It was a classic December day in Western New York, spearheaded by a good mixture of rain and snow. It was evident the weather would play a role from the third play of the game — a pass that took off on quarterback Josh Allen intended for a wide-open Stefon Diggs, who had made his man fall down due to the complexity of the route. From there, it was complete schlock, and a performance that leaned heavily on the effectiveness of a Von Miller-less defense.
The rookies played an extremely small role on Sunday — one of the most disappointing weeks by the group to date so far.
Kaiir Elam, CB
Elam was once again active, which sparked a good bit of confidence that he’d get some snaps based on the struggles of veteran cornerback Dane Jackson. That didn’t happen, however, as the rookie first-rounder failed to register a single snap on defense. Jackson was getting worked often throughout the game. But, to his credit, he battled back for a couple of key pass breakups when it was closing time. It’s a head-scratcher as to why Elam can’t get snaps on defense, but the play of Jackson shouldn’t inspire confidence that he can square off against the Miami Dolphins’ high-powered unit next weekend. Even if it’s a debatable topic, the reality is that the Bills believe in Jackson. Fair or not.
James Cook, RB
Cook is still receiving healthy snaps in the offense. Veteran running back Devin Singletary did narrowly out-snap him in Week 14, 29-24. The rookie had four carries for six yards against the Jets, while catching one pass for nine yards. It was an ineffective outing after having his most successful game of the season the week prior in New England. Once again, the best run game for the Bills was Allen. That’s been a common theme this season, and even dating back farther. It may be wise for the Bills to seriously consider investing resources into the offensive line this offseason.
Terrel Bernard, LB
The 2022 third-round pick is still consistently receiving snaps on special teams, but the healthy nature of starting linebackers Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano isn’t going to allow Bernard to see the field on defense. He’s not going to be a factor in 2022. It’s hard to envision the plan for Bernard at this point, but I’m not sure they thought he would be this slow to the punch as a rookie. A third-round pick is a fairly significant resource. The production is disappointing.
Khalil Shakir, WR
It’s been an interesting season for the Bills’ fifth-round pick. Originally thought of as quite the steal in the 2022 NFL Draft, Shakir still wasn’t drafted until pick No. 148. He continues to see the field (12 snaps in Week 14), but the production isn’t there to match the opportunity. Shakir’s shining moment seemingly came early this year against the Pittsburgh Steelers — showing a possible sign of things to come. Patience might be key for Bills fans regarding Shakir, even as receiver struggles persist.
Christian Benford, CB
Benford remains on Injured Reserve with an oblique injury — his second time hitting IR this season. Benford has performed well at times in 2022, but it’s tough to get a gauge on who the rookie sixth-round pick is at this point due to those injuries. Benford has long been thought of as a candidate to transition to safety in the NFL. That has yet to transpire. Benford is the Bills’ most physical outside corner. It remains to be seen if he returns before the end of the regular season.
Baylon Spector, LB
Spector was inactive against the Jets. He’s been in-and-out of the lineup as a healthy inactive this year. Edmunds and Milano are at full health, which results in Spector continuing to sit.