While the Buffalo Bills season opener didn’t have many things to celebrate, the arrival of what appears to be a true CB2 to start opposite Tre’Davious White was a bright spot on an otherwise otherwise overcast night.
Christian Benford, the second-year defensive back out of Villanova, got the nod from head coach Sean McDermott as the starting cornerback for Buffalo’s season opener, and he did everything possible to prove that it was the right call.
Benford, who started his rookie season splitting the snap count with fellow-rookie Kaiir Elam as they teamed up to fill in for the then-injured White, played every defensive snap in the Bills’ first game of the 2023 season. Benford recorded four tackles and a pass defended in his debut as part of the team’s starting defensive backfield.
To make his case that he should continue to be the team’s starting CB2, Benford turned on the afterburners and chased down New York Jets’ running back Breece Hall who was on an 83-yard run toward the end-zone. Thanks to Benford’s heroics (aka an 80-yard foot chase), Hall didn’t get the final 13 yards for the score and the Jets eventually settled for a field goal.
Ignore the praise for Breece Hall (although he deserves it) and focus on Benford in this clip below and know that according to Next Gen Stats, he reach a speed of 21.64mph while chasing down the Jets’ running back:
Benford, who was a sixth-round draft pick in 2022, only played nine games last season due to first a broken hand and then an oblique injury that actually landed him on Injured Reserve to end his rookie year. In his abbreviated rookie season, Benford held opposing quarterbacks to a 84.1 passer rating when they targeted him. He allowed just a single touchdown on his watch and allowed only 17 completions on the 28 times he was targeted, while also recording 24 tackles.
Though at one time there was chatter about possibly turning him into a safety, that noise has been quieted after a preseason in which Benford appeared to be a man on a mission. Benford succeeded and won the race, beating out both Elam and Dane Jackson (who played opposite White last season) for the starting CB2 role.
While most of the focus has been on the disaster that brewed in MetLife Stadium on Monday, and nothing definitive has been said, it would appear that Benford solidified his first-string spot on the Bills’ depth chart with his solid play. Not once did McDermott, who is doing double-duty this season as both the Bills’ head coach and defensive coordinator, look at bringing in either Jackson or Elam to relieve Benford who was in on every one of the Bills’ 54 defensive snaps.
It looks like one of the Bills’ roster spots has a new permanent resident, and we aren’t unhappy with that.