The Buffalo Bills enter the 2018 season the same as every other team, sitting with an unblemished record and a mountain of hope. When the team begins its quest for a repeat playoff berth, taking on the Baltimore Ravens Sunday, they will do so with a brand-new offensive coordinator, and a new starting quarterback.
Opening weekend in the NFL is often unpredictable and always fun, and part of that excitement comes from watching new players on each team’s roster. Here are five Bills that we’ll be watching this weekend.
QB Nathan Peterman
The Bills’ signal-caller is arguably the most important player on this list, and aside from the unit assigned to protect him, his performance could go a long way in deciding how competitive the Bills will be in Baltimore. Peterman had a phenomenal preseason, completing 33-of-41 passes (80%) for 431 yards, 3 touchdowns, and a bad-luck interception on a tipped ball. If Peterman can have similar success against the Ravens, then the Bills have a good chance on Sunday. If not, it could be a long afternoon.
WR Zay Jones
Head coach Sean McDermott proclaimed Jones “ready to go” in his Tuesday press conference, but the second-year receiver has had a tumultuous off-season and a training camp filled with rehab rather than production on the field. If Jones can play up to his draft position, the Bills have a fourth solid weapon in the passing game behind Kelvin Benjamin, Charles Clay, and LeSean McCoy—or a fifth if you rank Jeremy Kerley ahead of Jones. Either way, now in his second season, Jones will look to take a leap forward. Sunday, against the Ravens, is a good place to start.
DE Trent Murphy
Buffalo’s $22.5 million pass-rushing free agent spent most of the preseason hampered by a groin injury. While his absence allowed former first-round pick Shaq Lawson to see more playing time, the coaching staff obviously envisioned a rotational situation where Lawson backed up starters Murphy and Jerry Hughes. If Murphy has fully recovered from his groin injury and the ACL surgery that ended his 2017 season before it began, and he can revert to his 2016 form where he notched 9 sacks, then the Bills should field a far more formidable pass rush than last season.
CB Vontae Davis
When the veteran former first-round pick signed a one-year, $5 million deal with Buffalo in the spring, it was presumed that he did so to be the starting corner opposite Tre’Davious White. However, after struggling in the preseason, Sean McDermott would not commit to Davis as the starter, instead saying that the competition between Davis and fellow free-agent signing Phillip Gaines was ongoing. If Davis has lost a step, Baltimore’s solid receiver corps of Michael Crabtree, John Brown, and Willie Snead IV could exploit him all afternoon, leaving a glaring weakness in what was expected to be an area of great strength for the Bills this season. It’s only one game, but Davis has a lot to prove this week.
C Ryan Groy
The centerpiece of the unit giving Bills fans the most agita going into this weekend is Groy, the winner of a competition over newcomer Russell Bodine. Groy performed well in Eric Wood’s place during the 2017 season, but he appeared to struggle this preseason, as the Bills allowed consistent pressure on their quarterbacks in all four exhibition games. If Groy can settle in and be consistently above-average, it will go a long way towards stabilizing a worrisome positional group for Buffalo.