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Buffalo Bills vs. Tennessee Titans: Rookie review

Darryl Johnson earns his first sack of the season and Ryan Bates sees the field

The Buffalo Bills came out on top 14-7 against the Tennessee Titans this past Sunday to move to 4-1 entering the bye week. The bye presents a nice opportunity for us to examine the team’s rookies, review their play and re-set our expectations accordingly. The game against the Titans was a defensive affair, which means that it was largely Buffalo’s defensive rookies who managed to stand out positively. Still, it was valuable for players like Tommy Sweeney and Ryan Bates to see the field.

More about the performance of each rookie below.

DT Ed Oliver

It seems to be coming together for the rookie defensive tackle. The tape shows a player starting to understand blocking schemes, what the offense is trying to accomplish and how to use his hands more. The only reason he didn’t make more plays during the game is that players like Trent Murphy and Lorenzo Alexander made them first. Early in the first quarter, for instance, Oliver was looping around the Titans’ center and would have gotten a sack had Alexander not immediately beaten the guard on a spin move. His hustle continues to be much appreciated, such as when he tackled Dion Lewis after a short pass nine yards down the field.

OT/OG Cody Ford

Ford’s struggles to handle speed and inside moves from opposing edge rushers remained sickeningly consistent against the Titans. This week, it was Harold Landry beating him around the edge for one of the easiest sacks of Josh Allen you’ll see all season. Before that sack, Ford wasn’t exactly holding his own against his opponent and the only reason more sacks weren’t given up is because of Allen scrambling, stepping up in the pocket or just getting rid of the ball in time. Ford left the game in the middle of the third quarter with a concussion.

RB Devin Singletary

Singletary was a game-time decision, and the coaches decided to hold him out against the Titans.

TE Dawson Knox

Knox has struggled with drops intermittently throughout the season, and those struggles made a return against the Titans. The most egregious came early and late in the game. In both instances he was gifted on-the-money targets from Allen, and both would have gone for first downs. The rookie not only needs to work on his hands, but also his physicality in breaking away from man coverage. He somewhat made up for his mistakes by making the key block on Isaiah Mckenzie’s 46-yard run.

LB Vosean Joseph

The former fifth-round linebacker remains on injured reserve following shoulder surgery.

S Jaquan Johnson

The safety was once again listed as a healthy scratch against the Titans.

DE Darryl Johnson

It was only a matter of time before Johnson’s skill and effort against the pass would result in a sack. That time came this past week in Tennessee. On a play-action fake, Johnson was quick to recognize that quarterback Marcus Mariota still had the ball, flipped around, and took him down. That wasn’t his only good play, as perhaps his most impactful was a blocked field goal early in the fourth quarter. The rookie still isn’t perfect—he has a propensity to crash down too aggressive during runs, for instance—but what he’s shown against the Titans is encouraging.

TE Tommy Sweeney

Seeing only 16 snaps on the day, Sweeney didn’t acquit himself well with zero caught passes. He was targeted twice—late in the game on a blown up screen pass, and on the second drive of the game. On that first drop, on a roll-out, the ball literally hit him right in the hands and a catch could’ve yielded a first down. If and when Tyler Kroft returns to the playing field, Sweeney may find himself inactive on game days.

UDFA Ryan Bates

Bates came in to replace Ford in the middle of the third quarter and almost immediately gave up a pressure, forcing Allen to scramble for six yards. The coaches then helped him out with a quick toss to McKenzie and getting Allen to throw on the move. He seemed to settle into the game on the last couple drives, even holding his own against pass rusher Kevin Dodd on a couple instances.