The NFL preseason is officially here! We’re ready to sprint to our televisions, desperate for football action, and ultimately get bored immediately as the reality of what preseason is rushes back to us. For Buffalo Bills fans who actually do watch preseason, and understand what we’re watching it for, there’s plenty of intrigue. This roster is far from settled and, though some parts of this team are solidified, there’s plenty of snaps up for grabs. These are the position groups that we should be keeping an especially close eye on.
The Buffalo Bills Cornerback Battle
Though we’ve seen plenty of progress from Tre’Davious White, he’s currently unable to practice, and is still expected to miss some time. How much time? We don’t know, nor do we know how effective he’ll be in his return. All of this uncertainty makes the cornerback position battle that much more important.
Kaiir Elam has been thrown directly into the fire, going against one of the NFL’s best passing games. Whilst he’s made a few plays, he’s also got a lot to learn, and these preseason snaps will be crucial in determining his role for 2022. His primary competition is the incumbent Dane Jackson. Jackson, a seventh-round pick in 2020, has given us a lot of good coverage over the last two seasons after initially coming off the practice squad. These two are the current leaders and presumed starters in the likely event Tre’Davious White misses some time.
The depth at this position will be important. This preseason, we should be watching Nick McCloud, Cam Lewis, Christian Benford, and Siran Neal as potential future cornerbacks for this team. McCloud, in particular, has impressed in camp. Taron Johnson is a name that shouldn’t go unmentioned, but he’s expected to maintain his role as the Buffalo Bills’ slot cornerback for 2022, and it would be a surprise move to see him working outside.
Wide Receiver Worries
Now this is an area for discussion. With the Buffalo Bills losing both Cole Beasley and Emmanuel Sanders in the offseason, there’s plenty of snaps up for grabs. There’s one huge question that needs answering: Who’s up next?
Gabriel Davis is nearly guaranteed to elevate into the WR2 role, especially after another solid season (and postseason). Isaiah McKenzie is reportedly well on his way to securing the starting slot receiver role after training camp, but we’ll see how he’s used in preseason action. Jamison Crowder, the team’s most notable free agent WR acquisition, was injured most of camp. Getting on the field during preseason is his best chance to show he’s deserving of targets once the regular season kicks off.
Fifth-round pick Khalil Shakir is another camp standout. As the relatively deep wide receiver room shakes out, it’ll be interesting to see where he find himself in the depth chart. Other receivers that are on notice include Tavon Austin, Isaiah Hodgins, Jake Kumerow, and (once he returns from his injury) Marquez Stevenson. Keep an eye on McKenzie, Shakir, Austin, and Crowder in the return game as well.
Preseason Linebacker Lineups
The Buffalo Bills live in a Base Nickel defense, so they rarely have more than two linebackers on the field at once. That may change at times this offseason, with the addition of third-round pick Terrell Bernard. A good cover LB who plays primarily outside, he could find himself subbed in for Taron Johnson when we play against heavier offensive sets. Either that, or he could be a pure backup with role-playing potential. We don’t know just yet, and it’ll be something to look for. Don’t forget to keep an eye on Baylon Spector, who has also impressed thus far.
Defensive Line Rotation
Not everyone likes it, but the Buffalo Bills keep their starting defensive linemen out more than nearly every team in the NFL. The reason? A rotational system, designed to keep them fresh and furious on every down. It’s seen mixed results and, with a star acquisition like Von Miller, it may be hard to justify keeping the rotation in 2022. Miller himself has admitted that he’d like to be fresh in the fourth quarter, but also that he never wants to come off the field. With such a deep group of players, the rotation wont go away, but how often will we swap out our defenders? We hope to find out this preseason.
The more important question should be “Who gets the most snaps?” The answer to that question isn’t clear. We expect Von Miller and Ed Oliver to get out there, but is Greg Rousseau going to be starting on the other side? Do Jordan Phillips or DaQuan Jones fill out the rest of the line? This unit is going to look entirely different this season, and we need to know how it shakes out.
|2021 Losses||2022 Additions|
|Jerry Hughes||Von Miller|
|Mario Addison||DaQuan Jones|
|Star Lotulelei||Tim Settle|
|Harrison Phillips||Jordan Phillips|
|Efe Obada||Shaq Lawson|
As you can see, the personnel in this group are quite different. The depth chart is going to take some work, and preseason snaps are going to be a big part of answering that question.
The Safety Situation
Jordan Poyer may be hurt, but he’s also not yet been extended. If this is his final year under contract, and it may be, then we need to look at this as a long-term need. Micah Hyde is not getting younger either, and the dynamic duo will need to be replaced sooner than we’d like. This safety room is going to feature a few names fighting not for current playing snaps, but future ones. Focus on Damar Hamlin, Josh Thomas, and Jaquan Johnson as potential future starters.
Do you have any other questions that need answering? What do you think is the position group that we should be watching this preseason? Let us know!
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