With the fifth playoff seed firmly in hand and nothing to play for, the Buffalo Bills played most of their second-string players on Sunday in a loss to the New York Jets. For the team’s rookies, that meant that offensive mainstays like Devin Singletary and Dawson Knox were firmly on the bench, but backups such as Jaquan Johnson and Tommy Sweeney were able to see the field for extended periods. How did these rookies fair in the final regular-season game? Read on to find out.
DT Ed Oliver
Oliver had a decently disruptive day, seeing part-time duty in this game while ceding some of his usual snaps to Vincent Taylor. Oliver was able to use his strength and low center of gravity to quickly shed Jets guard Connor McDermott in various passing plays, as well as run plays. An example of that was Oliver’s tackle-for-loss of Le’Veon Bell on the Jets’ first drive of the game. Oliver didn’t have as much luck when lining up against left guard Brent Qvale, whose size and strength were a match for the rookie.
OT Cody Ford
It was a clean game for Ford, if a little shaky, against a mediocre group of Jets’ edge defenders. Outside of a handful of snaps, the rookie still struggled to keep a solid base and not reach for his opponent. When asked to block longer than three seconds, Ford more often than not got displaced by the defender. It was only through Matt Barkley having a working internal clock and knowing when to get the ball out that Ford didn’t give up many pressures or sacks. Hopefully Ford is able to bounce back in the playoffs.
RB Devin Singletary
The rookie runner, and de facto starter, sat out the game against the Jets in order to keep his legs fresh for the playoffs.
TE Dawson Knox
Similar to Singletary, Knox has done so well with his opportunities this season that he was deemed too important to play against the Jets and sat out.
LB Vosean Joseph
The former fifth-round linebacker remains on injured reserve following shoulder surgery.
S Jaquan Johnson
In his first real action against NFL starters, the rookie safety acquitted himself very well. The coaches weren’t afraid to leave Johnson as the single-high safety and the rookie didn’t look out of place there and the Jets weren’t really able to come up with a big play as a result of his presence. It was unfortunate that the rookie’s interception early in the second quarter was called back due to an unnecessary roughness call.
TE Tommy Sweeney
Outside of a mental mistake in the fourth quarter where he didn’t run out of bounds and a questionable pass-interference call in the second quarter, Sweeney was a top performer in the game against the Jets. He caught all five of his targets for 76 receiving yards. His biggest plays were a result of good play calling and good sense on the rookie’s part on where the openings in the defense were. His two 22-yard catches came as a result of the young tight end slightly adjusting his route to account for the defenders. As in the preseason, Sweeney also demonstrated his soft pair of hands.
DE Darryl Johnson Jr.
Johnson seeing more time on the field was one of the reasons to actually tune into the game and unfortunately the rookie seventh-rounder disappointed. Granted, it’s difficult to keep your energy up when you’re virtually playing ever single snap, but even early in the game Johnson’s pass rush was ineffectual against Jets left tackle Kelvin Beachum. A veteran tackle, Beachum neutralized Johnson with his punch and long arms. More troubling was the fact that the rookie looked less explosive off the snap than he did during the preseason.