HomeFootball DirtBills' Rookie Tight End Dalton KincaCAID Offers a New Option After Almost...

Bills’ Rookie Tight End Dalton KincaCAID Offers a New Option After Almost Quitting Football

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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Dalton Kincaid occasionally wonders how different his life would have been had the rookie tight end not given football a second chance entering his senior year in high school.

“I’d probably be selling real estate or traveling,” Kincaid told The Associated Press on Wednesday, in preparing to make his playoff debut when the Buffalo Bills (11-6) host the Pittsburgh Steelers (10-7) on Sunday. “Yeah, that’s something I think about often. It’s crazy to me, too.”

Kincaid isn’t second-guessing his life choices at all, not after his 73 catches set a single-season record for Bills tight ends, and were the most by a Buffalo rookie at any position.

“It’s been quite an experience,” Kincaid said. “Coming in as a rookie, you don’t really know what to expect.”

The 24-year-old Kincaid had no NFL expectations some eight years ago.

Living in Las Vegas, he gave up on football following his freshman high school season when a new coaching staff was hired and introduced the run-dominant Wing-T offensive philosophy. As a receiver, Kincaid wanted no part of it, saying: “I don’t want to block the whole time.”

He was coaxed back his senior year, when the team switched to a pass-happy spread offense. Kincaid blossomed, earning all-state honors, and he accepted an offer to play at the University of San Diego, a Division III program.

Two years later, he transferred to Utah, where Kincaid capped his senior season with 890 yards receiving and eight TD catches.

Buffalo traded up two spots in the draft to take Kincaid at No. 25 overall in April, and he has provided Josh Allen with a reliable secondary receiving option behind Stefon Diggs. Kincaid finished second on the team in catches and third with 673 yards, while scoring twice.

Among NFL tight ends, Kincaid finished tied for eighth in catches, and 10th in yards, while being overshadowed in a strong rookie class at his position by Detroit’s Sam LaPorta, who had 86 catches for 889 yards, and led all tight ends with 10 touchdowns.

Even so, Kincaid delivered the type of production anticipated by Sean McDermott, even though the coach tried to down expectations for the rookie going into the season.

“I’d just like to let the guy have one practice out there,” McDermott said in late July. “Can we just take that approach and let him put his helmet on today and get out there in front of the fans and enjoy it.”

McDermott smiled when reminded of his remark on Wednesday.

“He’s had a very, very good year in his first season in the NFL, and not surprised,” he said.

At 6-foot-4 and 246 pounds, Kincaid combines exceptional receiving ability — he caught 73 of 91 passes thrown his way — with speed, and the versatility to line up at various positions.

Kincaid developed his hand-eye coordination by climbing on a trampoline and catching passes from his father. After three drops, the session would be over.

Catching ability is one thing, but Allen has been impressed with Kincaid’s all-around skills.

“When you talk about his football IQ, it’s off the chart,” Allen said. “His ability to catch the ball is better than I’ve seen from a rookie maybe ever. He finds spots in zones. He can beat you man to man. He’s just a good, good kid, that does things the right way.”

The secondary boost Kincaid and second-year receiver Khalil Shakir have provided Buffalo’s passing game this season gives the offense an added dimension it lacked entering the playoffs last season. The development of Kincaid and Shakir could prove even more valuable with the uncertain situation for receiver Gabe Davis, who is dealing with a knee injury.

Accustomed to playing 12 games a year in college, Kincaid acknowledged hitting a rookie wall, especially with the Bills’ bye week coming in Week 13. Following a three-game stretch in which he combined for six catches for 28 yards, Kincaid bounced back and totaled 11 receptions for 171 yards in his past two outings.

He credited his teammates and coaches for guiding him through the year, in providing advice and encouragement.

Close as the two are, veteran tight end Dawson Knox still can’t get over learning how Kincaid nearly passed up football until a coach lured him back with the spread offense.

“Oh, wow, I didn’t know that. He should be calling that coach and thanking him,” Knox said. “Shoot, I’ll call the high school coach and tell him thank you for doing that.”

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AP sports: https://apnews.com/sports

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