Dawson Knox and Jerry Hughes spoke to the media Monday as the Buffalo Bills prepared for their Week 1 matchup with the New York Jets.
Here are some of their top quotes.
Knox: Comfort level is 'night and day' from last season
Knox impressed as a rookie last season, accumulating 388 receiving yards and two touchdowns while showing a penchant for making difficult catches.
That said, the tight end admitted the transition from his simplified offense at Ole Miss to an NFL playbook had its challenges at the start. He described his comfort level in the offense as a "night and day difference" from a year ago.
"I had a very simplified system at Ole Miss, so it was like my head was spinning for a while last year just trying to figure out, you know, first and foremost where to line up, then what route to run based on coverage, protection was brand new to me," Knox said. "So, it was a lot of just kind of not being able to play as fast as I wanted to, just trying to make sure I'm doing my assignment the right way.
"Now, it's like I can start breaking down film deeper on what DBs are doing in certain coverages and really knowing what page [quarterback] Josh [Allen] wants to be on with me, the timing with him. So, I think I've been able to focus a lot more on those little things where I can play a lot faster this year, so I'm excited for that."
High praise for Boras and Smith
Asked about his development when it comes to blocking, Knox credited the mentorship of tight ends coach Rob Boras and veteran tight end Lee Smith.
"In terms of blocking, I feel like Coach Boras has done an awesome job just working on little footwork techniques and where to put your hands, knowing the leverage of defenders – like, on a certain front they're going to be playing a certain gap and know how to use that against him," Knox said.
"Then, obviously having Lee Smith has been invaluable. He's been incredible. As probably one of the best blocking tight ends ever, having him has been incredible for that aspect of the game."
Hughes speaks on White's leadership
Hughes has watched Tre'Davious White develop from a first-round rookie in 2017 to the highest-paid cornerback in NFL history, a title he believes is well earned.
"It's fantastic," Hughes said. "Someone who, since he's been drafted in this building has done nothing but work hard. First one here, last one to leave. After his interview now, he's going to go get in the cold tub and do body work.
"That's a young guy who, you know, he's young but he has a professional mindset and you see the other young guys watching him and you see how the next day, two more guys show up and then the next week, five more guys show up. That's the leadership qualities Tre White brings to this team."
Prepping for Week 1
Hughes said he and his teammates had joked that the transition to the regular season feels a bit like college, given the absence of preseason games. One result: Hughes and other players have had to rely on college tape to prepare for the Jets' rookies, including left tackle Mekhi Becton.
"That's been a real key for me is being able to kind of have access to that and watching what he had out there," Hughes said. "If it's on YouTube, any kind of highlights I could get of him just to see how he plays, see his demeanor. I'm a football nerd so I like to study film just to see who I'm going against."
Hughes – who spoke at length during training camp about his reaction to the shooting of Jacob Blake – met the media Monday wearing the Black Lives Matter t-shirt he helped design for his Bills Fan Box, detailed in the video above.
The defensive end also announced that he and his teammates were putting their words into action, joining team owners Kim and Terry Pegula to seek ways to provide internet for children and teachers throughout the city of Buffalo.
"I think what Colin Kaepernick stated back in 2017 was great to bring awareness to the fact that African Americans are still getting treated unjustly by the police here in America," he said. "I think, for us, with this team, we're trying to think of solutions. What can we do as the Buffalo Bills to help not just low-income families but people who look like us, look like me, who are part of this systematic racism that just needs some help?
"So, we felt like the one thing we could do is help with the education process and so helping those kids with their internet for this school year is something that's been big, been on a lot of guys' hearts and so we're excited for Week 1 to come around so we can contribute to that."
Scroll through to see the best photos from Buffalo's practice as they prepare for Week 1 against the New York Jets