The Buffalo Bills managed to improve their playoff chances at home in Week 15 against the Miami Dolphins. It was a full team effort, with both sides of the ball contributing. However, unlike in previous games, the Bills’ top four rookies struggled a fair amount. Whether this was just a minor bump in the road, or the rookies hitting the proverbial “rookie wall,” remains to be seen.
CB Tre’Davious White
Despite how it looked on the stat sheet, White had an inconsistent day against the Dolphins. He was bailed out a couple times by poor throws into his area from quarterback Jay Cutler. In those instances, receiver Kenny Stills was able to get some late separation from White and both times, Cutler’s pass was off the mark, leading to an incompletion and an interception. In the fourth quarter, White was beaten cleanly off the line by Devante Parker, giving up a 36-yard completion. White also lost contain on a big first half run from the Dolphins, setting up an early score. It wasn’t all bad though. In the fourth quarter, the rookie corner did a great job undercutting a route in the red zone by Parker and breaking up the pass. He almost came down with an interception late in the fourth quarter and then was the beneficiary of an errant Cutler throw to finally ice the game.
WR Zay Jones
During the midpoint of the season, it looked like Jones was starting to develop a rapport with Tyrod Taylor, with the two connecting on a couple of touchdowns. Although no longer struggling with drops, it looks like Jones is back to being an afterthought in the Bills offense. Only targeted twice against the Dolphins, Jones did not catch a pass, despite being open on quite a few routes.
LT Dion Dawkins
Up against another rookie in Charles Harris, Dawkins held his own for most of the game, provided that he was able to quickly get his hands on the defensive lineman. A few times though, Tyrod was forced to vacate the pocket after Dawkins gave up his chest on a bull rush, and was walked back into the quarterback. A few other times, he was bailed out by a quick throw. Not a terrible performance by the rookie left tackle, but he needs to show more improvement if he wants to claim a full-time starting job next year.
LB Matt Milano
Only finishing with 3 total tackles, Milano didn’t have much impact defensively. His highlight of the day was blowing up a stretch run in the second quarter. The rookie linebacker’s speed was evident on the play, as he shot through the “A” gap and helped tackle Kenyan Drake for a 5-yard loss. In the first quarter, he got sucked inside and failed to hold the edge which led to a 31-yard gain by the running back. He also had a mental mistake in the fourth quarter, when he was late in picking up the running back in zone coverage, which led to a first down on 3rd and 10. This was only Milano’s second start, so we can expect any mistakes to be a learning experience for the rookie.