Two hundred twenty-one days will go by between the Buffalo Bills 2018 regular-season finale and their 2019 preseason opener. While the offseason went without football, Bills fans haven’t gone without some excitement, all thanks to general manager Brandon Beane. Many new faces will don Bills threads, and Thursday night we all get to see them in action for the first time.
Well, not everyone. After all, it’s only week one of the preseason. Beane, along with head coach Sean McDermott and the rest of the coaching staff, have four games to shape the roster to their liking before the start of the 2019 regular season, which kicks off September 8 against the New York Jets.
Quarterback Josh Allen, who’s had his ups-and-downs in camp thus far, begins his sophomore campaign as he bids to become the franchise QB in Buffalo. He’ll have many new faces to throw to including John Brown, Cole Beasley, and rookie tight ends Dawson Knox and Tommy Sweeney.
On the defensive side of the ball, Kyle Williams hung his cleats up this offseason. Williams was a players Bills fans could always look forward to being there. Ed Oliver, however, brings an impressive skill set as he tries to not only replace Williams on the field but in fans’ hearts off it, too.
Week one won’t give us a great look at everyone we want. Injuries, of course, will prevent some guys from getting any snaps. Newcomers Mitch Morse, Tyler Kroft, and even Knox will all miss the action as they continue to get healthy for the start of the season. Nevertheless, the Indianapolis Colts might have the most depth of any of the four teams the Bills play this preseason, and that should provide them with a perfect test to start weeding out those that don’t belong.
Matching Bills’ cornerbacks against Colts’ receivers
Buffalo’s defense will be good again this season. If not good, then great. They finished 2018 as one of the top units in the league in 2018, and most can say they’ve only gotten better.
One of the bigger storylines in camp thus far is the cornerback spot. Who starts across from TreDavious White? Who’s the starting nickel (slot) CB?
Starting spots aren’t won in week one. They’re not lost, either. Right now, Levi Wallace, who started in seven games a rookie in 2018, is the front-runner to start in two CB sets, confirmed by defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier last week. The matchup on Thursday night provides someone like Kevin Johnson an opportunity to close the gap. Before signing with Buffalo this offseason, Johnson spent four seasons with the Houston Texans. While he’s struggled to stay healthy throughout his career, he’s familiar with the Colts organization.
Possibly one of the most intriguing matchups on the night will be Buffalo’s choice(s) of nickel cornerback up against Colts rookie Parris Campbell. Campbell, a speedy, shifty rookie out of Ohio State that’s excelled and wowed thus far throughout camp with his route-running and play-making ability, can put any undisciplined CB on skates. Taron Johnson, who’s the front-runner for the nickel CB spot in Buffalo, would surely welcome any test. One thing to monitor is Campbell’s status leading up to the game. A hamstring injury has kept him out of practice, and Colts head coach Frank Reich won’t push his rookie receiver early on.
Oliver matching up with Colts offensive line
One of the more hyped prospects throughout the 2018 college football season was Oliver. At Houston he showed athleticism traits the NFL covets from the interior spot, and Beane wasn’t about to let him slide down the board any farther than ninth.
It took two weeks, but Oliver finally earned reps with the first-team defense, something Bills fans were anxious to see. Even better is the possibility of Oliver getting first-team reps early on against the Colts offensive line, one of best the league has to offer especially from the interior.
The likes of Quenton Nelson, Ryan Kelly, and Mark Glowinski proved themselves in 2018, holding opposing defenses to a league-low 18 sacks. A breakthrough from Oliver in week one could push veteran Jordan Phillips into a reserve role.