As the inaugural kickoff of the 2019 NFL season inches closer and closer, players and coaches are now transitioning to preseason football. Preseason is a time for players to get in-game action and put their knowledge and skills to the test in front of a critiquing coaching staff. The entire organization is now tasked with evaluating 90 players and how useful they can be for the team moving forward.
On Thursday night, Buffalo took on the Indianapolis Colts at home and came away with a 24-16 win, marking head coach Sean McDermott’s first preseason week one victory. Players like Andrew Luck, TY Hilton, Marlon Mack, and others did not suit up for the game, but the live-game simulation was still useful to the Bills’ younger players. Unfortunately, in every preseason game, there are winners and there are losers. Each game is a clean slate for each player, but let’s look at who boosted their stock and who hurt their chances of making the roster.
Winner: Darryl Johnson, DE
The seventh-round rookie has had an uphill climb since being drafted out of North Carolina A&T. With essentially three defensive end spots already locked up with Jerry Hughes, Trent Murphy, and Shaq Lawson, Johnson has had to battle with the likes of Mike Love, Eddie Yarbrough, and Eli Harold, and it has not been easy. Johnson made his presence felt against the Colts, recording two tackles, one batted down pass, and a sack on the quarterback. Johnson still has a lot of work to do, but this was certainly a promising start.
Loser: TJ Yeldon, RB
The Bills have an extremely crowded backfield with the likes of LeSean McCoy, Frank Gore, and Devin Singletary seemingly locking up roster spots for 2019. This filled position room leaves Yeldon very little wiggle room for error, yet he did not have a promising start to his Bills tenure. Forget that Yeldon only received two carries for eight yards and one catch for ten yards the entire game, he also managed to fumble the ball, which was recovered by the Colts’ defense. Much of Yeldon’s offensive allure was his ability to catch passes, but with Singletary’s three catches for 21 yards, Yeldon is becoming expendable.
Winner: Tyrell Dodson, LB
The undrafted linebacker out of Texas A&M needed a big performance to gain some traction and that is exactly what he had. Dodson managed to get five solo tackles against Indianapolis to put his name in the hat at a position where it seems the coaches already have their preferences.
Losers: Duke Williams and David Sills, WRs
Two of the biggest receivers on the roster in terms of stature and two guys who generated a lot of hype dating back to OTA’s have severely underwhelmed. Not only did Williams and Sills have lousy training camps, but the pair also failed to bring in a single reception between the two of them in the first game of the preseason. Williams neglected to bring in either of his two targets and Sills dropped a wide open pass, his only target of the game. These two were already on the outside looking in, but they’re only digging their hole deeper and deeper.
Winner: Isaiah McKenzie, WR
With Williams and Sills digging their own way down the depth chart, McKenzie’s only true competition for the sixth receiver spot is second-year receiver Ray-Ray McCloud. Despite only getting two targets in the preseason opener, McKenzie made the most of them, bringing both in and recording 62 yards. McCloud received double the amount of targets as McKenzie but only managed to reign in one of them for 20 yards. The battle is heating up for these two but it appears McKenzie has the upper hand for now.
Losers: Sean McDermott and Heath Farwell
The Bills currently has a punter battle in what has been dubbed by fans as “The Battle of the Cor(e)y’s, between Cory Carter and Corey Bojorquez. Both punters received action against the Colts, Bojorquez receiving three punts and Carter getting two punts. In a position where consistency and distance are the two focal points, the coaching staff was likely pleased and displeased knowing that both their punters punted for a long of 51 yards and Bojorquez finished with an average of 40 yards per punt and Carter finished with 43.5 yards per punt. Placekicker and current captain of the special teams, Stephen Hauschka, dealt with a lingering injury in 2018 and was inconsistent to say the least. Bills fans have hoped that their kicker had returned to his old form, but Hauschka missed a 30 yard field goal against the Colts and it has fans wondering if “Hausch-Money” will ever be the same.
Winner: Christian Wade, RB
Former rugby star, Christian Wade, made his NFL debut on Thursday and it was one he will never forget. Seemingly at the bottom of the depth chart in a stacked running back room, Wade only received one carry the entire game but he made that carry count. Wade took his lone touch of the game to the house for a 65-yard touchdown to put away the game, a play that made his teammates and fans erupt. Wade is quickly becoming a fan favorite so let’s hope he can continue to provide.
The Bills take the field again next Friday, when they take on the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte. It will be interesting to see who steps up in the second preseason game.