After a two-game losing skid, the Buffalo Bills are back in the win column after halting the Cleveland Browns and their highly-touted run game. Buffalo’s defense held the Browns to 80 yards on 26 carries. The Bills’ offense struggled once again in the first half, including star quarterback Josh Allen. Something seemed to shift on the final drive of the first half that ended in a five-yard touchdown strike to Stefon Diggs. Six drives that stalled out and ended in Tyler Bass field goals allowed the Browns to stay in the game.
Several rookies were in action for Week 11 against Cleveland. Let’s talk about their performances.
Kaiir Elam, cornerback
Elam was a bit of a surprise inactive in this game with an ankle injury. He has now missed two straight games, and cornerbacks Dane Jackson and Christian Bernard struggled mightily against the Browns. Elam should be expected to return for the Bills’ Thanksgiving game against the Detroit Lions.
James Cook, running back
There were certainly some big rush lanes to scoot through against one of the worst run defenses in the NFL, but the rookie second-rounder made the most of 16 snaps in this game. Cook had 11 totes on those snaps for 86 yards—that’s 7.8 yards per carry on the afternoon. He wasn’t creating a lot of extra yards on his runs, but he made good choices on his cutbacks and hitting the proper gap to maximize his opportunities. Cook is gaining more comfort as the season progresses. More snaps might be warranted for Cook going forward.
Terrel Bernard, linebacker
Starting linebacker Tremaine Edmunds missed this game with a groin injury that flared back up. Veteran Tyrel Dodson got the nod on Sunday in the starting lineup. Dodson’s play this year has bordered on dreadful, while Bernard hasn’t received much opportunity. Bernard saw five snaps against the Browns, and probably needs another look in the future if one of Edmunds or Milano are out. Recently-claimed linebacker and old friend A.J. Klein is back on the team, which could eventually cut into any potential snaps for Bernard in 2022. It’s been a disappointing start to his career as a third-round pick.
Khalil Shakir, wide receiver
Shakir played 16 offensive snaps, but he remains an afterthought in the Bills’ offense. Veteran running back Nyheim Hines has proven to be a dynamic punt returner. Shakir likely won’t get that job back while Hines is a Bill. Shakir has seven receptions this season for 118 yards and a touchdown. This will probably continue to be a year of development for Shakir.
Christian Benford, cornerback
Benford takes his lumps in coverage like any sixth-rounder playing FCS football a year ago would. But the flashes show he has the ability to be sticky in coverage. Benford had a pass breakup to his credit, but he also had a few passes caught in his coverage. Veteran practice squad call-up Xavier Rhodes rotated at times with Benford. If it were a choice to be made, McDermott should sit Jackson in favor of Elam and Benford who have shown much greater signs of positivity as rookies in 2022 than Jackson has in his third season.
Baylon Spector, linebacker
Spector is a 2023 depth possibility, but he continues to be a nonfactor with the team this year.