After pulling off a 24-16 win over the Indianapolis Colts last Thursday, the Buffalo Bills finally have their first game tape of the season under their belt. The players take on the Carolina Panthers Friday, and with new faces and competition for roster spots heating up, here are some players to watch for during Friday’s game.
Coming into camp Johnson was viewed as a long shot to make the 53-man roster. After his performance against the Colts, Johnson showed fans and coaches why he should be taken seriously for a roster spot. The rookie seventh-round (225) defensive end recorded three tackles and a sack in his debut, and was impressive taking on blockers specifically in pass-rush situations. With the backup DE spot on the table its anyone's spot to win. If Johnson can duplicate his performance in Week 2 it will be hard for Sean McDermott and company to keep him out of the final 53.
With the additions of Cole Beasley and John Brown, realistically there’s only one spot up for grabs in the wide receiver room. McKenzie, Ray-Ray McCloud III, and Cam Phillips all seemed to be on the same level in camp; however, against the Colts, McKenzie may have made the most of his time on the field. McKenzie was targeted two times and made two receptions for 62 yards. He also had a nice punt return. His impact on the second and third team and his ability to make plays on special teams might just put him over the edge for the sixth wide receiver spot. Look for him to get a significant amount of targets against the Panthers.
Arguably the biggest offensive-line steal of this year’s draft, Cody Ford has impressed coaches and fans early in the preseason. With the competition on the offensive line being a focal point of camp, Ford has taken first-team reps at both right tackle and right guard since the start of training camp. Ford played both right guard and right tackle against the Colts and mostly held his own. Ford’s toughness and motor is refreshing to see given the team’s lack of just that last year. Ford will face a tough challenge going against Carolina’s revamped defensive line with the likes of Gerald McCoy and rookie first rounder Brian Burns.
Tre’Davious White and Levi Wallace seem to be solidified as the number one and number two corners. With E.J Gaines injured, defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier has expressed that Kevin Johnson will be playing primarily at the third corner spot and won't compete for the nickel job. Gaines’s injury leaves the Bills in need of cornerback depth, and with Taron Johnson impressing coaches at the nickel spot, Its Johnson’s position to lose.
Devin Singletary impressed a lot of people against the Colts. The rookie from Florida Atlantic converted two crucial third downs for the Bills—one on the ground and one on a screen pass from Matt Barkley. The emphasis for the second team against Indianapolis was clear, get Singletary touches. He carried the ball nine times for 27 yards and caught three passes for 21 yards. The FAU product had an impressive college career recording 4,287 yards on the ground and 66 touchdowns. Playing behind two of the best backs of the past decade can only benefit his development, and against the Panthers’ defense it will be interesting to see how the third rounder holds up.