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2023 Buffalo Bills Rookie Report: Shorter a potential special teams ace

Shorter earning his role, Torrence lagging in early competition

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NFL: Buffalo Bills Training Camp Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

The 2023 preseason slate for the Buffalo Bills begins Saturday afternoon, and it will be the first game action against an opponent in the NFL for a multitude of Bills rookies. It’s a marquee opportunity for the youngsters to showcase their talents and to secure jobs early on in their careers.

With the end of this summer’s training camp at St. John Fisher University, storylines are beginning to solidify themselves in Bills land. Beat reporters Sal Capaccio and Joe Buscaglia of WGR 550 and The Athletic, respectively, have continually posted updates via their individual outlets, which includes plenty of updates on the rookie performances throughout the first couple of weeks of practice.

Just as we did in last week’s edition, let’s talk about how each of the Bills’ six rookie draft selections performed in camp during the past week of action.

TE Dalton Kincaid

It’s been more of the same strong performance for Kincaid through another week of camp. If Kincaid is going to hit the “rookie wall,” it doesn’t look like that will happen this summer. Kincaid has been a steady, consistent presence and is reportedly earning his way into a starting role in the slot from day one. Kincaid is currently outpacing the other potential starting slot options in Trent Sherfield, Deonte Harty, and Khalil Shakir. Kincaid continues to show up as a consistent target for quarterback Josh Allen in practice. Early signs are the Bills have themselves a complete stud. Look for Kincaid to get some work in the first preseason game this Saturday where Bills fans can see his talent on full display. Kincaid is going to force the Bills to be one of the heaviest 22-personnel teams in 2023, given his performance through two weeks.

IOL O’Cyrus Torrence

The battle at right guard has been one of the talks of training camp, but it doesn’t appear Torrence has the leg up in the starting competition compared to his first-round counterpart in Kincaid.

Here’s what Buscaglia had to say about the competition after practice on August 6:

Torrence is surrendering some pressure or a sack on a somewhat consistent basis this camp. He’s either lunging or on the ground occasionally, while Bates looks far more in control.

Within a later report, Buscaglia praised Torrence for his work in run-blocking drills and his ability to move bodies. That’s not a surprise given Torrence’s profile in college, but it is disappointing seeing the second-rounder out of Florida struggle in pass protection. We saw how the experiment with Rodger Saffold turned out in 2023 with his liability in pass protection. If Torrence isn’t ready to protect the franchise quarterback, he shouldn’t start. It’s not a death sentence for Torrence, but Bates having a clear lead this early is a bit of a disappointment.

Torrence reportedly received some snaps at left guard during practice on August 7, according to Capaccio. Those snaps on the left side are the first that have been reported.

LB Dorian Williams

Williams continues to learn the ropes of the NFL without getting snaps at middle linebacker. With Milano the clear starter at WILL in 2023 and beyond, Williams will need to carve out work on special teams or as a valuable reserve in order to see snaps this year. Not much has been mentioned of Williams in recent practices.

WR Justin Shorter

Shorter is likely a very small factor in the grand scheme of the 2023 version of the Buffalo Bills’ offense. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t redeeming qualities to the massive fifth-round rookie out of Florida. Shorter has reportedly been turning some heads as a gunner on special teams and could soon find himself as an ace on the punt and kickoff units in the future.

Buscaglia commented on his prospects as a special teamer following his practice at the “Return of the Blue and Red” practice at Highmark Stadium.

He has the makings of an excellent gunner on the punt and kickoff teams and could make a great pairing with special teams ace Siran Neal.

He also noted in a later practice observation that it would take a “significant effort” from another receiver down the depth chart to unseat Shorter’s 53-man roster spot. Shorter is exceeding some expectations early in his career, while also making enough splash plays on offense to be a potentially useful piece in the future.

IOL Nick Broeker

There has been very little noise on Broeker throughout camp. He was listed as the third-team right guard in the Bills’ first version of the 2023 depth chart, which is a notable switch of positions. Broeker was a player who played solely on the left side of the line (mostly left tackle) in college. We’ll see where (and when) Broeker trots out with the team during Saturday’s action. He’s sitting on the outside looking in at a roster spot at this time.

CB Alex Austin

Another player who is clearly outside of the 53-man projection at this point is Austin, who has generated very little buzz in camp thus far. The preseason game should give us a long look at Austin who made a name for himself at Oregon State as a player who played with a chip on his shoulder each and every down. He’s not a good athlete for the position, but he’s a player with intensity and strong understanding of the position. Despite his presence lacking in camp, keep an eye out for Austin in the second half against the Colts.