Sean McDermott said Thursday as training camp broke at St. John Fisher University that Josh Allen would play at some point during the Buffalo Bills’ preseason, but sorry to all of you planning to attend the lone home exhibition Saturday at Highmark Stadium.
Allen is not scheduled to play when the Bills host the Colts, so whatever action he gets will either come in Pittsburgh Aug. 19 or Chicago Aug. 26.
As for the other starters, McDermott also said Stefon Diggs would be sitting out but that most of the other starters are going to play.
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“They’ll play give or take a quarter depending on who it is and the situation in the game, but overall, we want to get them where they need to go but also then, take a good look at some of the young players,” McDermott said.
It strikes me as a little odd that McDermott wouldn’t give the home fans a brief thrill and play Allen and Diggs at home and then bubble wrap them on the road, but there’s probably some master plan that has been worked out months in advance that stipulates this as the best course of action.
So, the two most exciting players won’t be out there, but here are five that I think bear watching given their individual circumstances as the next phase of roster evaluation gets rolling.
The fifth-round pick is not going to be an integral member of the 2023 team, that is if he even makes the team. Not with Diggs, Gabe Davis, Deonte Harty, Khalil Shakir and Trent Sherfield ahead of him.
If injuries strike the wide receiver room then his chances will improve, but unless the Bills keep six wideouts, Shorter may end up on the practice squad and only if a team tries to poach him would the Bills have to decide whether they want to create a spot for him on the 53-man roster.
He has showed well in practice at Fisher, and I love the size and physicality he brings to the table at 6-foot-4 and 223 pounds. “I can’t wait, man,” he said of Saturday. “I feel like we’ve been practicing hard and now it’s time to go out there and show it off. I feel like I’m taking steps to learn the whole offense to be able to go out there and just play free and that’s the biggest thing.”
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CB Kaiir Elam
He hasn’t exactly been making friends among the receivers with his aggressive hands-on style and Thursday he grabbed Diggs during a play and caused Diggs to take a misstep and come up limping. Diggs eventually ran across the field to scold Elam for the play.
Elam played that way in college at Florida in a press man system, but in Buffalo’s zone-heavy scheme, he has to learn to use footwork and positioning to cover the NFL’s top receivers because he won’t always be able to get his hands on them, and when he does, he’s likely to get penalized.
I think he’s feeling a little pressure to perform because as the 2022 first-round pick, he’s still in a three-way battle to win a starting job with 2022 sixth-rounder Christian Benford and 2020 seventh-round pick Dane Jackson.
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DE Boogie Basham
The 2021 second-round pick has been underwhelming in his first two seasons with the Bills and he’s got a real fight on his hands to make the team.
Assuming Von Miller starts the season on the PUP list, you would expect Greg Rousseau and Leonard Floyd to be the starters, and A.J. Epenesa is the first man in the rotation. Thereafter, it’s Basham and Shaq Lawson with Shane Ray, Kingsley Jonathan and Kameron Cline on the periphery.
The Bills love to tell us that when it comes to roster construction, it doesn’t matter how high you were drafted or how much money you’re making, the best 53 will make the squad. Well, Basham has to prove he belongs and he needs to have a good preseason.
OT Tommy Doyle
I love that Doyle has a mean streak and there’s been a few times when he’s been involved in camp scraps. But it’s prove it time for the 2021 fifth-round pick if he hopes to win the swing tackle job.
He played only 65 offensive snaps in the 11 games he dressed for as a rookie, then missed almost all of 2022 with a knee injury. He’s trying to beat out two experienced veterans in David Quessenberry and Brandon Shell for the right to back up starters Dion Dawkins and Spencer Brown and right now, I’d say he’s in a trailing position.
Early in training camp he was given a brief look with the starters at middle linebacker, but not long after that the battle was down to Terrel Bernard and Tyrel Dodson. However, with Bernard likely to miss some time with his injured hamstring, Spector has a new opportunity to show what he can do.
The 2022 seventh-round pick is still ticketed for special teams because I just don’t think he’s better than either Dodson or Bernard, but hey, stranger things have happened. Spector was a stud at Clemson and played for the 2018 national championship team.
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This article originally appeared on Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Buffalo Bills preseason game vs Indianapolis Colts: 5 players to watch