Kelvin Benjamin's impact could be felt by other Bills receivers - The Buffalo News

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Kelvin Benjamin's impact could be felt by other Bills receivers

The idea, first, is to have someone who will make a significant impact by catching the ball.

Ranked near the bottom of the NFL in passing offense, the Buffalo Bills could use that. Badly.

But there's more that Kelvin Benjamin could potentially do to help the Bills' ability to move the ball through the air when the towering wide receiver makes his debut with the team against the New Orleans Saints Sunday.

Another form of contribution is drawing coverage away from the Bills' other pass-catchers. And that could prove to be particularly important Sunday at New Era Field given the Bills are going to be without one of their key players at the position, rookie Zay Jones, who is sidelined with an ankle injury.

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If the Saints decide to pay extra attention to Benjamin, that should help open things up for fellow receivers Jordan Matthews, Andre Holmes, Deonte Thompson, and Brandon Tate, as well as for tight end Charles Clay, who is questionable but is expected to return from the knee injury that sidelined him the past three games.

"I think that’ll be somewhat interesting," coach Sean McDermott said Friday of the possibility of Benjamin becoming the biggest coverage magnet the Bills have had all season. "It’s new for us as well, in that regard, just to see how we’re going to now get defended, as opposed to how we were defended before."

McDermott reiterated what he has said since Benjamin arrived via the Oct. 31 trade with the Carolina Panthers -- that one person doesn't make a team. He doesn't want to contradict the "one-eleven" message he has been preaching to his players and the public, even though the Bills gave up a precious third-round draft pick for a player who entered the NFL as a 28th overall choice.

Still, McDermott can't ignore the fact that Benjamin isn't any old player the Bills are putting out on the field.

"It’ll be interesting to see how he integrates into what we do," the coach said. "Then, how other teams defend us, and the different looks (we’ll get). We need to be ready to adjust to how we’re being defended when Kelvin’s out there."

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The other receivers are just as curious as the coach.

"I don't know if teams are going to try and bracket him and all that kind of stuff," Holmes said. "We haven't really seen what teams will do when he's in. I just know he's a big body. He makes the ball look really small, so we know that he's going to be able to make a lot of plays for us and help us win games."

At 6-foot-5 and 240 pounds, Benjamin figures to force the Saints -- who already faced him earlier in the season against Carolina -- to be particularly aware of his ability to be more physical than other receivers.

However, the strategy they used to defend against Benjamin when he was part of the Panthers' offense would figure to vary because the Bills' offense is different.

There's nothing conventional about the Bills' passing game. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor rarely looks to the same receiver game after game. He will go where his reads take him, and that means everyone could wind up becoming his go-to in a given game.

There have been games this season when that was Jones, Thompson and Tate. Whether that will be Benjamin Sunday remains to be seen.

"Even if I don't (attract extra coverage) this week, who knows?" said Benjamin, who had two catches for eight yards before leaving the Panthers' Sept. 24 loss against New Orleans with a knee injury. "If I go out and catch a ton of balls, the next team is definitely going to do it. It just comes with the territory when they know you're just dangerous and can beat them by yourself. It just opens up the field for everybody else."

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After more than a full week of study, practice and meetings, Benjamin has gotten himself up to speed on the Bills' playbook. He and his teammates are confident they will be on the same page more often than not against the Saints.

"He's done well," Matthews said. "It's going to always be a hard transition, especially not only when you have to learn a new offense but when there's a high expectation for you to go out there and make plays, too. It's not an easy task, it's not something that people should expect to be an overnight thing.

"But at the same time, I don't put any limitations on a great player. I think he can go out there and play a great game and help us come out with a win. You saw what Deonte was able to do in his first game, coming over to a new team. Sometimes it's more pressure, sometimes it's not. It just depends on the player. I'm hoping he can come out here and play well for us."

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