One of the more anticipated Buffalo Bills debuts this season is rookie cornerback Kaiir Elam. It may only have been preseason but Elam saw significant time against the Indianapolis Colts’ first-team offense. He also had mostly rave reviews. Let’s do the usual review thing with a few clips of Elam versus the Colts.
This was THE big moment for Kaiir Elam and it was right out of the gate during the Colts’ first drive. The Bills have Elam playing some press coverage. There’s some disruption to the route, but Matt Ryan targets Alec Pierce anyway. Elam is maaaaaybe a touch early on the pass break up. It’s hard to tell for sure on this angle. The broadcast did give another angle that made this look more clean, so I’ll side with the refs on the no-call. I only mention this because Elam strikes me as a player who will play on the edge. If my gut is right, that’ll lead to a few flags, but just as many highlights.
NFL+ is still giving me trouble, but preseason games don’t usually have Coaches Film (aka “All-22”) anyway. I selected this play for a deliberate reason. Anyone using the broadcast footage and giving too many conclusive opinions on Elam is full of it. I can see two things on this play:
Elam played 19 snaps against the Matt Ryan offense, which is the one that would give us the best look at what he accomplished. This play is a good stand-in for a decent chunk of those. At best, his debut should be considered an “incomplete.”
Also of note, some of those 19 snaps against the first team Colts’ offense were run plays. Corners aren’t allowed to take a nap on run plays, but it’s not what you think of as their primary role either. Nevertheless, Elam showed good awareness in this game. He drives immediately and shows off some of his 4.39 speed.
I’m a huge fan of backpedaling and Elam seems to be a hip turner more often than not. There’s certainly a time and place for it, and this isn’t a bad call by any means. Again, I’ll reiterate the tiny sample size. If I start seeing him get burnt because he chose poorly, I’ll let everyone know. I also want to highlight his reaction time again as he slows down, puts a hand up to prevent being blocked out of the play, and starts working back to the ball. That last thing was cut out on my clip.
Despite limited snaps to work from, the Bills asked Elam to do a lot of different things. In just five samples, and only four good ones, we see him in press coverage, giving a big cushion here, and running the route with the receiver in Play 4.
Repeat after me:
That’s the current grade I’d give Kaiir Elam. He did do well all things considered. All things truly considered though, he was tested very little in this game. Vanilla Colts offense. No Jonathan Taylor to keep things balanced. I could go on. There’s stuff to like, but let’s allow the rookie to build his resume a bit more before making too many conclusions.