With the third week of the preseason upon us, the all-important dress rehearsal game is set to take place. The Buffalo Bills will face off against the Cincinnati Bengals in the most meaningful of the meaningless football games played in August.
While the number one objective is to leave the field fully healthy on Sunday, there are plenty of positional battles still going down in Buffalo. Here are a few worth noting.
Trent Murphy is slowly working his way back to health, but in the meantime, some of the other players have done some good things. While plenty of praise has come Shaq Lawson’s way for a strong camp, an under-the-radar player making plays is Terrence Fede. The fifth-year pro out of Marist College has 5 tackles and a sack thus far on the preseason. At 6’4” and nearly 270 pounds, he possesses the size head coach Sean McDermott loves out of his defensive ends. Given Murphy’s injury history, the team may be wise to go with five defensive ends out of camp, and Fede has played well enough to merit consideration behind Lawson, Murphy, Jerry Hughes, and Eddie Yarbrough.
How much will Corey Coleman play? What about Zay Jones? Will Andre Holmes and Rod Streater continue to see tons of first-team reps? There are so many questions with this group, even though it seems that the top six (the aforementioned foursome plus Kelvin Benjamin and Jeremy Kerley) seem to be set in stone. Can one of the young guys (Ray-Ray McCloud? Brandon Reilly? Austin Proehl?) sneak on the roster? It’s a long shot, but the pecking order on Sunday could tell us a lot about just how long that shot is.
The battle between rookie Taron Johnson and veteran Phillip Gaines has been intense so far, with the rookie acquitting himself quite well. While both players are near-locks to make the roster, it will be interesting to see which one earns the most time in the nickel defense. Neither player has made a big play yet during the exhibition season, but if one of them can, they may earn the upper-hand in the competition.
The offensive line was especially brutal last week against Cleveland. Dion Dawkins was rag-dolled by Myles Garrett (which is somewhat forgivable, as Garrett is a phenomenal talent), Vladimir Ducasse looked lost, and Russell Bodine was downright bad. A bounce-back performance from Dawkins is a must, but more noteworthy will be the play of the other interior linemen. Rookie Wyatt Teller has earned praise for his solid work so far this preseason, and veteran Ryan Groy has been the much better center so far. Starting jobs are on the line here.
Of course we’ll be watching this battle play out—it’s Josh Allen’s first professional start! If he plays lights-out, he could force the coaching staff into naming him the starter for the Bills’ first real game against the Baltimore Ravens. If he plays poorly, then the coaching staff can say that they gave him the experience of starting a game week, but Nathan Peterman or AJ McCarron is their guy. Speaking of McCarron, it will be interesting to see if he is able to play in the game, and if he is, which unit he plays with during the contest. I assume that he’ll be with the third team if he plays, but in any case, a strong outing would be a welcome sight after a poor performance against Cleveland. He’s been limited in practice this week with a sore shoulder. Nathan Peterman has been hot, as well, so the quarterback battle is still raging in Western New York.
What battles are you most looking forward to watching?