With the Buffalo Bills sporting a 2-7 record, One Bills Drive brought in a youth movement against the New York Jets. Rookie fifth-round guard Wyatt Teller earned his first start, as did undrafted free-agent cornerback Levi Wallace. Even Robert Foster saw a noticeable uptick in offensive snaps. At first blush, all those moves appear to have paid off as the team came into Metlife Stadium and had arguably their best game of the season in a 41-10 victory. But does the tape concur? More about the performance of each rookie below.
LB Tremaine Edmunds
The team’s starting linebacker returned from a concussion sustained against the Chicago Bears and continued his schizophrenic style of play. Edmunds penchant for missed tackles reared its ugly head again, both on an up-the-middle blitz of Josh McCown early in the first quarter as well as on a couple Isaiah Crowell runs in the second quarter. His best play of the day was a stuff of Elijah McGuire, when Harrison Phillips was able to soak up two blockers and kept Edmunds free to lead with his shoulder and make the tackle. It wasn’t the rookie’s worst game by any means, but at this point it’s fair to wonder if he will ever fix his issues tackling ball-carriers.
DT Harrison Phillips
Phillips has so far been able to produce a couple flash plays against the run with his limited time on the field—the game against the Jets was no different. As described above, his ability to soak up both the center and guard on a run play in the third quarter led to a no-gain run on a 2nd and 10. A lot of his snaps came when the game was already out of hand for the home team, so Phillips was forced into pass rushing against double-teams for most of the day.
CB Taron Johnson
The fourth-rounder from Weber State was able to show off his physicality in his few snaps against the Jets, who chose to feature a huge amount of short and underneath passes. Johnson drove on a couple of those passes with reckless abandon, which resulted in a couple nice tackles, but at the cost of re-aggravating the shoulder injury Johnson’s been dealing with for most of the season. The rookie corner was forced to leave the game early as a consequence.
OG Wyatt Teller
Teller’s debut as a starter included a fair number of hiccups, but was a decent showing overall. The scouting report on Teller was always that when asked to drive-block a defender directly in front of him, he could do it; but ask him to move laterally and attempt, say, a reach block and things get a bit shakier. That report generally held true against the Jets. Teller lost a few early bouts against defensive tackle Henry Anderson because Anderson used his speed and hands to outmaneuver the bulky Teller. But as the game when on, Teller started to gain confidence and hold his own, especially when asked to block one-on-one. What was also encouraging to see was Teller constantly “looking for work.” If a defender wasn’t in his immediate vicinity, the rookie fifth-rounder would look to help out Dion Dawkins or Russell Bodine.
S Siran Neal
Neal saw some defensive snaps in garbage time, but was again mostly relegated to punt-return-team duties. While the addition of Isaiah McKenzie breathed new life into the Bills’ return game, it was mostly through his individual effort that the team improved, not anything Neal did.
WR Ray-Ray McCloud III
Only seeing 16 (mostly garbage-time) snaps on the day, McCloud found himself void of targets. It’s fair to wonder if the positive play of new addition Isaiah McKenzie will push McCloud out of his role as the team’s change-up/gadget player.
WR Robert Foster
The Bills have kept the faith with Foster throughout the season, and it finally paid off in New Jersey. After being called back up from the team’s practice squad, Foster made three huge catches for the team, resulting in 105 receiving yards. His final reception was his most impressive. On a 3rd and 20, Foster ran a go-route, actually tracked the ball in the air, paused his momentum and went up and reached for the ball. He hadn’t displayed ball skills like that any time previously. Perhaps this is a sign of greater things to come for the young player.
CB Levi Wallace
Buffalo’s other practice squad call-up, Wallace played it safe for most of the day and was rarely targeted. Frequently lined up in off-coverage or in a bail technique, the corner could’ve been targeted by a better quarterback. By sheer luck, the only time Josh McCown chose to look towards the rookie corner was on an intermediate drag route. That time, Wallace’s speed kept him in good position for a pass breakup, if not an interception. The former Alabama Crimson Tide’s real liability was in the run game. Wallace is a string bean at only 180 pounds, and was getting mauled by wide receivers whenever they chose to block him. On the Jets sole touchdown, Wallace took a poor angle on the running back, lost contain and allowed him to go untouched for the score.
- Starting quarterback Josh Allen was inactive against the Jets as he continued to recover from his elbow injury sustained against the Houston Texans.
- Undrafted rookie Ike Boettger were listed as inactive.