One of the biggest questions of the offseason for Buffalo Bills fans has been who would replace linebacker Tremaine Edmunds after left to join the Chicago Bears during free agency. Today, head coach Sean McDermott answered that question.
McDermott named Terrel Bernard as the starting middle linebacker, despite the fact that the second-year player out of Baylor College missed the entire preseason with a hamstring injury.
Bills coach Sean McDermott said that 2022 third-round pick LB Terrel Bernard will start at middle linebacker opposite Matt Milano.— Alaina Getzenberg (@agetzenberg) September 6, 2023
Buffalo decided to stay in-house with their competition for middle linebacker, and at the beginning of training camp McDermott announced that third-round draft pack Dorian Williams would remain at the outside position behind All-Pro Matt Milano. That meant that the competition came down to Bernard, Tyrel Dodson, and Baylon Spector.
With Bernard injured in early August and getting no preseason reps and Spector placed on Injured Reserve to start the season, it looked as if the job would be Dodson’s. But today, McDermott announced that he was going to roll with Bernard.
Dodson was the center of several training camp skirmishes — including one that reportedly included some helmet swinging — but whether his actions are what earned him the second spot on this week’s depth chart or if it was some missed coverage responsibilities during preseason games McDermott isn’t saying.
Other roster questions this offseason included the CB2 position and the state of the offensive line. McDermott answered those questions as well today — at least for the time being.
Second-year cornerback Christian Benford is getting the nod to start opposite All-Pro Tre’Davious White as the pair will attempt to shut down targets for quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Benford is getting the start over fellow second-year player Kaiir Elam and four-year veteran Dane Jackson.
Sean McDermott also announced that 2022 sixth-round pick Christian Benford will start at outside cornerback opposite Tre'Davious White vs. the Jets.— Alaina Getzenberg (@agetzenberg) September 6, 2023
Wins the opportunity over Dane Jackson and 2022 first-round pick Kaiir Elam.
Last season, Buffalo started off by rotating Benford and Elam in the CB2 position with Jackson on the opposite side of the field while they waited for White to return from a 2021 ACL injury. However, Benford missed time last season first with a broken hand and then with an oblique injury that landed him on Injured Reserve. Now, with a healthy Benford and White to start the season, Elam and Jackson will have to take back seats.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Bills’ line has been a huge question mark as Josh Allen spent a lot of last season scrambling around and jumping over people. In fairness, it’s not something he dislikes doing, however, it did result in some injuries that could have been worse than they were (the elbow injury, some limping and ankle soreness to mention a couple). When offensive lineman Tommy Doyle ended up with a season-ending injury after Buffalo’s second preseason game — his first back after season-ending ACL surgery in September last year — and Brandon Shell, who the Bills acquired via free agency on June 1, suddenly retired, Buffalo’s offensive line questions grew larger.
McDermott settled those questions when he announced that rookie O’Cyrus Torrence would be starting at right guard on Monday night. Torrence gets the start over Alec Anderson.
Here’s a look at the team’s full depth chart to start the season: