There's a clear No. 1 and a fourth-year vet who's finally healthy. There are outcast veterans and speed demons.
At wide receiver, the Buffalo Bills have a blend of just about everything. One trait they absolutely want out of everyone? Toughness. A willingness to block, to play physical.
So it's no surprise that they added Davonte Allen after the draft to compete for a roster spot.
Allen flashed a knack for making the catch in traffic at Marshall and is more than willing to do the grunt work. From his pro day to the draft, Buffalo texted Allen every week. He had a feeling they’d either draft or sign him — his mentality was a fit.
“Going hard every play,” Allen said. “I don’t take any plays off and just working. Go out there with a blocking mentality. Running each route, going across the middle — some people don’t like going across the middle.”
He says he's been this way for a while, back to Pop Warner days in South Florida.
In his last season at Marshall, Allen caught 58 passes for 715 yards (12.3 avg.) with five touchdowns. The year prior, he averaged 24.7 yards per catch (22 catches for 544 yards). His frame (6 foot 2, 201 pounds), strong hands and competitiveness give him a shot. As documented, it’s wide open at receiver behind Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods. While it wasn’t the “Snake Pits” of Pasadena, Allen grew up in a dark, violent neighborhood himself in Belle Glade, Fla. He called it “a real ghetto area” with one traffic light. One way in, one way out.
“There’s a lot of athletes down there who don’t make it out,” he said. “But a couple of us made it out. … Sometimes you just get caught up into the streets. Guys don’t have a father figure or any direction. You have to keep your mind focused on football to do better for your family.”
This small city of about 18,000 residents is a mini manufacturer of wide receivers. Former Tampa Bay receiver Reidel Anthony, Carolina's Kelvin Benjamin, San Diego's Travis Benjamin, ex-pro Jessie Hester, former Super Bowl-MVP Santonio Holmes and ex-Bill Deonte Thompson are all from Belle Glade. Something about this city preps receivers.
Allen said his grandfather — a pastor — kept him on the straight and narrow. He lived with him from the age of 7 to college.
He learned how to “stay focused” and that “whatever I get, I have to earn.” His grandfather was a truck driver as well.
“So I saw him working every day,” Allen said, “coming home late at night, providing for his family. So I just tried to take on that mentality he had, go out every day and try to get it.”
Meanwhile, Allen played football right there in the streets as a kid. His group of friends did keep it to two-hand touch but if you were near the grass? Look out. “You’re liable to get hit."
Said Allen, “I’ve always had that mentality to go hard.”
Now, in Buffalo, Allen is eager to learn everything he can from Watkins, vowing to stay at the receiver’s “hip pocket" through OTA's and minicamp.
No, there will not be many starting spots up for grabs at St. John Fisher once training camp begins. Surprisingly, most are are set. But one of the more intriguing battles will be who steps up at wide receiver behind the starters.
“I’m going to bring everything I can to the city, on and off the field," Allen said.