The Buffalo Bills stomped the Los Angeles Rams to open the season and make a statement against the defending Super Bowl champions. Despite a multitude of sloppy turnovers, the Bills were always in control of the game from the opening gun. The rookies didn’t make much of an impact, but a couple of notable plays stand out for the youngsters in their first regular-season action.
CB Kaiir Elam
Elam didn’t get the start at corner, but he did play 30 snaps for the defense on the night. He fared well and when he wasn’t playing on defense, he was subsequently playing on the special teams kickoff unit. It’s a battle that doesn’t seem quite over, but another fellow rookie got the start over him in game one. Elam quietly had three tackles on the night and head coach Sean McDermott said the rookie first-rounder handled the situation “Like a pro.”
Sean McDermott asked how 1st round pick Kaiir Elam handled not starting the #Bills opener.— Jon Scott (@JonScottTV) September 14, 2022
"Like a pro."
RB James Cook
It was a nightmare start for Cook who fumbled on his very first play from scrimmage. After that, it was clear he was put in the dog house for the remainder of the game—only receiving two additional offensive snaps. To add insult to injury, but the ball came out way too easily for the second-round pick who was a little bit careless with ball handling on the play. It’s far from the end of the world for Cook, but he’ll have to prove worthy to get back on the good side of coaches. Besides the fumble, there isn’t much to analyze with Cook’s performance.
LB Terrel Bernard
Bernard played a single snap on defense Thursday night. It’s not surprising given the Bills’ tendencies to lean heavily into nickel packages. With Buffalo facing running back Derrick Henry and the Tennessee Titans in Week 2, it’s certainly possible we see more Bernard in three-linebacker looks.
WR Khalil Shakir
Shakir was the most surprising of the inactive list. He was listed as a starting punt returner on the first depth chart and handled that duty well during the preseason. The Bills elected to keep more linebackers active as well as core special teams receiver Jake Kumerow. You’d have to think that Shakir will get his shot sooner than later.
CB Christian Benford
Since Elam didn’t get the start, it was Benford who did the improbable by unseating the first-rounder. A sixth-round pick, Benford has performed at an equally high level to mirror that of Elam all preseason. Early in the game, Benford was in a cloud zone playing Cover 2 when quarterback Matthew Stafford scrambled outside the pocket to deliver a ball right in the pocket between Benford and the safety. The rookie got stuck in the middle on the play and was beaten. After that, it was smooth sailing—giving up next to nothing in the passing game all night. Teams may look to target Benford and test him more as the weeks wear on.
LB Baylon Spector
Spector was active for the game, but he didn’t play a single snap on defense in the win. At this time, Spector isn’t a core special teams player, which may leave him inactive some weeks this season.