The Buffalo Bills face the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday in Week 3 of the 2018 NFL preseason. The third preseason game is typically the most important of the exhibition games, as it is essentially a dress rehearsal for a game that is essentially a dress rehearsal for the regular season. There is more game-planning for the opponent and the starters tend to play through the first half. Bills’ head coach Sean McDermott announced that rookie quarterback Josh Allen will make the start – the first of his career after two impressive outings backing up Nathan Peterman and AJ McCarron. Being that the starters will see extended snaps, there will be quite a few things worth watching. With that said, here are the top storylines to follow as the Buffalo Bills face the Cincinnati Bengals.
Buffalo Bills QB Josh Allen making first start
After two impressing outings to kick off the preseason, Friday will be the Wyoming product’s first test against a real NFL starting defense. All eyes will be on the No. 7 overall draft pick who has completed just 18-of-32 pass attempts but threw for 176 passing yards and two scores with zero interceptions during his time with the second and third-team offense. He will need to prove that he can not only move the ball efficiently against a higher level of competition but also show a command of the offense – from the huddle to line adjustments to the snap. This week’s game is of utmost importance to the majority of players on Buffalo’s roster due to the significant amount of starting jobs and significant roles still up for grabs but Allen’s play will be the talk of the game.
Can WR Zay Jones make a statement?
Behind Kelvin Benjamin, the Bills have a rather unimpressive logjam of wide receivers all vying for a roster spot, let alone playing time. Zay Jones was selected in the second round last year and failed to live up to expectations during his rookie campaign. During an offseason that he could have made the most of by training and honing his craft, Jones was arrested and hospitalized following a bizarre incident and underwent two surgeries. This prevented him from training for most of the offseason and he began training camp on the Non-Football Injury List. Coach McDermott has openly challenged the second-year wideout to work harder but Brandon Beane sent a message by making a trade for Corey Coleman, a former first-round draft pick of the Browns.
Jones caught one pass for five yards in his preseason debut but with the battle to round out the wide receiver depth chart heating up, Jones will need to prove that he can be the player Buffalo thought they were getting last year. Through the first two games, Ray Ray McCloud, a rookie out of Clemson has shined, while Brandon Reilly and Rod Streater have also flashed. But with the recent trade for Corey Coleman and the activation of Zay Jones from the Non-Football Injury list, this matchup presents a great opportunity for one of these pass-catchers to separate themselves from the pack.
Who pulls ahead in Buffalo Bills’ Center competition?
The Buffalo Bills lost longtime center Eric Wood to retirement, opening up a battle for the starting spot between Ryan Groy and free agent addition Russell Bodine. Bodine was signed from the Bengals this offseason and hopes to impress this week against his former team. Bodine started every game over the previous four seasons at an adequate level for Cincinnati, while Groy has been a valuable and versatile contributor when called upon.
Groy seems to be the leader at the moment, but his positional flexibility may cause the coaching staff to keep him as a reserve, in case of an injury. Either way, the massive overhaul on the offensive line will undoubtedly result in some hiccups for the offense.