Bills vs. Browns: Five storylines to watch for preseason week two


The 2018 NFL preseason continues this week, and the Buffalo Bills are looking for a win against the Cleveland Browns when they face off Friday at Paul Brown Stadium. Buffalo lost to the Carolina Panthers 28-23 last week, but there were quite a few positives to take away from the game. All three quarterbacks had impressive showings under offensive coordinator Brian Daboll. Defensively, the starters played as expected, but the depth left a lot to be desired.

Nathan Peterman vs. Josh Allen vs. AJ McCarron

Head coach Sean McDermott didn’t reveal who would start Friday night when speaking to the media, instead stating that all three would see a good amount of snaps. If I were a betting man, though, I would say it’s AJ McCarron’s turn to show out with the first team.

After this, things become even more interesting, with reports of Josh Allen working extensively with the second-team offense in the last few practices. Will he get work there against the Browns, relegating Peterman to the third team for this game?

This QB competition is becoming more interesting with each passing day, with each of the three contenders refusing to give the coaching staff a reason to disqualify himself. With Allen seemingly climbing the depth chart quickly, Peterman and McCarron could find themselves a few make-or-break plays away of being named the week one starter or even being completely off the roster. I wouldn’t dismiss any option at this point, and the preseason games are becoming crucial to each QB’s aspirations. The only thing I’m confident in is that it’s going to be fun to watch.

Revenge Tour Continues

After Kelvin Benjamin was able to show the Panthers what they’re missing in a dominant one-drive performance, it’s Corey Coleman’s turn. The former Brown had his trade request televised to the world on the latest episode of HBO’s Hard Knocks, and the TV show somehow made it look like a situation where he was struggling on the field, despite multiple reports from people who were at the Browns camp saying otherwise. That’s a very good opportunity for Coleman to show everyone the truth, as he should see decent playing time in his first Bills appearance, which just happens to be against his former team.

Other guy looking for revenge is Tyrod Taylor. He made clear a couple of times that he’s using the “Bills’ snub” as motivation, and I’m sure he’s looking forward to this matchup.

Zay Jones Returns; Wide Receiver Rotations

It looks like the second-year receiver will make his preseason debut after looking good in practice this week. Jones is already working with the first team. Opposite Kelvin Benjamin and alongside Corey Coleman, their presences should drastically alter the WR rotations, making the Bills’ receiver dynamic intriguing. With the Bills probably carrying five or six WRs on the opening day roster, guys like Rod Streater, Brandon Reilly, and Ray-Ray McCloud could find themselves on the outside looking in. Young guys will need to really impress, and veterans like Andre Holmes and Jeremy Kerley will be looking to clinch their places in the top-five of the depth chart, perhaps leveraging their special teams acumen to cement their roles.

Nick O’Leary’s Roster Spot in Jeopardy?

This is another intriguing development at camp. After consistently improving each season, Nick O’Leary may find himself off of the roster in the final cuts. The reason? More athletic guys stepping up their games. Former QB Logan Thomas is a physical specimen, and after a full calendar year working on his new TE position, he improved his blocking skills and looks ready to contribute on a consistent basis. Khari Lee is the best blocking TE on the Bills’ roster and is showing athleticism to help in the passing game, too. Last, but not least, second-year TE Jason Croom is looking much-improved and offers a skillset similar to Charles Clay, a potential mismatch against linebackers in the passing game. It’s a difficult situation for O’Leary since he can’t do much about his athletic limitations. He’ll need to be his usual reliable self and hope to get some passes thrown his way to recapture his job, but at this point, it seems more likely than not that O’Leary’s the odd one out.

Linebackers a Concern?

On paper, the Bills’ defense has everything necessary to make a big leap going to the second season under Sean McDermott and Leslie Frazier. What really is concerning me at this point is the lack of experience and depth in the linebacker group. In the first preseason game, Tremaine Edmunds showed his inexperience, reminding us he’s a 20-year-old rookie and we should be patient with him. Matt Milano wasn’t any better, despite having one season of experience, and Lorenzo Alexander plays a different role than those two guys. It’ll be important to see them taking steps forward each preseason game because their level of play will be very important to the Bills’ defensive success in 2018.

The depth at this position also doesn’t inspire any confidence, and the guy I’ll be watching closely Friday night is Keenan Robinson. The veteran can back up both Edmunds’s and Milano’s positions and brings experience to the LB room.