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The blocking specialist returns to

  • Jan 2
    Buffalo to reprise his

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    under:Opinion90 Players in 90 Days2019 Buffalo Bills scouting report: tight end
    SmithNew ,5commentsThe
    blocking specialist returns to Buffalo to reprise his
    roleEDTShareTweetShareShare2019 Buffalo Bills scouting report: tight end Lee
    SmithPhoto by Brett Carlsen/Getty ImagesThe Buffalo Bills revamped the majority
    of their offense this offseason. Of the eleven players who started in last
    year’s Week 1 blowout loss to the Baltimore Ravens, only four—left tackle Dion
    Dawkins, left guard Vladimir Ducasse, wide receiver Zay Jones, and running back
    LeSean McCoy—are even still on the roster. The argument can be made that three
    of those four players will reprise their roles as starters, but even that isn’t
    set in stone given the number of new faces on the offensive side of the ball.At
    tight end, the Bills only return one player, having remade the entire group.
    While today’s player in our “90 players in 90 days” series didn’t play for the
    2018 Bills, he is a returning player of sorts, having been on the team from
    2011-2014.Name: Lee SmithNumber: 85Position: TEHeight/Weight: 6’6” 265 lbs. Age:
    31 (32 on 11/21/19)Experience/Draft: 9; selected in the fifth round (159
    overall) of the 2011 NFL Draft by the New England PatriotsCollege:
    MarshallAcquired: Signed with the Bills on 5/13/19Financial situation (per
    Spotrac): Smith’s second stint in Buffalo began when he signed a three-year deal
    in May. The total worth of the contract is $9 million, with almost all of the
    guarantees coming in the 2019 season. He’s guaranteed $4.4 million, and his
    salary cap hit for the 2019 season is $3.5 million.2018 Recap: Smith has since
    spent his years after Buffalo in the NFL with the Oakland Raiders. In 2018, he
    set a career-high in receiving touchdowns, catching three on the year. He had
    ten receptions overall for 73 yards. More blocker than receiver, Smith is known
    around the league as one of the best blocking tight ends in the NFL, so his low
    receiving output isn’t at all surprising.Positional outlook: Smith joins a
    new-look tight end room that finds only Jason Croom as a returning player from
    last year. The Bills signed free agent Tyler Kroft and spent draft choices on
    Dawson Knox and Tommy Sweeney. They have also signed undrafted rookies Nate
    Becker and Mik’Quan Dean. 2019 Offseason: Smith has participated in offseason
    workouts to date.2019 Season outlook: Smith is an add that made sense for the
    Bills on the surface, but given their choice of personnel groupings from last
    season, it’s not clear how great an impact he’ll play on the season overall.
    According to Sharp Football Stats, Buffalo ran 587 offensive plays in 2018, and
    they used two tight ends or more on only 58 of those plays. Perhaps that was
    because of the personnel they had, but with Dawson Knox and Tyler Kroft expected
    to see most of the passing-down work, Smith finds himself as a very well-paid
    situational player. Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll may use more “12”
    personnel thanks to Smith, but with all of the upgrades at the receiver
    position O.
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    , the team’s best grouping probably isn’t with Smith on
    the field. Smith will certainly be on the roster, and he definitely has a
    defined role, but how often the Bills will choose to use him is the question
    left to be answered. Through the decades, when the Cowboys and Redskins met, it
    often was for the division lead. On Sunday, the archrivals go at it for the
    115th time. At stake: second place in the NFC East behind the high-flying
    Eagles. While the Eagles host the winless 49ers already owning a 2 1/2-game edge
    in the division, the winner at FedEx Field at least can remain in sight of
    Philly. So even though neither Dallas nor Washington, both 3-3, will have
    reached the halfway mark of the schedule, this is a critical matchup. For
    Washington, the challenge is heightened because it lost on Monday night at
    Philadelphia, though coach Jay Gruden didn’t see the short week as too much of a
    problem. ”Yeah, I think that the one thing that I’m pretty decent at is trying
    to get a gauge for how our team is feeling, physically, No. 1,” he says. ”The
    majority of these guys will run through a brick wall for the Washington
    Redskins, that’s for sure, that’s why I love this group. But I also have to be
    smart and make sure I understand that this is a long year and I’ve got to make
    sure that these guys are healthy. ”And there are some things we can do as far as
    more walkthroughs are concerned, more meeting time, and less pounding and
    running and physical contact, which, really about Week 6 or 7 it isn’t the end
    of the world.” Cowboys fans were having anxiety attacks with their team under
    .500, but a romp at the 49ers brightened the outlook. ”We are definitely going
    into the direction that we want to
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    ,” quarterback Dak Prescott says. ”We are playing up
    to our standards and expectations of the way we expect to move the ball, the way
    we expect to get points. And it’s been going well. ”It’s hard to say there is
    one thing that has changed. If anything we have continued to keep faith and keep
    confidence in ourselves and continue with the same game plan we have been doing
    early in the season. We are getting into a groove.” The weekend began with the
    Baltimore Raves running over the visiting Miami Dolphins 40-0 Thursday night.
    Joe Flacco threw a touchdown pass before being knocked from the game with a
    concussion, and the Ravens frustrated quarterback Matt Moore and the Dolphins
    (4-3), who had won three straight. Alex Collins ran for a career-high 113 yards,
    and Baltimore (4-4) returned two interceptions for touchdowns in the most
    lopsided shutout in franchise history. In the midst of one of his best
    performances of the season, Flacco was struck in the helmet by Miami linebacker
    Kiko Alonso while sliding at the end of an impromptu run. Flacco’s helmet flew
    off his head, and the 10-year quarterback appeared dazed as he struggled to his
    feet. The play occurred with 3 minutes left in the second quarter. Flacco was
    initially placed in concussion protocol, and by halftime was ruled out. He went
    10 for 15 for 101 yards, including a 34-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Maclin.
    Off this week are the Rams (5-2), Cardinals (3-4), Giants (1-6), Jaguars (4-3),
    Titans (4-3) and Packers (4-3). San Francisco (0-7) at Philadelphia (6-1) Carson
    Wentz made such a strong impression on Monday night that he’s surged in MVP
    talk. Yes, it’s just seven weeks, but the Eagles do have the NFL’s best record.
    And Wentz has been superb. He leads the league with 17 touchdown passes,
    including 11 in the past three games. And the way he uses his running skills has
    Redskins cornerback Josh Norman comparing Wentz to Houdini. A key element here:
    Philadelphia is one of the NFL’s best with the ball on third downs. San
    Francisco is one of the worst defending third downs. Pittsburgh (5-2) at Detroit
    (3-3) The Steelers have won four straight in this series. In addition to the
    three-pronged attack of Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell,
    Pittsburgh is tied for second in the NFL with 24 sacks. Detroit has allowed 23.
    Fortunately for the Lions, they come off a bye, allowing Matthew Stafford to
    heal up a bit before facing that emerging defense. Pittsburgh has had the
    distraction of receiver Martavis Bryant, who was suspended for last season,
    complaining publicly about his role. Coach Mike Tomlin has said there are no
    plans to trade Bryant, who noted during the week that he was being benched for
    Sunday’s game. Denver (3-3) at Kansas City
    (5-2) ,
    Monday night Like Cowboys-Redskins, this is another classic rivalry. Both teams
    have lost two in a row. Denver’s offense has disappeared; the Broncos scored 42
    points over the past four games and were shut out by the Chargers last week. One
    player who would love to have an impact on Denver’s offense is Jamaal Charles.
    The long-time star running back for KC is now a Bronco and needs 44 yards from
    scrimmage to reach 10,000. His replacement in Kansas City, Kareem Hunt, is the
    only player in NFL history to start his career with seven straight 100-yard
    scrimmage games. Hunt leads the NFL in rushing and is second in yards per carry.
    Minnesota (5-2) vs. Cleveland (0-7) at London It would be no surprise if Browns
    coach Hue Jackson, 1-22 so far, gets fired if Cleveland loses at Twickenham
    Stadium. The Browns are off next week, which would allow for more time to adjust
    to a new boss. Cleveland is making its first regular-season international trip
    and doing so without the face of the franchise. Tackle Joe Thomas underwent
    surgery for a torn triceps that sidelined him in last week’s overtime loss to
    Tennessee. Thomas participated in 10,363 consecutive plays since being drafted
    in the first round in 2007. Minnesota’s balance has been impressive. Sitting
    atop the NFC North, the Vikings are getting solid contributions from
    third-string (albeit veteran) QB Case Keenum, wideout Adam Thielen, RBs Jerick
    McKinnon and Latavius Murray, and a staunch defense led by end Everson Griffen.
    He stands third in the NFL with nine sacks and has at least one in each game.
    Los Angeles Chargers (3-4) at New England (5-2) Both clubs have won three in a
    row, with the Patriots looking more like the Patriots, the Chargers perhaps
    having saved their season. Gillette Stadium, whether around Halloween or any
    other time, is a house of horrors for Chargers QB Philip Rivers. He is 1-6
    against the Patriots (1-4 regular season, 0-2 in postseason), including 0-3 at
    Foxborough. He journeys there this time with a good complement in RB Melvin
    Gordon, and a defense that gets after passers. So Tom Brady must be cognizant of
    DEs Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. Bosa has five sacks and two forced fumbles in
    the past three games and 7+ sacks in total. He and Ingram (8+ sacks) can become
    the fifth pair of teammates to each get at least nine sacks in their team’s
    first eight games of a season since sacks became an official statistic in 1982.
    Houston (3-3) at Seattle (4-2) How cool might this matchup of energetic,
    versatile and mobile quarterbacks Russell Wilson and Deshaun Watson be? Even if
    there aren’t a ton of points – Seattle remains a defense-first team and doesn’t
    light up the scoreboard – this ought to be entertaining. Houston comes off a
    bye. Before that, Watson was sensational. Watson has the Texans at No. 3 in
    scoring offense at 29.5 points per game. They have scored at least 33 points in
    each of the past four. He has 12 TDs and two INTs and a 118.3 rating in his past
    three games and is the first rookie QB in league history with three straight
    games of three or more TD passes. But no AFC team has won in Seattle since Week
    8 of 2011. The Seahawks are tied with Jacksonville for stinginess, yielding 15.7
    points per game. Seattle’s D has not allowed any first-quarter points. Oakland
    (3-4) at Buffalo (4-2) The Raiders edged the Chiefs a week ago with no time
    remaining after a wild sequence of penalties. The Bills beat the Bucs on Stephen
    Hauschka’s 30-yard field goal with 14 seconds left. This is a homecoming for
    2016 Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack. The Raiders defensive end played
    four seasons at the University at Buffalo before being selected by Oakland with
    the fifth pick in the 2014 draft. Mack has 12
    tackles Ramon
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    , two sacks, a forced fumble and fumble recovery in two
    career games against the Bills. Buffalo RB LeSean McCoy had 91 yards rushing,
    his most since 110 in the season opener, and scored twice last week to snap a
    six-game TD drought. Carolina (4-3) at Tampa Bay (2-4) Carolina is damaging
    itself by allowing big plays. It allowed two long defensive TDs to Chicago
    safety Eddie Jackson last Sunday, and that was the difference as the Panthers
    couldn’t find the end zone. Cam Newton really struggled at Soldier Field, but
    this is an opponent he enjoys seeing: In nine meetings, Newton has thrown for
    2,068 yards, 15 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He also has eight rushing
    TDs. Tampa Bay figures to move the ball through the air with Jameis Winston
    connecting with star wideout Mike Evans and tight ends Cameron Brate and rookie
    O.J. Howard. Brate has 12 TD receptions since the start of last season, the most
    by a tight end over that span. Howard comes off a breakout game against the
    Bills with six receptions for 98 yards and two TDs. Chicago (3-4) at New Orleans
    (4-2) The Saints have soared to the top of the NFC South with four consecutive
    wins. Their defense has been stout and the running game with Mark Ingram and
    rookie Alvin Kamara is complementing Drew Brees’ passing. By comparison, Chicago
    must make huge defensive plays, as Jackson did last week (76-yard INT TD and
    75-yard fumble return TD), to compete. Rookie QB Mitchell Trubisky has thrown
    only 23 passes in the past two games. That’s combined. He hit on 12 with one TD,
    no INTs. Atlanta (3-3) at New York Jets (3-4) A loss here will stoke up the
    ”What’s wrong with the Falcons” mantra. They certainly looked discombobulated at
    New England last Sunday night, nearly getting blanked. This one concludes a
    weird scheduling string for Atlanta: Buffalo, Miami and New England, all losses,
    preceded the trip to MetLife Stadium. Did someone err by thinking the Falcons
    were an AFC East franchise? The Jets blew a 14-point lead in the final quarter
    at Miami. Their offense has been far better than projected; their defense has
    not been as good as expected. Indianapolis (2-5) at Cincinnati (2-4) Not much we
    can say to promote interest in this one. Well, there is this: Indy RB Frank Gore
    needs four carries to pass Barry Sanders (3,062) for sixth on the career list.
    Gore will become the first NFL back to start 100 consecutive games since Curtis
    Martin started 119 in a row from 1998-2005. And Gore needs one 100-yard rushing
    game to tie O.J. Simpson for 16th with 42 for his career. —