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Five Buffalo Bills to watch at the New York Jets

Football is back. Here is our first set of Bills players to watch this season

Indianapolis Colts v Buffalo Bills Photo by Bryan Bennett/Getty Images

The Buffalo Bills kick off the 2023 NFL season on Monday Night Football against the New York Jets this week. This marks the second consecutive year that the Bills have had a game in primetime to open a season, as they played the defending Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams in the NFL kickoff game last season.

While that game was obviously a big one, something about playing a division rival under the spotlight of a Monday night game makes this one feel even bigger. Throw in the offseason hype surrounding the green squad from New Jersey, and this feels more like a late-December epic than it does the opening act for a long season.

Given that it’s the first time we’ll see the squad when it matters, there are definitely way more than five players we’ll be watching. Some of them are a little too obvious, though, so I’m going to try to exclude players like Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs (Although, given their obvious dislike for each other that developed this offseason, that’s clearly a huge thing to watch. You can’t see it, but my eyes just rolled out of my head).

With all that out of the way, here are our five Bills to watch this week in their first contest of the 2023 season.

RB James Cook

Let. James. Cook. Buffalo clearly trusts their second-year running back to carry the majority of the load, and given his explosiveness and ability in the passing game, this makes perfect sense. If Cook can touch the ball somewhere between 15 and 20 times in the game while keeping close to his average per touch from last season (6.2 yards per touch when combining yards per rush with yards per catch), then it’s going to make the Bills’ offense that much harder to stop. Last season, the offense only gained under 325 yards of total offense twice — and both of those times came against the Jets. If Cook can find some big plays, it will take the pressure off of an offense that, while fully capable of matriculating down the field, doesn’t want to do that for 60 minutes against a tough Gang Green defense. Moving him around the formation could help to create some mismatches in Buffalo’s favor, especially if the Jets choose to cover Cook with a linebacker.

G O’Cyrus Torrence

Welcome to the league, rookie. Your first assignment? A date with star defensive tackle Quinnen Williams. Torrence is a big, bruising blocker who adds some physicality to Buffalo’s protection unit. Communication on stunts and blitzes with right tackle Spencer Brown and center Mitch Morse is going to be the hardest part of Torrence’s day, which is saying something when the physical matchup across from him is someone as talented as Williams is. New York’s depth up front is no joke, either, as they have former Bill Quinton Jefferson and former top-three draft choice Solomon Thomas up front, as well. Torrence won the right guard job over incumbent Ryan Bates through stellar play this summer. A strong opening act from the rookie will keep Allen on his feet and help Cook to shine.

TE Dalton Kincaid

How will the Bills and offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey use their shiny new toy? Will he take the majority of the slot snaps? Will they use him in-line to stretch the seam? However you slice it, Kincaid gives the Bills another dynamic option to go with slot wideouts Deonte Harty, Trent Sherfield, and Khalil Shakir, and he should also take extra coverage away from fellow tight end Dawson Knox. The Jets possess two elite cover corners on the outside, and they have an excellent cover linebacker in the middle in veteran C.J. Mosley. However, it’s that middle of the field that may have to be the place Buffalo attacks, especially if they can isolate Kincaid on a linebacker or a safety.

LB Terrel Bernard

Bernard is the first man up to replace Tremaine Edmunds in a real game, as veteran Tyrel Dodson played his way out of the opportunity through a rough preseason. Bernard saw zero game reps as he rehabbed a hamstring injury, so there’s definitely some risk here in putting him out there against a savvy veteran quarterback in Aaron Rodgers. The middle of Buffalo’s defense looked ripe for exploitation during preseason play, and if the Jets can establish the run, they may be able to play-action Buffalo to death if Bernard takes the cheese. How head coach and new defensive play-caller Sean McDermott schemes around what his team showed on tape throughout August is going to play a big role in how this one goes on Monday night, and Bernard is going to be right in the middle of the action.

CB Christian Benford

This is really a cheap way of talking about the entire cornerback group, but given that Benford was named the starter across from Tre’Davious White, he’s the first one to discuss. Will he play all of the snaps, or will there be a rotation? If there is a rotation, will Buffalo follow the depth chart and use Dane Jackson ahead of Kaiir Elam, or will they use Elam’s physicality and strength in press-man coverage to stifle New York’s No. 1 wideout, Garrett Wilson? Benford won the job once again this summer through his steady, heady play. If he can stay healthy, he becomes one of the bigger steals of general manager Brandon Beane’s draft era. Having both Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer behind him should also help, as Buffalo’s elite safety duo gives the corners more room for error. Benford’s ability to play coverage is one thing, but he’ll also need to do a good job on the edge when the Jets run Breece Hall and Dalvin Cook at him.