Buffalo Bills vs. Carolina Panthers Preview: What to look for
In a preview piece, you’d typically see highlighted matchups and predictions, but this is the preseason. So in lieu of that here is an assorted list of what to keep your eyes on tonight as the Bills travel to Charlotte to take on the Panthers.
Josh Allen vs. Cam Newton vs. Josh Allen
Josh Allen has looked liked the better quarterback through the two days of joint practices. Luke Keuchly came out and spoke about how impressed he was with the young signal caller. It will be interesting to see if Allen looks better in a game setting to a player he has often been compared to, Cam Newton.
But Allen has his own problems he needs to work out. He needs to continue building his chemistry underneath to Cole Beasley, he needs to be more accurate when it counts like on third down, and the Bills need to start hitting on some of the deep balls. If Allen can make plays down the field, it will make up for his less than stellar accuracy underneath.
Allen and Beasley appeared to have quite the connection over the two days of joint practices. It will be interesting to see if the Bills start to roll out more designed plays for the veteran wide-out or if the chemistry carries over into a game setting.
With Beasley and Brown drawing most of the defensive backs attention, Zay Jones was able to lead the team in targets last week by a wide margin. It will be interesting to see if this is something that will happen consistently throughout the preseason and into the regular season. If it does, Zay will have to start coming down with balls like the one on the goal line if he wants to start hearing his name talked about as a starting caliber NFL wide receiver.
Andre Roberts & Robert Foster
Andre Roberts has been the talk of the preseason. Originally thought of as a return specialist, he has outplayed and outproduced UDFA darling Robert Foster. Roberts has gotten the bulk of the reps in four receiver sets.
Foster has been working in with the first unit a lot more lately, so it will be interesting to see how the reps are distributed on gameday. Foster played late into the game week one, but I believe his speed makes his roster spot safe, and it was simply a product of Tyree’s arm being a good compliment to help Foster get productive reps in.
Tommy Sweeney wasn’t bad in the first preseason game, but he certainly wasn’t noticeable. That changed over the course of the week in practices. His roster spot seems secure, but Jason Croom could get some run starting as early as this week. Sweeney needs to start showing his practice success translate into games.
Dion Dawkins vs. Brian Burns
Dawkins and Spain were solid week one of the pre-season. The real test for Dawkins comes this week as he goes against one of my favorite prospects from this years draft, first round edge rusher Brian Burns. It’ll be a nice test for Dawkins with Burns’ speed off the edge.
The Offensive Line from Center to Right Tackle
It appears to be Feliciano and then Long as far as the pecking order behind Mitch Morse. Keep an eye on their progress as the pivot of the offensive line. Nsekhe has missed a lot of practice time this week for unspecified reasons. If he misses game action this week and Ford is forced into the right tackle role, that will more than likely force Long to right guard. It will be interesting to watch to see who excels and who struggles in their prospective roles. Injuries are a way of life, and with the absence of Waddle, Ford will more than likely be the third tackle, forcing a massive shift if Nsekhe is out or Dawkins ever goes down.
Keep an eye out for Wyatt Teller who performed well in Week One. The former fifth rounder is making his case for the Bills to keep nine offensive linemen. If it wasn’t for injuries, his play could have forced a guy like Long off the roster.
Ryan Bates will be an intriguing watch at left and right tackle. He will probably get a run at both and possibly center this game.
Defensive End #4… and #5?
Daryl Johnson essentially locked up a 53 man roster spot last week. With his size, there is no way he will make it to the practice squad with the skills he flashed week one. That leaves staff favorite Mike Love, veteran Sam Acho, and former staff favorite Eddie Yarbrough duking it out to convince coaches to keep a fifth defensive end. This is something McDermott did quite often in his time in Carolina.
An Angry Ed Oliver
One of the highlights of this week’s joint practices was the viral exchange between Cam Newton and Captain Munnerlyn. However, Cam took it a little too far ribbing Bills first rounder Ed Oliver in the process. Oliver, who was behind Cam, heard Cam’s trash talk and shot him a pretty dirty look. It will be fun to see an extra motivated and angry Ed Oliver attacking the quarterback!
Ed Oliver looks like he was two seconds away from knocking Cam Newton out cold… that dude don’t play. #Bills pic.twitter.com/PQq8XTNV34— Bradley Gelber (@BradleyGelber) August 15, 2019
Corey Thompson is linebacker number four. Everything after that is up for grabs, even Julian Stanfor’s job. Lorenzo Alexander this week started working in with the second team as the MLB. This tells me the Bills are not satisfied with Stanford, or maybe that they prefer other linebackers and do not want to be tied to Stanford strictly because he is the only one who fills the backup role. Keep an eye out for Vosean Joseph, Maurice Alexander, and Tyrell Dodson. They are all capable of playing their way into a roster lock in that order. Deon Lacey will really have to step up his game as a defender to justify a role.
Wallace and Kevin Johnson split first team reps this week with many saying Johnson looked better. It will be interesting to see how those reps play out week two. Siran Neal has received rave reviews for his coverage of the Panther’s tight ends this week. Kurt Coleman will be the veteran backup safety unless he slips up. That leaves Captain Munnerlyn, Lafyette Pitts, Cam Lewis, Jaquan Johnson, and Dean Marlowe fighting for their roster lives. Keep an eye on those five, but pay special attention to the two duking it out to start opposite Tre White.