NFL football is back and on Thursday night the Buffalo Bills made their preseason debut, effectively beginning their 2018 NFL season. Despite falling 28-23 to the Carolina Panthers, the final score of these games really isn’t as important as the information coaching staffs are able to obtain from watching their 90-man rosters compete in live action after weeks of practice against themselves.
Here at Cover 1 we take a look at which Bills players either helped or hurt their stock as the Bills look ahead to Week 2.
Buffalo Bills RB Marcus Murphy
— Buffalo Bills PR (@BuffaloBillsPR) August 10, 2018
There is a heated competition for the backup running back spots behind starter LeSean McCoy and on Thursday, Marcus Murphy looked most impressive of the group. The 26-year old ran for 35 yards and one touchdown on seven carries, adding 30 receiving yards on four catches. He showed that he could catch the ball out of the backfield and ran with power, two traits that new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll values in his running back.
— Cover 1 (@Cover1) August 10, 2018
Murphy joined the team late last season and impressed despite limited opportunities, made enough of an impact to impress the coaching staff to keep him around at least through training camp. Now, it has only been one game but if Marcus Murphy can string together more practices and games like Thursday’s against the Panthers, it will be difficult for the coaching staff to release him come cut day.
DE Shaq Lawson
Buffalo drafted Shaq Lawson with the No. 19 overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft but after a dominant collegiate career at Clemson in which he racked up 123 tackles, 45.5 tackles for loss and 20 sacks. However, he has only been able to record six sacks through 21 games with the Bills and is firmly on the roster bubble.
The former 1st round pick started in Trent Murphy’s place, sidelined with a groin injury and took advantage of his opportunity. He looked more explosive, quick and in better shape, showing his trademark run stuffing ability, but also a new wrinkle in his game, batting a Cam Newton’s pass at the line of scrimmage.
Those type of plays have been constant during this year’s training camp and it’s very smart by Shaq’s part. If he lacks the speed to be a threat turning the corner and will keep using his bull rush as go-to move, he better put those long arms up to make things harder for opposing quarterbacks. Lawson knows he’s playing for his Bills’ career at this point and showed it on the field. Good to see some urgency from the former Clemson star.
Brian Daboll – Offensive Coordinator
When you have too many names to put in the stock up section, it’s why something is being done really well. In this case, it’s Daboll’s job, maximizing the talent of his players and scheming ways to make them successful. All three quarterbacks played better than expected helping their case, Kelvin Benjamin was dominant in one drive, 1st and 2nd team offensive line es did their jobs, the running backs played well, it’s no coincidence. The new offensive coordinator knows what he’s doing and his offensive scheme is really exciting. Heck, hats off for him allowing Josh Allen to air it out for 65 yards on the very first NFL snap of his career. It’ll be really interesting to see it working at it’s full strength, with LeSean McCoy in the backfield, when it really counts.
Robert Foster – Wide Receiver
— Jody (@VandyPilot) August 10, 2018
The Alabama product failed to take advantage of a huge opportunity, missing chances on a pair of long throws by Josh Allen. Those weren’t entirely his fault but added to an ugly drop in a laser by the 1st rounder that hit him right in the numbers and another missed target that looked like a miscommunication between him and his QB, it surely wasn’t a night that helped Foster’s case to make the team. With Corey Coleman added to the picture offering the same type of speed, Foster can’t afford to have other games like that if he wants to be one of the 53 players on the roster in the opening week.
Buffalo Bills LB Tremaine Edmunds
The Buffalo Bills’ first-round draft pick Tremaine Edmunds entered the league with incredibly high expectations after a prolific career for the Virginia Tech Hokies. It isn’t as if he had a bad game but it was a reminder that he’s only a 20-year rookie who will need some time to play at his best. Despite all the potential in the world, Edmunds will not walk in as an All-Pro in his first year and we could see why in his first time on the field.
He was bitting hard on play-action fakes and missed a crucial tackle against Christian McCaffrey on a screen pass on a 3rd-and-long. Those type of tackles were where Preston Brown made a name for himself, being sound and reliable. Edmunds came for the big hit and missed, giving up a first down. Since his stock couldn’t be any higher before the game, that cames as a wake-up call to Bills fans to temper the expectations about the promising rookie.
After the defensive starters were subbed out, it became clear how weak the Bills depth are on this side of the ball. The secondary was awful, being burned on inumerous plays and not being able to make any plays on the ball. The linebackers struggled, especially in coverage, and no one was able to show that deserves to be the first option of the bench if needed. The defensive line, other than the rookies Harrison Phillips and Mike Love, were invisible and couldn’t generate any pressure on Carolina’s QBs. The Bills had a really nice starting group, but can’t afford to miss any of those guys to injury or they’ll have problems. I’m sure GM Brandon Beane will keep an eye on the players who could be available after the final cuts to improve the roster at this department.