Through no fault of his own, second-year wide receiver and key Buffalo Bills building block Gabriel Davis is playing a lesser role in the offense this season than he did as a rookie last year, in which he finished with 35 catches for 599 yards and seven touchdowns.
Yet he's making just as much of an impact through their first 11 games, coach Sean McDermott insisted Tuesday.
"I haven't counted the reps exactly to the detail," McDermott told Bills Central on Tuesday, "but I think his impact in particular over the last few games offensively has been felt. He's been very productive, both in the pass and the run game. And I think he's taking a team-first approach, which is huge and and not easy to do in terms of when you've had the year he had that first year and coming back this year.
"I think that's a mental adjustment for some guys, and he's handled it extremely well. And I think that's part of the culture that we have. When you win, it's usually because of the team and very rarely because of one guy. I think he's embraced that that mindset."
McDermott and the staff should have Davis for years to come. But this season is about maximizing the contributions of veteran receivers Stefon Diggs and Cole Beasley and free-agent addition Emmanuel Sanders, who is playing on a one-year deal and will turn 35 in March.
So Davis has simply learned to produce more with fewer opportunities. Despite just 27 targets through the first 11 games, Davis has raised his catch percentage from 56.5 as a rookie to 63.0 this year for a total of 17 catches. He also is averaging 18.4 yards per reception, up from 17.1 last year.
He's done this while playing just 38% of the snaps. Last year, it was 73%.
But there's no doubt the 6-foot-2, 210-pounder was a steal in the fourth round of the NFL Draft out of Central Florida in 2020 and is a building clock.
Next year could tell a drastically different story for Davis. For now, he has no choice but to make his limited reps count, and he's handling it masterfully.