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Buffalo Bills vs. New England Patriots: Rookie review

Singletary gets stuffed, Knox goes underutilized

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: the Buffalo Bills weren’t able to hold onto a lead in a game against the New England Patriots and ended up losing the game 24-17. Still, Buffalo was able to keep it close against the Patriots in Foxborough, and they were even able to drive to New England’s eight yard line, in an attempt to tie the game. How much impact did the team’s rookies have in this performance? Read on, as we review how each of them performed against the Patriots.

DT Ed Oliver

In pass-rushing situations, Oliver was able to earn some pressures on Tom Brady thanks to his unnatural speed for a player of his size. Unfortunately, more often than not Brady responded by throwing balls in the dirt or taking off and earning a few yards. It was for that reason that the rookie’s stats don’t jump off the page. Oliver’s impact on his 39 snaps was much more noticeable on tape.

OT Cody Ford

The ‘one-up, one-down’ pattern continued for the rookie, as a collection of New England defensive ends and outside linebackers took Ford out to the woodshed for most of the game. It began on John Brown’s sweep play early in the first quarter—with Ford whiffing on a block of Stephon Gilmore—and lasted all the way until Buffalo’s penultimate offensive play where he gave up a sack against Kyle Van Noy. The Patriots’ pass rushers knew to attack Ford wide and attempt to turn the corner, and the rookie’s footwork couldn’t keep up. The few decent snaps Ford turned in were a result of the rookie tackle choosing to take wider stances and get an early punch into the defender.

RB Devin Singletary

The Bills’ offensive line let Singletary down on many of his runs for limited gains, as Patriots nose tackle Danny Shelton and linebacker Dont’a Hightower won most of their battles against Mitch Morse and the Bills’ guards consistently. The rookie also seemed more hesitant to pull the trigger and hit the right hole on a few outside runs that has been the case much of the season. Perhaps Buffalo’s coaches could have responded by utilizing Singletary as a linebacker mismatch in the quick passing game, but did not make that adjustment.

TE Dawson Knox

The Patriots’ plan against Knox was to stick a safety on him, mostly Patrick Chung, and ask him to beat press-man coverage. The Bills response to that situation was to have the rookie use his hands and physicality to shake free on corners routes on a handful of plays. Three times to be exact: two incompletions in the first and fourth quarters and on his 33-yard reception late in the second. It worked out perfectly on that long reception, but better throws from Allen would have almost guaranteed multiple touchdowns from the rookie.

LB Vosean Joseph

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

S Jaquan Johnson

Johnson was active against New England, but only for his role on special teams.

TE Tommy Sweeney

With the return of Tyler Kroft, Sweeney was again a healthy scratch this week at the Patriots.

DE Darryl Johnson Jr.

Again, Johnson was only on the field for two defensive snaps and mostly appeared on special teams.