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Will Kaiir Elam End Bust Label and Make an Impact for the Buffalo Bills?

The Buffalo Bills defense needs a boost after several offseason departures. Is former first-round pick Kaiir Elam finally ready to step up?

Kaiir Elam hasn’t lived up to expectations since the Buffalo Bills selected him in the first round of the 2022 NFL draft. His performance throughout offseason workouts suggests he may now finally be ready to put the bust talk in his rear-view mirror.

Elam enjoyed success throughout organized team activities (OTAs) and he’s continued that positive trend during mandatory minicamp. The 23-year-old cornerback was one of the best players on the field during Wednesday’s session.

His improved performance comes at a perfect time for the Bills, who are desperately seeking depth in the secondary after several high-profile departures. Tre’Davious White, Micah Hyde, and Jordan Poyer all departed after long-term stays in Buffalo.

Kaiir Elam Ready To Stiff-Arm Bust Label?

Cornerback Makes String Of Nice Plays At Minicamp

Elam’s best play Wednesday came when he jumped a route run by rookie wide receiver Keon Coleman to intercept a Josh Allen pass. It was a play reminiscent of the game-reading ability he showed at the University of Florida.

While a learning curve was always expected—Elam excelled in man coverage with the Gators but the Bills mix in a lot of zone coverage—but his lack of progress over his first two seasons raised questions about his NFL future.

Fellow corner Rasul Douglas, who joined Buffalo in an October trade, is getting his first extended look at Elam and he’s come away impressed, per Matthew Fairburn of The Athletic.

“He looks good out there now,” Douglas said. “He’s sticky, big, fast. He’s in a good spot this year. He looks great. I can’t say what he did last year. I don’t really know. But this year he looks great.”

Elam Not Shying Away From Early NFL Struggles

During OTAs, the Florida native discussed trying to maintain confidence when the results didn’t go his way early in his Bills career.

“I believe in myself. It’s a part of life,” Elam told reporters in May. “It’s not going to go your way [always]. I pride myself on being resilient and continuing to challenge myself and learn from past mistakes and stay confident in myself to go out there and do a good job.”

He added other circumstances, like a foot injury and being a healthy scratch a handful of times over his first couple of seasons, have also helped give him perspective both personally and professionally.

“I learned to appreciate it because, without that, I feel like I wouldn’t have grown into the man I am right now,” Elam said. “Just going out there and playing free just because of all the mental games and everything I’ve been through.”

Where Does He Fit In The 2024 Bills Secondary?

Elam recorded 55 total tackles, four passes defended, and two interceptions in 16 appearances across his first two NFL seasons. He received a lackluster 58.8 overall grade from Pro Football Focus last year.

Yet, the Bills didn’t do much to upgrade their cornerback group behind the starting trio of Douglas, Christian Benford, and slot star Taron Johnson. Elam still has the inside track on the No. 4 CB role heading into training camp.

That seemed like a major problem up until a few weeks ago, but his play throughout the offseason practices has at least provided some optimism that he’ll be ready to step up if his number is called. It’s a promising development for a defense with several other questions to answer, too.

Elam must continue his strong play during camp and the preseason before the Bills can be assured his improvement is the real deal.

Main Photo: Jamie Germano/Democrat and Chronicle-USA TODAY NETWORK


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