, Davis said that he and quarterback Josh Allen have been building trust in one another.
“I just try to show him that (Allen) can trust me in certain situations. And that’s what I try to do each and every week throughout the week,” Davis said via video conference.
Allen said he has growing confidence in Davis, who through two season has been one of the team’s most effective red-zone targets.
“I got a lot of trust in him. He continues to make plays,” Allen said. “He’s a strong, physical dude. Again, he wants it. He wants the ball. It’s good to have those types of guys.”
Davis also earned some big praise from head coach Sean McDermott, who said that the wide receiver kept a good mindset earlier in the year when he played a smaller role in the offense.
“Tremendous. It was another game where he showed up and was productive for us,” McDermott told reporters after Sunday’s win. “Mentally, he was working while he was waiting and today I think you saw it again where he produced for us and he made some big plays.”