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First week of training camp has been baptism by fire for Bills' first-round draft pick Kaiir Elam


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It’s quickly become appointment viewing at Buffalo Bills training camp.

There is a certain buzz any time wide receiver Stefon Diggs lines up against rookie cornerback Kaiir Elam. The matchup has lived up to the hype, as the star receiver and first-round draft pick haven’t backed down from each other in the slightest. Words have been exchanged and the pair even needed to be separated at a point.

“He’s learning every day,” head coach Sean McDermott said Saturday of Elam. “He’s adding notes to his notebook and had a couple good battles yesterday when the ball was thrown into a contested ball situation, and I think Stef won a couple of them and Kaiir won a few as well. The thing I appreciated about it is Stef is very competitive, but he then takes time to teach Kaiir off the field, as well, which I think is tremendous.”

Diggs has admitted to being tough on rookies, but that’s especially true of the ones he believes have real potential. Elam certainly fits into that category.

“I feel like we got a lot to build off of, just as far as, like, a team and as a unit,” Diggs said. “As far as individual, he’s a good player. You know, he was drafted in the first round. Of course they’re going to expect a lot out of him immediately, but I feel like he’s up to the task and hope we can build off it.”

“Honestly, I'm just trying to maximize my potential and just go as hard as I can – really just try to get better. Ultimately, to do that, I've just got to compete my behind off,” Elam told The Buffalo News on Friday. “I think me and Stefon have the same type of mindset, we just want to dominate and win, honestly. Me going up against him, I just want to maximize my potential, like I said, and the only way I can do that is competing against the best. I'm just striving every day to just get better. Not for a personal reason, but just from the team aspect, just to help my team win.

“I'm just trying to give him all I got, honestly man. Not only him. I'm trying to get pushed by him, Gabe, Isaiah (McKenzie). Everybody I line up with, I'm just trying to give my all, ultimately to get myself better, to get them better and then that's going to elevate the team competition level.”

Elam chalked the trash talking with Diggs up to competitiveness.

“Him pushing me, I appreciate it, but if he's pushing me, I'm going to push back,” he said. “That's not just him. That's going to be the whole, entire receiving corps, the tight end corps. I'm going to stay level-headed and try to earn everything I get. Don't get me wrong. I'm super, duper competitive. I try to win at everything I do, but I don't have to go out there and make it all about me. It's not like I'm trying to bring attention to myself. I just want to win. I don't do that to be flashy. That's just who I am. I want to go out there and dominate.”

Elam has been in the starting lineup basically from the moment he was drafted out of Florida. With Tre’Davious White still sidelined as he rehabs from knee surgery, Elam and Dane Jackson have been getting a steady diet of work against Diggs and No. 2 receiver Gabe Davis. That’s good prep for any cornerback. If White can’t make it back before the Sept. 8 season opener, Elam almost assuredly will be in the starting lineup against the high-powered Los Angeles Rams.

“There’s always just some trepidation when you are a rookie and potentially having to start, especially at the corner position where, early on, people are going to target you and you have to be able to stand up early or otherwise they continue it,” defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said. “We're confident that he's going to play well for us. We're confident he's going to come along and grow. We need to see how he progresses throughout training camp. He's excited for this opportunity, he's looking forward to it, but so are we. We're looking forward to watching his maturation over time, but we're looking forward to his progress.

Elam, 21, played in 35 games in college, finishing with six interceptions and 26 passes defensed. He left school with one year of eligibility remaining.

The Bills have used a bit of an unusual approach in coaching Elam at times. Defensive backs coach John Butler has Elam wear boxing gloves during certain drills. One of the knocks against Elam at Florida was he used his hands too much, so the boxing gloves – which prevent him from being able to grab anything – represent an effort to get him out of that habit.

“I’m really big on trying to learn and apply,” Elam said. “I couldn’t be more grateful for adding things like that into my work ethic and what they’re teaching me.”

Elam stepped into a great situation in the Bills’ secondary. White and safeties Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde have all received All-Pro votes in recent seasons. He’s wisely been trying to soak up everything they’ve had to say.

“I think the first day I met him you could tell he's just a young guy that's listening and wants to get better,” Hyde said. “That's how he's been these first couple days. He’s all ears and he wants to learn from the older guys about how to get better and what to do. So, I don’t think I've learned anything new, that's just how he is. In meetings, he's sitting next to us and he's asking us questions. On the field after each play, he’s asking questions. I think as a young guy asking the older guys how they go about business, whether if it's after practice getting some work in or extra film work, stuff like that.

“He’s been fortunate enough to be put in a position, whether it's the coaches we have in the secondary on defense or even the players, he's able to step in right now with some guys that have been together for a long time. So he hears what we're talking about, he hears how we see things in meetings. He can paint the picture himself just by asking the questions that he asks. I can't speak for him, but I feel like if I'm a young guy in his position, I'd be real fortunate to step in that position. And we're not asking him to be anything that he's not. Just go out there and play your ball. He's going to have mistakes – every rookie does. My rookie year, I made a lot of mistakes, but as long as you learn from those mistakes, you'll be fine.”

As a first-round pick, Elam knows that there are lofty expectations that will be attached to that draft status. Hyde does, too, but said that’s true of the whole team.

“Everybody has a sense of urgency,” he said. “I feel like with him obviously being young guy, obviously getting up to speed quick, myself playing at a high level like I've been able to do. Same thing for Po, same thing for Tre’Davious, Taron (Johnson), everybody. We all have our things that we have to work on. I can honestly say when I step on the football field with those guys, I don't feel like I have to be anything I’m not. I just play my ball because I know they're going to take care of their business. So, it's kind of like the thing that calms me down when I get out there. I think the same thing for him. Just go out there and play your ball and as long as you know the defense, it’s going to put you in position to make plays and from there you’ve got to win in your one on ones. So that’s just what we are telling him.”

“There he goes. One of God's own prototypes.

A high-powered mutant of some kind, never even considered for mass production.

Too weird to live, and too rare to die.”

 

Twitter: @HKTheResistance

 

HipKat, on *** other h***, is genuine, unapoli***tically nasty, and w**** his hea** on his ******. jc856

I’ll just forward them to Bridgett. comssvet11

Seek help. soflabillsfan

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