The youth movement marched on in the Buffalo Bills latest victory on Sunday, this time against the Detroit Lions. Injuries, ineffective play and a desire to see what the team has for the future have forced One Bills Drive to turn to new players. Eleven first-year players, including six undrafted free agents, saw the field on either offense or defense, with the 12th seeing the majority of his snaps on special teams. More about the performance of each rookie below.
QB Josh Allen
For those fans looking to be encouraged by Josh Allen’s continuing development, the rookie’s first half against the Lions provided quite a bit of encouragement. Allen’s stats in the half—9 of 14 for 99 yards—don’t jump off the page, but it’s how the rookie accumulated those yards that mattered. With a few exceptions, Allen was making the correct decisions and was content to take what the defense gave him. He was throwing the ball away, instead of risking a tight throw. Best of all, he was calm in the pocket and got the ball out of his hands quickly. Some of that consistency wore off in the second half, where Allen was much more likely to force balls or unnecessarily lock onto reads, but Allen still came away with a win thanks to a 42-yard dime to Robert Foster.
LB Tremaine Edmunds
Considering the amount of snaps Edmunds saw, he failed to make his presence felt more than a handful of times. Thanks to missed blocking assignments by Detroit, the rookie was able to single-handedly blow up a few run plays. His ability to get invade passing lanes and his sheer size meant that he was a nuisance to Matthew Stafford in the passing game. Still, he’s not as powerful at the point of attack as you would expect for a player of his size. Unless he makes some big strides in the next couple games, it should become an improvement area for the 20-year old during the off-season.
DT Harrison Phillips
Unlike with Allen, Phillips’s stat line—two tackles—really does effectively sum up his day. You love the rookie’s hustle against the run, but he’s just not providing much of a spark with his limited time on the field. Time and again, Phillips was easily handled by a single blocker in the passing game, or simply avoided in the running game. This late in the season, Phillips is running out of chances to prove he deserves more time on the field.
OG Wyatt Teller
Blocking on the run continues to be a problem for the rookie from Virginia Tech. Whenever Teller was asked to pull or get to the second level to block linebackers, he struggled to get his hands on his assignment. He just seems to lack the agility or awareness to handle smaller, quicker targets. There was one play, late in the first quarter, where Teller didn’t even see Jarrad Davis coming at him and was promptly pushed off his feet, giving up a four-yard loss. On the other hand, Teller was able to hold his ground in the passing game against both A’Shawn Robinson and Damon Harrison, two massive defensive tackles who are usually able to overpower lesser guards.
WR Ray-Ray McCloud III
McCloud only had eight offensive snaps on the day and his sole highlight was a jet sweep that gained seven yards.
S Siran Neal
Neal saw his highest amount of special team snaps of the season against Detroit, and didn’t make any mistakes when covering the opposing gunner. It is becoming worrisome that he is still not seeing any snaps on defense.
WR Robert Foster
It was more big plays for Foster, who had his third 100-yard game of the season against the Lions. Thanks to his natural speed and some clever play design by offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, Foster found himself open on a couple of corner routes and a nice deep crossing route. Foster came down with huge completions on two of those plays and the third resulted in a pass interference call. Foster continued to show that he has evolved into a legitimate threat for which defenses must account.
CB Levi Wallace
Since he became a starter, Wallace has somehow been able to avoid getting targeted by opposing offenses, but that was not the case against the Lions. Thanks to some poor press technique, the rookie gave up a touchdown to Andy Jones on a simple out route early in the second quarter. Then, later in that same quarter, Wallace was lined up in zone coverage and noticed Kenny Golladay running open behind him. Deciding to fall off his coverage and attack the ball, he came tantalizingly close to an interception before Golladay snatched the ball away at the last second. The rookie needed to show more fight. On the positive side of the ledger, Wallace ran down running backs from the backside of the play a few times.
OG Ike Boettger
The Bills finally decided to give Boettger a bit of a test drive, and the early returns against the Lions were positive. Only in for a single complete series, Boettger held his own. In contrast to Teller, the rookie from Iowa is much quicker and far more natural blocking on the move, but might struggle when asked to anchor against a physical tackle.
LB Corey Thompson
Thompson was another player who saw his first defensive snaps of the season on Sunday. His play was much more muted than his teammates, as the defensive staff only brought him in when the team was in base defense. Thompson managed to show some decent speed to the ball carrier, but not much else in the way of flash plays. We’ll see if the coaching staff changes their tune next week against New England.
DE Mike Love
Only on the field for a handful of snaps, Love was involved just enough to remind fans of the juice he brought in the preseason. His burst off the line as a pass rusher is above-average and he got a fair amount of pressure against Stafford. Moving forward, there may be some concerns with Love’s ability to hold his ground against the run, but he should earn more time as a situational pass rusher.
RB Keith Ford
After Marcus Murphy dislocated his shoulder in the first half, Ford became the stater for three series before going down with an injury himself. In that span, Ford seemed to follow in the footsteps of his quarterback: taking what the defense gave him. He was content to put his head down and settle for a short gain instead of attempting to bust a run outside. Ford also broke out a jump cut move that the rookie didn’t seem to have in the preseason. It was a debut that clearly left fans wanting more.
- Cornerback Taron Johnson underwent shoulder surgery and is out for the rest of the year.