When the Buffalo Bills traded up in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft to select Wyoming’s Josh Allen, we knew it was only a matter of time before the athletically gifted, but very raw prospect began starting games for the team. After Nathan Peterman laid an egg in Week 1, the time for Allen is now.
Head coach Sean McDermott named Allen his starting quarterback for the Bills’ home opener against the Los Angeles Chargers. The rookie will be one among many players Bills fans will watch this weekend, but he will tower above the rest in terms of importance.
Here are our five Bills to watch this week.
QB Josh Allen
Sunday’s game will be the first step in what is hopefully an incredibly successful journey for the Bills and Allen—who most college football experts felt would need a season watching from the sidelines in order to acclimate to the NFL game. Allen had a solid, if unspectacular, preseason, playing well in the first two games before struggling in the Week three “dress rehearsal” game. Overall, he completed 24-of-44 passes (54.5%) for 210 yards and 2 touchdowns. He entered the game against the Baltimore Ravens last week, and with the Bills already trailing 40-0, his performance in mop-up duty was all about gaining experience. Allen went 6-for-15 (40%) for 74 yards in a driving rain. With Sunday’s forecast calling for mostly sunny skies and a balmy 83 degree high temperature, the weather could be symbolic of the day itself for both Allen and Bills fans: A new dawn with new hope.
Will it be Vontae Davis? Is it Phillip Gaines? Does it even matter? Last week, Davis was a healthy scratch. Gaines started opposite number one cornerback Tre’Davious White, and the Ravens picked him to pieces, burning him for two touchdowns on the afternoon. With Taron Johnson questionable due to a shoulder injury he suffered last week, it’s likely that Davis is active and starting this week, with Gaines moving back inside to nickel corner. However, McDermott clearly is not impressed with Davis’ play, so this position will be very interesting to watch this week and in the near future.
DE Jerry Hughes
The Bills’ pass rush was non-existent last weekend. Joe Flacco was pressured only a handful of times on his 34 pass attempts, and he only took one sack (a net loss of around a foot when Tremaine Edmunds touched him down). Buffalo’s main pass rushing force needs to live up to that billing if the defense is going to be successful. Hughes has to step up and disrupt Philip Rivers on Sunday.
LB Tremaine Edmunds
Speaking of the young rookie, Edmunds needs to show progress from game one to game two. After struggling a bit on the game’s first drive, Edmunds settled in to have a nice day. He had the aforementioned sack, 8 tackles, and a forced fumble that gave the Bills a short field in the second quarter. Edmunds has incredible athletic ability and, like Allen on the offensive side, he is a raw athlete who still has a lot to learn about the game. If he can cinch up the minor issues he had in coverage last week, he will help the defense tremendously, as the Chargers love to attack over the middle with players like Keenan Allen and the ageless Antonio Gates.
WR Kelvin Benjamin
How will the veteran respond after a poor Week 1 showing where he caught only 1 of 7 targets, had his coach call him out publicly, and even had a teammate’s mom call him out via twitter for not knowing the offense? We’ll have to wait and see, but Benjamin is essential to Allen’s success, as he is clearly the wide receiver with the best professional pedigree on Buffalo’s roster. If McDermott’s comments lit a fire under Benjamin, it would certainly help the Bills to ignite what was a moribund offense last weekend.