Orchard Park, NY — Before Khalil Shakir and Kaiir Elam were teammate with the Buffalo Bills, they trained together down in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. at XPE Sports in preparation for the NFL Draft.
They didn’t talk much. Shakir is a wide receiver and Elam is a cornerback. The two future teammates were busy getting their bodies right in an effort to perform during draft season and enter the NFL ready from the jump.
Shakir and Elam stepped onto the Bills’ practice field for the first time on Friday at rookie minicamp. The cameras were rolling, and the two even matched up a few times during team drills. Shakir said it was a fun day and that he’s gotten to know Elam a little better since they both reported for camp.
Elam’s work ethic has already been impossible to miss, Shakir said.
“To see the way (Kaiir) works, one of the hardest working dudes I’ve ever seen,” Shakir said. “He’s up in the training room 24/7 getting his body right, so to get out here and see him work on the field, dude’s elite. So just all those guys, it was fun to get out here and just see them all work.”
Here are some observations from Friday’s practice.
1. Elam locks down rookie receivers
Whenever Elam and Shakir got matched up with one another during practice, everybody was watching that side of the field. On one particular play during 11-on-11, tryout quarterback Breylin Smith rolled to his right and immediately eyed down the matchup. Shakir turned on the jets and found himself locked up one on one with Elam, who wouldn’t relent. The two were tied up the whole route and Smith eventually was forced to scramble to his right as Shakir couldn’t separate.
2. Shakir gets open and makes plays
Shakir was the most active receiver on the day. He had a bunch of different looks and made a few grabs throughout practice. His best play came over the middle when he beat his man gave Smith enough room to fire one in in between two defenders. Shakir’s first step is noticeably difficult to contend with and on this play he was putting pressure on the back side of the coverage almost instantly. Smith recognized, rolled a smidge to his left, and fired a strong pass. Shakir hauled it in and turned up field.
After practice, Shakir said that he’s been talking to Gabriel Davis about what it’s like to play in Buffalo and in the Bills’ offense. He said he didn’t want to put up a front and act like he still isn’t amazed that he gets to play alongside Stefon Diggs.
3. James Cook burst impossible to miss
Cook took plenty of reps during individual passing drills, but the rookie running back got to handle the rock out of the backfield once team drills began. On one of the final plays, Cook cut one time to his left and exploded through a crowd at the line of scrimmage. Before linebacker Terrel Bernard and Baylon Spector even knew what happened, Cook was by the pack of defenders in the area and on his way to the end zone. Cook’s speed was visible all over the field. It was just practice but he showed some patience and vision in his runs. He had another one earlier that he broke off.
4. Don’t forget about Olaijah Griffin
Griffin was one of three “veterans” participating in rookie camp along with tight end Quintin Morris and guard Jacob Capra. Griffin was energetic on the field and showing some of his younger teammates how it’s done in between the line. His best play matched up with Malik Williams. Griffin had sticky coverage on Williams as Smith tried to wait for an opening that never came. Smith’s eyes were glued the whole way on Williams and when he finally pulled the trigger, Griffin sprinted in front of the pass and knocked it down. Griffin spent last season on the Bills’ practice squad and is a wildcard name to watch during training camp.
5. Neil Pau’u vs. Christian Benford fun battle
Pau’u and Benford had a few battles on the day but the most memorable came during 11-on-11. Benford had perfect coverage as Pau’u ran his route and tried to gain separation. When he didn’t get any, Smith decided to let his 6-foot-4, 215-pound receiver have a chance at a 50/50 ball. Benford made a play on the ball as it was thrown but he couldn’t knock it away and his attempt to rip the ball out failed as Pau’u came out of the exchange with the ball and on his way to the end zone.
6. Good day for tryout QB
Smith had some nice throws on the day. The former Central Arkansas standout needs a solid tryout over the next few weeks to get an invite to training camp. The Bills only have three quarterbacks on the roster (Josh Allen, Case Keenum, and Matt Barkley), and if Smith can grasp the offense and show he can make throws consistently he can have an opportunity to play a little in the summer. He decided to come out of school early and went undrafted in April.
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