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Bills Pro Bowlers react to nominations, Josh Allen's jersey takes a trip to the HOF, Bruce Smith previews Dolphins game

Buffalo Bills Week 18 Practice, Regular Season, January 04, 2024 at 1 Bills Drive.
Buffalo Bills Week 18 Practice, Regular Season, January 04, 2024 at 1 Bills Drive.

The Buffalo Bills' two Pro Bowl starters spoke after Thursday's practice and reacted to the honor of getting the invitation to Orlando.

Left tackle Dion Dawkins and running back James Cook earned their third and first Pro Bowl invitations, respectively. For Dawkins, it was the first time he was named as a Pro Bowl starter, after playing what he said was perhaps his best season so far in his seven-year career.

"This is the first time that I'm a starter, so it's a beautiful feeling. It just means that I'm trusting my process," Dawkins said. "I still have another game in the regular season to prove (that it's my best year). But I can't even sugarcoat it, it's like a whole different mode, it's a whole different vibe, a whole different energy."

Dawkins has been in for 97 percent of Buffalo's offensive snaps, leading an offensive line that has allowed the fewest sacks in the NFL and that has opened up rushing lanes for the AFC's leading rusher, who was also named as the Pro Bowl starter.

Cook has tallied 1,086 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, adding 429 yards and four receiving touchdowns. In just his second year in the NFL, Cook has shown his ability to consistently create explosive plays.

"It's a good deal for Jimbo to make it in his second year, because that's huge to be that young and to get that. It just means he's on track to have a beautiful career," Dawkins said of his teammate.

Cook said that the first person that he told was his mother. He acknowledged the significance of making a Pro Bowl at such a young age, but said he had higher aspirations for this season.

"She's proud of me … She's not trying to be at the Pro Bowl, she's trying to be farther," Cook said of his mother's reaction. "It's a huge accomplishment, something that I've been looking forward to do, and it's just only going to get better from here."

Cook also had praise for his fellow Pro Bowler, harping on the consistency that Dawkins has displayed throughout his career.

"It was great, he's on his third Pro Bowl so that tells you what type of player he is and what he's capable of doing," Cook said.

Hall of Fame Moment

Quarterback Josh Allen set an NFL record when, in Week 15 against the Dallas Cowboys, he scored both a rushing and passing touchdown for the 10th time in the same season, becoming the only quarterback in league history to do so. Just a week later, Allen moved the goalposts even further, passing for a touchdown and rushing for two against the Chargers to have his 11th such game this season.

Allen's historic accomplishment will be enshrined in NFL history, as his jersey from the Cowboys game has been placed on display in the Pro Football Hall of Fame's "Pro Football Today Gallery."

"One for the ages"

Speaking of the Hall of Fame, former Bills defensive end and all-time NFL sack leader Bruce Smith spoke to the 33rd Teams’ Jade McCarthy about the upcoming matchup between the Bills and Miami Dolphins, which will determine the winner of the AFC East and the No. 2 overall seed in the AFC.

"It's going to be, I believe, one for the ages," Smith said.

With Buffalo riding a four-game winning streak, the Hall of Famer believes the Bills are heating up at just the right time, something that is typical in Buffalo as the Bills are 18-2 in December and January since 2020.

"This is the time of the year that you want to get that momentum," Smith said. "December football sets the stage for the playoffs. … We're starting to gel with play designs specifically for Cook, with him understanding his dual role. I don't think any linebacker, virtually, in the league can match up with him one-on-one. And those are the things that smart coaches take advantage of, they create mismatches."

With a defense that has overcome injuries from early in the season, Smith is impressed in the job the coaching staff has done to remain one of the strongest defensive units in the NFL.

"We were decimated with injuries at the beginning of the year, losing three of our top defensive players, but we have had some guys who have really stepped up to the plate and have been making plays on a consistent basis," Smith said. "We added a few pieces here and there. My hat goes off to this defensive line, led by Eric Washington, the defensive line coach, and Sean McDermott for being able to dial up a top five defense."

Injury report

All five players listed in the Week 18 injury report participated to some degree in Thursday's practice. Quarterback Josh Allen (neck/right finger), defensive end Leonard Floyd (rib), safety Micah Hyde (neck) and edge rusher Von Miller (vet rest) were full participants while safety Damar Hamlin (shoulder) was limited.

Scroll to see photos from the Buffalo Bills Week 18 practice as the team prepares to take on the Miami Dolphins.

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