Rookies in the NFL are always under a microscope, especially when they are players expected to help the franchise immediately. In what was a forgettable game for the Buffalo Bills as a whole, some of the rookies played well and some struggled.
Here are our thoughts on all the draft picks after the third preseason game:
QB Josh Allen
This may have been Allen’s chance to win the starting job for the regular season. With two promising outings prior to this game, he brought excitement around the franchise. His first time going against an opposing starting defense didn't go well, but it wasn't completely his fault. The offensive line struggled to protect him, as he was sacked five times, although some of those occurred because he held the ball too long. Allen made some throws out of the pocket that were off target and almost intercepted. At times, he showed off his arm strength too much on short throws that required finesse rather than power. Allen finished 6- for-12 with just 34 yards passing. Overall, it was a poor showing from the entire offense, and Allen may have lost his opportunity to open the season as the starting quarterback.
LB Tremaine Edmunds
After a slow start to the preseason, Edmunds showed why he was a first-round pick. His athletic ability at the linebacker position is something out of a video game. Edmunds flowed well from sideline-to-sideline and took care of his gap responsibilities. In coverage, he jumped a curl route in the slot and almost came up with an interception. Edmunds finished the game with seven tackles, and his performance was a step in the right direction for him and the Bills. (Even head coach Sean McDermott noticed, mentioning Edmunds in his press conferences Sunday and Monday.)
DT Harrison Phillips
Phillips had a hard time pressuring the quarterback, as did the rest of the defensive line. Andy Dalton had so much time to throw that he could have taken a nap in the pocket. It looked like Phillips was playing 3-technique again, and he seemed uncomfortable. The Bengals’ guards were able to control him at the line of scrimmage and move him where they wanted. Whether he is just learning different assignments than he had in college or he is struggling to find his comfort zone, Phillips didn't play well against the Bengals.
CB Taron Johnson
Johnson is taking all the first-team reps at slot corner, and rightfully so. Through three games, Johnson has made progress, showing himself to be reliable in coverage. He showed his ability to recognize routes on some occasions, and he didn't give up any big plays to the Bengals’ offense. All signs point to Johnson winning the starting spot at slot corner.
S Siran Neal
Neal only played 15 defensive snaps, but he made a couple of nice open field tackles and was not beaten in coverage or completely out of position on Sunday. This was a small sample size for him, though, with only playing a few snaps and not having the ball thrown in his direction.
G Wyatt Teller
Teller had another good game for the most part. The only black mark was a play in pass protection where the defensive tackle just bullied his way to a hit on Nathan Peterman as he was releasing the ball. Although he doesn't have overwhelming power, Teller did a good job on most occasions winning the first punch. At times, it looks like he relies on his upper body to hold off rushers rather than using his legs. In the run game, he did a good job moving to the second level to seal off linebackers on a few plays. With the state of the current starting offensive line, Teller might be thrown into the mix as the starting left guard prematurely sometime this season.
WR Ray-Ray McCloud III
McCloud only recorded one catch on the day for 10 yards. On a fourth down play in the red zone, McCloud dropped a tough ball to catch in the corner of the end zone that would have put the Bills within one score of the Bengals. McCloud’s agility and quickness in short-to-intermediate routes sticks out, and he has the ability to get open on those types of plays. His value as a slot receiver and punt returner puts him on the inside of the bubble to make the 53-man roster.
WR Austen Proehl
Proehl only played one snap the entire game for the Bills. Proehl has struggled to find open space in camp and in the preseason, and it has been a huge factor in his performance. His chances of making the team have dropped dramatically over the past few weeks, and I would be shocked if he finds himself on this team.