The preseason is full of surprises. This week brings us something really new—ll-22 angles for preseason games! Usually not available in prior years and a pain in the neck this year, we’re finally gold! That’s the good news. The bad news is this week’s subject is Buffalo Bills corner Christian Benford, who didn’t log any reps against the Denver Broncos’ starters.
When we did this with Kaiir Elam I noted that a lack of all the angles and limited snaps to judge make it hard to form too solid of an opinion. We cleaned up the angle issue but the limited reps concern is still valid. Also, we add a quality-of-competition issue in this game. Anyway, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to learn.
Here we see Benford lined up in man coverage and he gives a little jam at the line, which turns into a short stint of coverage. There’s no point evaluating how well he does covering the route because he bails so early and that’s the point here. I like that Benford is quick to recognize the play is going elsewhere and he tries to join the swarm to the ball. Head coach Sean McDermott and defensive coordinator/assistant head coach Leslie Frazier love smart players and this play is a tally on that side of the ledger.
We all know I love a good backpedal so it’s great to see this in his toolkit. Once Benford sees for sure where this is going he’s pretty good in coverage and runs mostly right with his man. This isn’t that crazy of a route and Benford would need to show how he handles a contested catch situation but so far so good.
This is more of a team analysis. With Benford locked in on his guy on the short route, he’s completely eliminated from helping out on intermediate and deep routes. This is a way to isolate weak links. For the Bills, the weak links will likely be the corners for the time being, with a couple of excellent safeties on the back end who should help cover some flaws.
I like a couple things here, the obvious one being what I allude to in the GIF. Benford is looking to the inside as if he’s waiting to see what happens in his zone, but reacts to the play quick enough to suggest he’s reading the quarterback. As a result he’s in the swarm. The other thing I like is how much variation they seem to be asking their young players to take on. They’re trusting their guys with a lot.
We have another route where he’s covering his man pretty well. And another example of him trying to disrupt the route a little. Based on this game, I think Benford could be a little more physical at the point of attack, but to be fair it’s a dangerous game to play. Trying too hard to shove right out of the gate can impact how quickly he can react to the route, especially if the receiver counters well. To be more fair, Benford’s draft profile praised his physicality and small sample sizes can be misleading.
Just like Elam, the book of Christian Benford is incomplete. Take this for what it is, simply a few notes on a young player. The good news is they’re promising notes. Benford shows a lot of traits that have translated time and again to success in the Buffalo Nickel defense. Versatility, awareness, and reaction time are all great to see out of Benford.