From a fan’s perspective, what makes the preseason exciting? Getting a first glimpse of rookies and free agents signed in the offseason is the obvious choice. And the Buffalo Bills provided fans with multiple looks of what not only the 2019 season might look like, but also the future of the organization.
It’s not a secret people across the league don’t care for the preseason. We’ve seen teams try to propose two-game preseason schedules and no preseason at all. But for rookies and players fighting for a roster spot, these snaps are crucial. At the same time, coaches get their best look at lineups that work best in-game; practice film will only show so much.
For rookies like Devin Singletary and Jaquan Johnson, last Thursday night wasn’t just another preseason game. It was an opportunity to prove to the organization that gave them a chance that they can compete on the biggest stage. And for former Rugby star Christian Wade, the victory over the Indianapolis Colts resulted in “the best feeling in the world.”
Stock up: Devin Singletary and Christian Wade
The debut of Singletary in Buffalo wasn’t surprising if you’re a fan of the Bills. One would consider Singletary one of the stars of camp, taking first-team reps with the likes of both McCoy and Gore. On Thursday night he continued to showcase his versatile skill set since General Manager Brandon Bean drafted him in the third round back in April.
The first quarter was slow for offensive coordinator Brian Daboll’s offense. Two punts and a missed field goal spilled little confidence into the second quarter. That’s when he decided to unleash the rookie, giving him the ball on seven of the first eight plays (four runs, three passes) en route to the Bills’ first touchdown of 2019.
Box score warriors will call foul. Nine carries for 27 yards and three receptions for 21 yards is all he managed on the night, but it was more about a spark and competitiveness he brought to the touchdown drive that’ll excite fans and the coaching staff alike.
— Cover 1 (@Cover_1_) August 9, 2019
Singletary wasn’t the only rookie running back to make noise. Wade made his own highlight tape with a 65 yard run on his first NFL carry. To say the Bills sideline was excited is an understatement, and the England NFL fans celebrated, too.
One highlight won’t win anyone a roster spot. Wade has more work to do, work he earned in that one explosive run. He’s giving not only the Bills but other teams a look at what skill set he provides — stock up for both rookie backs.
Stock down: T.J. Yeldon
Going into training camp, the running back corps was already stocked with potential. Overhauled this offseason by Beane, T.J. Yeldon was just another option that got a second chance potentially in large part due to his Alabama connection with Daboll.
Unfortunately for the former Jacksonville Jaguar, things didn’t go as planned. With LeSean McCoy getting the night off and Frank Gore getting minimal work, not only did Singletary get the first bulk of action, but Yeldon fumbled on his second carry. To make matters worse, it happened in the red zone.
With veterans essentially getting the night off so the coaching staff could get a good look at their best options for depth, Yeldon didn’t see the ball again. Another poor performance or turnover in week two could seal his fate in a Bills uniform.
Stock up: Jaquan Johnson
Singletary and Wade weren’t the only rookies to shine in their debut. Former Miami Hurricane safety Jaquan Johnson brought a fire that head coach Sean McDermott loves to see, leading the team with seven solo tackles including one for loss.
Johnson was quiet through camp. He’s not flying under the radar anymore. He’s not only fighting for a backup safety spot (Buffalo has one of the best starting safety duos in Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde), but special teams snaps. Now it’s time to build off of the week-one performance and solidify his spot on the roster.
Stock down: Zay Jones
Let’s be clear from the start: Zay Jones isn’t on the trading block, nor is he a candidate for release. At least not right now. However, if Thursday night was any indication, he’s not the number one option in Buffalo.
The receiver position in Buffalo is murky without a true number one guy. Going into his third season, Jones would’ve been the best candidate to take those reigns after almost doubling his production in his sophomore season. That’s not the case.
On Thursday night Jones only got two drives of work, finishing with two catches for 31 yards. Quarterback Josh Allen looked his way five times, overthrowing the first and under-throwing the fourth. It was the fifth pass in Jones’ direction that caused him to miss the rest of the game as he dropped a would-be touchdown in the middle of the field all while taking a shoulder to the head.
Two concerns for his two-year career popped up in one play: drops and injuries. While it’s a tough catch for any receiver to make, it’s one they should. Jones has proven, even after setting an NCAA reception record in his time at East Carolina, that drops are an issue at the professional level. And the coaching staff doesn’t know if they can trust him for a full 16-game schedule.
While Jones did sit out the rest of the week one game, he’s been cleared from concussion protocol. With a strong preseason from Isaiah McKenzie, it could put Jones on the hot seat.