The Buffalo Bills had issues at cornerback before Sunday’s 31-20 defeat at the hands of the Los Angeles Chargers. After losing two more corners during the game, however, the position is in dire straits.
While there were some signs of hope from most of our players to watch on Sunday, the glaring defensive issues need to be fixed quickly, as the Bills play two teams on the road with fantastic quarterbacks over the next two weeks (the Minnesota Vikings and Kirk Cousins, followed by the Green Bay Packers and Aaron Rodgers).
Here is how our players to watch fared in the game on Sunday.
QB Josh Allen
The man whose failure or success will most determine the fate of the franchise over the next few years had an up-and-down game, but he performed pretty well overall. Statistically speaking, he was about as good as we could have hoped in his first start against a tough Chargers defense. Allen was 18-for-33 (54.6%) for 245 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions on the day. He added 32 rushing yards on eight attempts. There were some issues with protections that he should have called or adjusted but didn’t, and there were also issues with touch and accuracy on passes similar to those that plagued him in college. Allen was always viewed as a project, however, and for his first start, he showed flashes of what led the Bills to trade up and draft him seventh overall this past April.
If the corner position truly is in dire straits, then the recently retired Vontae Davis took his money for nothing on Sunday. In a game that Davis started, he removed himself during the first half and abruptly retired at halftime in an unprecedented show of disrespect for his teammates. Making matters worse for Buffalo, Phillip Gaines dislocated his elbow in the second quarter, so the Bills were left with only Lafayette Pitts to play opposite Tre’Davious White. (It’s one thing to recognize that you don’t have it anymore and decide to hang it up in the middle of a season, but it’s a whole other bag of ridiculous to make that realization and then leave the stadium right then and there when your team is already shorthanded at your position.) The Bills need to find someone capable of holding down the spot opposite White, otherwise they should continue to be shredded through the air opposite their top corner.
DE Jerry Hughes
Buffalo’s top pass rusher played well against the Chargers, especially in the second half. After the intermission, he was consistently in the offensive backfield, harassing Philip Rivers far more than in the first half. Hughes made 5 solo tackles and an assisted tackle, and he also dropped Rivers for a sack. Buffalo’s top edge defender looked the part this past Sunday, and if the team’s second-half defensive renaissance can carry over to Minnesota next weekend, the Bills will at least have a chance.
LB Tremaine Edmunds
Buffalo’s rookie defensive signal-caller struggled on Sunday, especially in pass coverage. He seemed hesitant on his assignments, and he was unable to stick with either of Los Angeles’ tough running backs—Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler. Edmunds had six tackles and an assist on the day. Growing pains are to be expected from the 20-year old phenom, but he is being exploited quite a bit in coverage early in his young career.
WR Kelvin Benjamin
Buffalo’s top wideout was quiet again on Sunday, hauling in only 2 passes for 19 yards. One of those receptions was a touchdown—the first of Josh Allen’s career. The Bills targeted Benjamin only 3 times, and Allen completed passes to 11 different receivers. While that last stat is excellent, the Bills would be wise to target their most-talented receiver more in future weeks, as a 6’5” wide receiver could serve as a very nice security blanket for a rookie quarterback.