Bills offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey has a new weapon to utilize in Dalton Kincaid

Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey will be looking for ways to get rookie Dalton Kincaid involved in the offense.

One of the best things for any coach, in any sport, is getting the chance to take a chunk of clay, meaning a new player, and mold him into what you think will best optimize his individual skill set which, in turn, determines how best to utilize him in your system.

This spring, Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey is doing just that with many players, but the one being watched the closest is tight end Dalton Kincaid, the team’s first-round draft pick.

Although Dorsey wasn’t giving up any secrets Tuesday on what the plan will be for Kincaid, the fact that the Bills selected him is a clear indication that they are expecting the 6-foot-4, 240-pounder to provide a new dimension for an offense that needed one by the end of the 2022 season.

“We’re nowhere close to knowing exactly, ‘Hey, this is what the big picture is going to be’ because we have to learn him and he is going to learn us in a lot of ways within the system and within what we can do,” Dorsey said. “That really is to be determined and you won’t get a great feel of it as coaches until we really start getting into training camp and games and live action and those types of things.”

The Bills have been a heavy three-receiver team since Josh Allen became quarterback in 2018, particularly in the last three seasons when the Buffalo offense became one of the best in the NFL. But the addition of Kincaid is going to present a new look for opposing defenses.

Speculation is running rampant that the ultimate goal will be to use Kincaid not as a traditional in-line tight end but as the slot receiver. In other words, a bigger, stronger version of Cole Beasley and Isaiah McKenzie.

Dorsey will use a primary group of Stefon Diggs and Gabe Davis on the outside, Kincaid in the slot, and Dawson Knox in the normal tight end role with one running back on the field. This is exactly what the Super Bowl champion Chiefs have been doing for years with superstar Travis Kelce and what the Ravens do with Mark Andrews.

Neither of those players are tight ends; they’re receivers who almost never stay in to pass protect and are in the pattern nearly 100% of the time, and that’s what the Bills envision Kincaid can become — a receiver in a tight end’s body who can give Allen a reliable and physical player in the middle of the field.

“I think you’re always looking to attack all areas of the field,” Dorsey said, though not conceding that the Bills weren’t great on throws over the middle in 2022. “I think that’s something that is an important piece to an offense to make sure we’re not being one dimensional in any way, and making sure that we can attack different areas of the field as much as possible.”

Allen has only had a few practices with Kincaid, but he can already see the value the rookie can bring.

“I think his fluidity just in terms of how he moves getting in and out of cuts,” Allen said when asked what has impressed him so far. “When he catches the ball, knifing up forward. And then you look at his catch radius, he makes some pretty unreal catches. I was very excited to be able to work with him. He’s young, he’s very talented, he’s got a lot of room to grow but his ceiling is very high and we’re excited to have him on our squad.”

Here are a few other things happening at One Bills Drive:

The search for Tremaine Edmunds’ replacement continues

Both Terrel Bernard  (43) and Tyrel Dodson (53) are competing to take over as middle linebacker for the departed Tremaine Edmunds.

Nothing has changed since the moment Edmunds signed his expensive free agent contract with the Bears in mid-March. The Bills’ No. 1 hole on the roster is middle linebacker, and linebackers coach Bobby Babich fully understands this.

Babich said what’s difficult about finding the right man is that Edmunds’ role was so multi-faceted. He was on the field for every play, he was instrumental in both the run and pass defense, and he was the signal caller, the guy with the green dot on his helmet. That’s a tough job description.

“Obviously, we just lost a player who had five years in the operation, right?” Babich said. “The operation and making sure that our defense can function through the way the ‘Mike’ linebacker gets us into a defense, potentially sets a front, sets this, sets that so we can operate at a high level. That's the hardest thing.”

The primary candidates to replace Edmunds include Tyrel Dodson, Terrel Bernard and rookie Dorian Williams. None can match the combination of size and athleticism that Edmunds brought, but ultimately, skill set is secondary to the main intangible: Can you make the plays?

“We want football players,” Babich said. “We don't care what they look like, we don't care what the measurables are. We want football players that can play football because you can look at the 40 (times), you can look at the the bench (press) and all the combine things, but once that ball is snapped, a lot of those things do apply and a lot of them don't apply.”

Meaning, instincts, feel for the game, the ability to diagnose what’s coming, and then having the ability to make the play are what matter most.

Roster is still being tinkered with

Offensive tackle Brandon Shell is signing with the Bills and will provide veteran competition.

General manager Brandon Beane continues to manipulate the roster with minor free agent signings. Here are a few of the more recent:

∎ The Bills are reportedly signing veteran offensive lineman Brandon Shell, the great nephew of Pro Football Hall of Famer Art Shell. The 31-year-old will provide more competition for right tackle Spencer Brown and for Tommy Doyle as the swing tackle.

The 6-foot-5, 342-pound Shell was a fifth-round draft pick in 2016 by the Jets and he has 72 regular season starts under his belt for the Jets, Seahawks and Dolphins (11 last season in Miami).

∎ The Bills are also running it back with veteran safety Dean Marlowe who had been with them from 2018-20 and then returned in the middle of 2022 in a trade with the Falcons.

∎ Of course, the one everyone is most interested in hasn’t happened. All eyes are focused on wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins now that the Cardinals have released him, and several media outlets continue to believe the Bills are the frontrunners to sign him. It still seems like a reach given the contract it will take since the Bills only have about $1.6 million available salary cap space according to sports contact website Spotrac.

To sign Hopkins, Beane would have to either cut someone or re-work a couple of current contracts with perhaps Tre’Davious White and Dion Dawkins being the most logical. For now, we wait.

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This article originally appeared on Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Dalton Kincaid Buffalo Bills first-round pick at OTA practice