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Who wins Buffalo Bills’ CB2 battle?

Just because you’re a first-round pick doesn’t mean you get the nod in Buffalo

NFL: AFC Wild Card Round-Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

Last year heading into Buffalo Bills training camp, first-round pick Kaiir Elam was talked about as being the starting cornerback opposite Dane Jackson with Tre’Davious White still recovering from an ACL injury. When Week 1 arrived, Elam was on the sideline. The player getting reps? Sixth-round pick Christian Benford.

Heading into the 2023 NFL season, White looks primed to return to his pre-injury form as the shut-down CB1 for Buffalo’s defense. While there’s palpable anticipation surrounding White’s return to form, some believe the battle for the second cornerback spot to be the biggest question of Bills training camp. Let’s take a look at the players who have an opportunity to start opposite White.

Kaiir Elam

The 2022 first-round pick is the presumed leader of the pack to win this job. Elam played his college football at the University of Florida where he was asked to play press man most of the time. Then, Elam was drafted by the Bills, where they play a heavy zone scheme, something Elam wasn’t used to.

Elam didn’t get the start Week 1, but ended up being on the field more than Benford by the end of the season. In 2022, Elam was on the field for 537 snaps. He ended up with 41 tackles and two interceptions on the season. One of those interceptions came in the red zone against Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

Elam made splash plays in 2022, but Bills general Manager Brandon Beane has said he needs to be a “more consistent practice player” if he wants to grow and win the CB2 battle. Beane also said this offseason that Elam is all in, but they won’t just hand him the job.

It’s Elam’s job to lose. He has the tools and traits to be successful in this league. He just needs to put it together and have a solid training camp. If he does that, Elam may never look back.

Christian Benford

Benford was the biggest surprise at Bills training camp last year when he outright beat Elam for the starting cornerback spot. The sixth-round pick from Villanova was able to show his coverage and tackling ability throughout camp. In a Week 3 matchup against the Miami Dolphins, Benford broke his hand and went on to miss the next two weeks. Against the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving, Benford suffered an oblique injury and was put on Injured Reserve.

Benford finished the season starting in five games and playing in nine. He recorded 24 tackles, one interception, one tackle for loss, and five passes defended.

Benford plays a physical game and jams receivers at the line of scrimmage. His 4.53 40-yard dash at his pro day tells you that if he doesn’t get the initial jam in man coverage, he can get beat. Benford is good in zone with good closing speed.

He has every chance to win the CB2 battle with a good training camp, and by staying away from the medical tent.

Syndication: The Enquirer Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

Dane Jackson

Jackson has been Mr.Reliable for Buffalo’s secondary with head coach Sean McDermott at the helm. This offseason, Jackson signed a one-year deal worth just over $2 million to stay with the Bills. A seventh-round pick in 2020, Jackson has made the most of every opportunity handed his way. Jackson started two games as a rookie, six games in 2021, and 14 games last year.

In 2022, Jackson recorded 49 tackles, two interceptions, 12 passes defended, and one forced fumble. He was on the field for 843 snaps, second on the team behind White. Fans have been critical of Jackson, but he’s been a consistent and reliable option for McDermott on game days.

To find a contributor in the seventh round like the Bills did with Jackson is hard to do. Jackson may be on the outside looking in to win the CB2 battle, but if one of them ends up hurt, Jackson won’t be a bad guy to turn to off the bench.

Cameron Dantzler

A new face joined Buffalo’s secondary this offseason. In free agency, the Bills signed Cameron Dantzler to a one-year deal worth just over $1 million.

The story of Dantzler is a bit odd. He was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in the third round in 2020. Dantzler had a phenomenal rookie year, being named to the Pro Football Writers of America All-Rookie Team, and was the only rookie defender in the NFL to record an interception, forced fumble, and fumble recovery in the same game.

In 2021, Dantzler started seven games for the Vikings, and lost his starting spot on the team. This led to tension with Head Coach Mike Zimmer.

In 2022, Dantzler started in nine games where he had 50 tackles, three tackles for loss, and five passes defended, along with one forced fumble. After a disappointing end to the season for the Vikings, Dantzler was waived from the team in March. He then joined the Washington Commanders a short time later, and was released again. Dantzler then arrived at One Bills Drive to try and make their final roster.


For the Buffalo Bills, with one of the best safety tandems in the NFL, and Tre’Davious White hopefully returning to All-Pro form, the secondary could be special in 2023.

Four guys. One spot. Who do you think wins the CB2 battle, Bills Mafia?