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2023 Bills Rookie Report: Kincaid gives taste of future role in offense

Several rookies perform well despite poor team outcome

Buffalo Bills v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The Buffalo Bills have now completed two games in the recently condensed three-game preseason slate of games. The Bills dropped their Week 2 matchup to the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-15 and the team as a whole looked very rusty — especially the first-team unit, which saw its first extended game action of the season.

Our only public exposure to the team at this point is during preseason games, with training camp completely wrapped up. The rookie 2023 NFL Draft selections were back in action on Saturday against the Steelers, and a multitude of them received more extensive work.

Let’s discuss the rookie performances of each draft selection and how they fared during a last weekend’s preseason loss to an AFC foe.

TE Dalton Kincaid

It was great to see Kincaid begin getting his feet wet in game action with plenty of meaningful snaps in the first half. These snaps are integral, allowing Kincaid the opportunity to acclimate to facing opponents at game speed. We saw him unleashed in several different ways — lining up in the backfield in a split formation with the starting offense, to getting more opportunity to split into the slot where he’s at his best.

Kincaid’s day was over, Bills cap snugly fit in the second half. Before he exited, Kincaid made three receptions for 45 yards while displaying soft hands and catching the ball off his frame, while also displaying smooth and savvy route running to dictate angles and space from the slot.

Watch the play below where Kincaid rocked the linebacker off the spot with a jab and stutter before swimming through to the middle of the field on his way to a large gain that set the Bills up well into the red zone.

Each time you see Kincaid play, you can’t help but get excited about his potential as a route runner. While he won’t always draw a matchup against a backup linebacker in space, it’s important to see him dominating his reps in such scenarios to dictate defensive personnel packages.

Kincaid is well on his way to a dynamite rookie season and last weekend’s game only solidified that thought process.

IOL O’Cyrus Torrence

Torrence got the start at right guard once again, and it feels like he’s beginning to turn the tide on the right guard competition. Torrence had his rough points earlier in training camp, but he’s been a bright spot for the Bills’ starting offensive line two games in a row. On Saturday, he had the opportunity to face one of the best defensive lines in football — and he looked fantastic doing it.

There was a thought that veteran Ryan Bates had the leg up through camp to start at right guard, but it now appears that Torrence may have that edge with how he’s looked in game action.

Watch below as he stonewalled All-Pro T.J. Watt on an inside counter after keeping the 2i honest and allowing Morse to collect. Torrence has always been known for his stopping power at the position, and that’s well represented with this rep.

The Bills may have two brand-new rookie starters for offense’s first snap under the lights of Monday Night Football against the New York Jets in Week 1.

LB Dorian Williams

Williams looked like one of the best linebackers on the roster once again in his performance against the Steelers this past week. As the Bills search for answers at the MIKE linebacker position, Williams continues to do his job as a backup option to star WILL linebacker Matt Milano. Williams hasn’t earned any time at the MIKE, and that’s been intentional by the coaching staff. Williams looked athletic and once again made a wonderful stop on the goal line in Week 2 of preseason action.

Williams continues to keep up his high level play while the battle between veterans Tyrel Dodson, Terrel Bernard, A.J. Klein, and Baylon Spector at middle linebacker continues to underwhelm. It’s going to be hard not wanting to cross-train him at some point in the future if answers on the roster or externally cannot be found.

It’s extremely encouraging to see the Bills’ first three selections look like they belong early and often as their NFL career unfold. Whatever the reason for Williams not earning a shot at middle linebacker, it better be a good one.

WR Justin Shorter

Shorter didn’t see a target in Buffalo’s Week 1 preseason win against the Indianapolis Colts, but he did get his first receptions (and touchdown) as a pro against the Steelers — as he saw more time in the second half with the twos and threes. Shorter was one of the bright spots of the team in the second half and put together a few compelling reps that showed he was a cut above some of the competition on the field Saturday night.

He’s already establishing himself as a willing punt gunner who has the size and athleticism thresholds to be a good one at the NFL level. But it was nice to see Shorter garner some attention as a wide receiver where he showed off some impressive concentration as well as deceptive quickness.

Veteran Andy Isabella has been all the rage since the Bills picked him up as a free agent — impressing in practice and in games. But Shorter may get the rookie benefit of the doubt to make the team in part due to his acumen on special teams and an impressive showing on Saturday night.

IOL Nick Broeker

There have been no interior offensive line injuries and the team doesn’t look willing to move Broeker to tackle even with Brandon Shell retiring and a devastating injury to Tommy Doyle in Week 2. Broeker continues to be on the outside looking in and on his way to a practice squad spot.

CB Alex Austin

Austin made a few tackles on the day and had a nice tackle for loss in this game. Still, Austin continues to be on the wrong side of the roster bubble. Similar to Broeker’s situation, there have not been any injuries to note at cornerback this preseason. Austin will be victim to a numbers game and a prime practice squad candidate as a draft selection.