Every year, we lose our mind over preseason football. Call it love for the game, starvation from action, or just a simple part of being a fan, we all can agree on one thing: Having an underdog to root for in preseason is fun. Those preseason fan favourites burst onto the scene again and again. We all have that one guy we want to see win. Before we get into the guys who might just be the focus of our preseason adoration this season, let’s remember the Buffalo Bills we have loved and lost from preseasons past.
Previous Preseason Fan Favourites
Dating back to 2018, receiver Brandon Reilly broke a rib in preseason, and fought through it to try and make the Buffalo Bills 53-man roster. It garnered him a great deal of support from the public. Running back Marcus Murphy was also all but a household name amongst Buffalo Bills fans. His campaign for the 53-man roster fell short that year, but he had plenty of support going in to 2019’s preseason as well. Unfortunately for Murphy, his position was quickly usurped by one of the most memorable preseason showings of all time.
Enter Christian Wade. An overseas addition from the NFL’s International Player Pathways Program, Wade was a former star for the London Wasps, an English Rugby Union team. Having never played a snap of American football in his life, he left his career in his prime to try his hand at being a running back. On his first touch, at age 27, he took the ball 65 yards to the house for a touchdown. It may have been one of the greatest preseason football moments ever and, though he didn’t make the team, he stayed on the practice squad for three seasons and holds a special place in the hearts of many Bills fans.
He was far from the only player with hype in 2019. There were times when some fans clamoured to start undrafted free agent Tyree Jackson over the sophomore Josh Allen. Jackson seemed like a phenomenal physical specimen, but never really put it together in a way that mattered. Now, he’s a tight end for the Philadelphia Eagles. One of his receivers that preseason found a lot of love, too. When Duke Williams took the field, cries of “Duuuuuuke” rocked The Ralph. With a game-winning touchdown against the Tennessee Titans from a practice squad-callup in 2019, he solidified his fanbase. Everyone wanted to see him fly in 2020, until the eventual cancellation of the preseason halted his hopes.
Most recently, Justin Zimmer’s 2021 preseason campaign garnered plenty of attention. His heroics from the 2020 season, namely his game-saving forced fumble against the New England Patriots, put all eyes on him. Up until his knee injury, he was the official fan favourite.
The 2022 Candidates
Now that we’ve looked back at our past beloved preseason Buffalo Bills, we can turn our eyes to the team we love today. Who deserves the title of preseason fan favourite for 2022?
Is it James Cook, out of Georgia? He made some decent plays against the Indianapolis Colts, and has the public clamouring for more. Maybe it’s his fellow draftee, wide receiver Khalil Shakir, who shook things up with some big plays of his own. Shakir was one of the most impressive players out there and, though these two are all but guaranteed a roster spot, we hope to see as much of them as we can.
On the other side of the ball, a Buffalo Bills sixth-round pick is impressing us all. Christian Benford did a great job at cornerback, and his uphill battle has built a massive following for the underdog. It’s true: Benford may be the favourite for fan favourite.
Meanwhile, two veterans are throwing their names in the ring. The first, Tim Settle, was a contributor at defensive tackle. Lined up against an All-Pro guard in Quenton Nelson, he did some things to damage the lineman’s reputation. Though he is technically a veteran, Isaiah Hodgins has been invisible to Bills fans. That changes now. Alongside Matt Barkley and Raheem Blackshear, he brought life to the Bills offense in the second half of our first preseason game.
Still, the battle for our preseason fan favourites is not over. Any one of these players could take home the crown. It begs the question: Who’s your favourite?
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