As has been the case during the Buffalo Bills’ training camp and preseason, the vast majority of squad of 53 men who will seek a fourth straight AFC East division title.
The Bills have a veteran team with a good mix of youth, and coach Sean McDermott and general manager Brandon Beane don’t have many critical decisions to make when rosters must be reduced to the regular-season limit by Tuesday.
Still, while not critical, there are several tough decisions to make: three starting pointsplus backup roles and special teams at the bottom of the list, and Saturday’s 1 p.m. preseason finale against the Bears at Soldier Field it is the ultimate proving ground for those gamers who are still looking for a job.
Interestingly, some players who are fighting to make the team will likely miss a few replays because McDermott has decided to play his starters for a portion of this game, which may be in response to carelessness, Lackluster performance that the Bills had in Pittsburgh last week.
Here are five players to watch out for on Saturday:
All summer, I thought McDermott would stick to what he knows early in the season, and that’s a veteran. ryan bates as a starter, working Torrence bit by bit until he was ready to take over. Well, based on usage in the first two preseason games and how he’s performed in first-team practices, it looks like Torrence will be the starter on opening night in New York.
“We’ve thrown to him a lot and we continue to rotate those guys and do a few different things there,” offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey said. “But I think in terms of him overall, he’s really come through and he’s gotten progressively better every week. I think that’s the exciting part. When you make a mistake, you learn from it and that’s half the battle as a player and what you want to see as a coach. And I think the physical tools speak for themselves with him.”
As for Bates, now he can be in the mix at left guard because Connor McGovern he suffered a knee injury on Wednesday and will not play. McDermott was vague about how serious it is or how long McGovern could be out. If he loses time, Bates will likely have a chance to compete for that starting job with a fellow veteran. david edwards. The guard continues to be a problem for the Bills, as in previous years.
This very well could be something unique to the fifth-year pro. He was signed earlier in the week as a free agent, after being released by the Jets in April, and it felt like he was signed simply to carry some of the load in Saturday’s running game with the top three running backs: James Cook, Damien Harris and Latavius Murray – He is expected to have just a little playing time.
However, Johnson is an interesting player because he can help a team as a running back, receiver and has been a core player for four special teams in the past. Harris practiced all week, but has battled injuries throughout his career and I have to wonder if Johnson’s signing relates to the Bills being concerned about Harris’ durability. He missed several games in the four seasons he played in New England with various ailments, six of those games occurring last year.
Again, none of that may worry the Bills, but if Johnson shows some spark against the Bears, the Bills may have an interesting decision on their hands. Cutting Harris creates a $1 million cap impact, but would save about $770,000 on the cap.
He said at the beginning of the week that he will play for the first time in the preseason, and although I don’t think his position in the team is in doubt, I’m not ruling it out either. Phillips has been a good player in his two stints with the Bills from 2018-19 and then in 2022. But over the past three seasons, including 2020 and 2021 with the Cardinals, he’s been an injury-prone player having played only 30 of 49 possible games.
He suffered a shoulder injury last year that required surgery in the off-season and only came off the PUP roster a couple of weeks ago. When you look at the numbers, will the Bills keep four or five defensive tackles? Phillips faces headlines ed oliver and daquan jonesplus younger options in Poona Ford and Tim Settle in rotation. Last year, the Bills were down to four (Ford wasn’t here) and had two on the practice squad.
When you look at the salary cap to release Phillips, he’s the lowest of the bunch at $1.2 million (Ford is next at $1.5 million) and would release $1.6 million if the Bills think they need to find a viable backup offensive tackle. once league-wide cuts are made.
“When Jordan is healthy, he’s a dominant player,” assistant head coach and defensive line coach Eric Washington said. “We know what he brings when he’s healthy as a run defender, as a pass-rusher, as a one-on-one player.”
It’s hard to believe that, heading into the final tune-up of the regular season, the 32-year-old Klein is even in this mix. I can guarantee you that this was not what McDermott and Beane were expecting because they were putting their stock in either one. Tyrel Dodson or Terrel Bernard earn the right to be Tremaine Edmunds replacement at middle linebacker. That hasn’t happened.
“You could look at that one of two ways,” Washington said. “Right now we have two or three guys who we really feel great with and they are making our decision extremely difficult, so you can look at it that way, but disappointment? Absolutely not.”
Of course, that’s pretty much what Washington has to say, right? Dodson has looked exactly like he has throughout his career, a backup player you can connect to in a pinch. And Bernard, whose lack of size has always been a concern, suffered a hamstring injury and hasn’t been able to play or practice for two weeks.
So now reliable old Klein, with an emphasis on old, has a real shot at being the Week 1 starter. That’s not great because Klein is a limited player in pass coverage, and even as a run defender he’s not. like it’s the second coming of Ray Lewis there.
it sure seems daniel jackson has won the starting point in front of Tre’Davious White and if you start and don’t play this game for a long time, well, there’s the answer. Benford and Kaiir Elam have been fighting their own battle behind Jackson and he’s too close to decide right now, so maybe this game tips the scales one way or the other.
“He’s done some good things,” McDermott said of Benford. “He is very quiet and he doesn’t say much off the field. He just walks in and does his job and he doesn’t say much. He is prepared and has done a good job up to this point.”
Questions about Bills training camp: Is Kaiir Elam ready to become a full-time starting cornerback?
Ultimately, for Benford to get this chance to be the top backup is a huge achievement for him, but also a disappointing indictment of the progress made by Elam, the Bills’ first-round pick in 2022. Elam just hasn’t distinguished himself. As a player. The Bills can be confident and if that doesn’t change at some point this season, Elam will move closer to failure territory.
Let’s remember that he’s not quite there yet, but if he can’t beat out a sixth-round pick in Benford, who played collegiately at Villanova, for a more prominent backup role, that’s a problem.
You can contact Sal Maiorana at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @salmaiorana and on Threads @salmaiorana1. To sign up for Sal’s Bills Blast newsletter, which will be released every Friday during training camp, follow this link: https://profile.democratandchronicle.com/newsletters/bills-blast
This article originally appeared in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Buffalo Bills vs. Preseason Game Chicago Bears: 5 players to watch