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2023 Bills Rookie Report: Week 5 vs. Jaguars

One priority 2023 pick is thrust into an unexpectedly large role

NFL: London Games-Jacksonville Jaguars at Buffalo Bills Peter van den Berg-USA TODAY Sports

The team that the Buffalo Bills brought on their trip to London, England will look very different defensively than the one that will continue forth the remainder of the 2023 season. The Bills suffered a couple of significant injuries to key contributors in Week 5 in a game that featured a sluggish effort all around and an eventual 25-20 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

One injury in particular to linebacker Matt Milano early in the game is going to directly impact one of the Bills’ rookies — linebacker Dorian Williams — and we saw a glimpse of his potential in London.

With that in mind, let’s get into what Buffalo’s 2023 draft picks were up to in Week 5 against the Jaguars.

TE Dalton Kincaid

Kincaid has yet to explode as a consistent option in the offense. Just as Dawson Knox has faced throughout his entire career with the team, Kincaid is now finding a lack of targets and usage from quarterback Josh Allen and the Bills’ offense. At some point, one has to believe that the targets will come for No. 86 — who the team invested a first-round draft selection in to bring him to One Bills Drive.

One of Kincaid’s two receptions on the day resulted in a 14-yard first down that matched his season-long yardage for a single catch. Kincaid suffered a head injury during that play and had to be evaluated immediately after. While he was cleared to return mid-game, head coach Sean McDermott stated in the Monday press conference that Kincaid is now in concussion protocol. This news could certainly leave Kincaid’s status for Sunday’s game against the New York Giants up in the air.

OG O’Cyrus Torrence

Torrence had his “welcome to the NFL, rookie” game at long last on Sunday. The entire offensive line struggled to get movement with just 29 yards of rushing mustered up on 14 attempts. Torrence had a drive where he was guilty of back-to-back holding calls as well.

A performance littered with struggles for Torrence is certainly something to monitor moving forward. But it’s also fair to say the entire unit had a bad day. It’s important for a young player not to string together poor performances.

LB Dorian Williams

Replacing All-Pro linebacker Matt Milano is going to be a very tall task moving forward. He was playing some of the best football of his career in 2023 and the injury on Sunday is a devastating blow to a defense that looked like a potential top-five unit once again.

With the injury in mind, the Bills went with a committee approach to replacing Milano that began with third-round rookie Dorian Williams (32 snaps) with plenty of veteran Tyrel Dodson (55 snaps) mixed in. Williams had hot-and-cold moments, with the hot showing off as he spilled multiple runs to the outside while utilizing his run-and-chase athleticism to get the tackle. He even had a very nice pass break up in coverage, getting his hand in the passing lane.

The cold came on open-field missed tackles where he struggled to get ball carriers on the ground in one-on-one situations. Those moments led to more action for Dodson while Williams watched from the sidelines. The flashes were plenty encouraging for Williams who was drafted in the third round of the 2023 Draft for a reason. Williams figures to be a huge part of the defense moving forward. We’ll need to keep an eye on how McDermott uses both Williams and Dodson at WILL linebacker while Terrel Bernard continues to get all of the snaps at MIKE.

WR Justin Shorter

Round five pick Justin Shorter remains on Injured Reserve. He’s eligible to come off and begin practicing at any time. The Bills, to this point, do not think he’s ready to return. With so many injuries to the defense, the team may be likely to keep more defensive players active on game days for rotational purposes. We’ll need to keep an eye out for the practice window opening for Shorter moving forward.