The Buffalo Bills open the 2023 preseason by hosting the Indianapolis Colts Saturday, August 12 at 1:00 p.m. It’ll be our first look at the three-time defending AFC East champs in ‘real’ game-action.
A quick recap of 2022: Buffalo finished the year 13-3, won the division again, and topped Miami in the AFC Wild Card round before falling to the Bengals in the divisional round.
The Bills currently have the third-best odds to win the Super Bowl, according to most outlets. The Chiefs and Eagles are the only two franchises ahead of Buffalo, per the mega-resorts in Las Vegas.
How is head coach Sean McDermott approaching this game? He said “For Saturday’s game we won’t focus too much on the Colts with all due respect. We have to focus on ourselves and making sure we get the proper time for certain players out on the field knowing we have a larger roster now so we can make the right evaluations.”
Without further ado, and with that in mind, here are the six storylines I’ll be watching for in Buffalo’s first preseason game.
When the Bills signed Kyle Allen as one of Josh Allen’s backups, it seemed like he was destined to be on the 53-man roster and be 17’s primary clipboard holder. As we enter ‘real’ games, the battle between Kyle Allen and Matt Barkley appears closer than we anticipated. I wouldn’t say it is about how good Barkley has looked, but because of the struggles of Kyle Allen. Both signal callers have a chance to earn the backup earpiece with good performances in the preseason.
Head Coach Sean McDermott said this week. “We have confidence in both of those guys. Learning [the] offense for Kyle is new and that takes time. Trying to get him as many reps as possible. He’s done some good things and there are things he’s working on, and the same for Matt.”
Defensive End rotation
We expect the Bills to roster five defensive ends once the season starts, but after Greg Rousseau, Leonard Floyd, and most likely AJ Epenesa, who are the other two? They get an unfortunate respite for one spot while they wait for Von Miller to recover from his ACL tear. That still leaves just two spots for Shaq Lawson, Boogie Basham, Kinglsey Jonathan, and Shane Ray. What order those men get deployed and how they perform will tell us a lot about the position moving forward.
Right Guard (Offensive Line)
The entire offensive line should be under scrutiny with every snap. The group, as a whole, struggled in 2022, but we feel we know Dion Dawkins, Connor McGovern, Mitch Morse, and Spencer Brown are going to be starters. That leaves a battle between Ryan Bates and O’Cyrus Torrence for the right guard slot. The rotation has been back and forth in camp, but showing out in ‘real’ games should matter the most when it comes to protecting the quarter-billion-dollar man that is Josh Allen.
Linebacker in the middle
The battle for the starting middle linebacker position appears to be down to Tyrel Dodson and Terrell Bernard with Baylon Spector falling a bit off of the pace of the first two. As I mentioned with all the other positional battles, how these guys handle a ‘real’ game will carry the most weight. The nice circumstance for the Bills is that whoever earns the starting nod will play next to All-Pro Matt Milano and in front of All-Pros Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer.
Man opposite of White
Arguably the most important battle is what happens at CB2. When healthy, the Bills played four corners over 33% of the snaps. Sean McDermott would love for Tre’Davious White to return to playing nearly 100% of the snaps in 2023, but it would also be advantageous for the Bills to have Kaiir Elam, Dane Jackson, or Christian Benford lock down the role opposite of White. I fully expect all three to be given chances during the preseason, and the one who shines the brightest will get the first crack under the bright lights on Monday Night Football.
Josh Allen won’t play, but should he?
NO! That is the quick answer. And I would normally agree. I have no issue with the Bills’ franchise QB taking zero snaps in the preseason. Sean McDermott said on Thursday that neither Allen nor Stefon Diggs would play Saturday. However, my thinking about him getting reps in Week 1 is tied directly to the fact it is the only home preseason game for Buffalo. So, I wouldn’t hate McDermott running Allen out for a series. Let him toss it to Dalton Kincaid, hand it off to Cook twice, and call it a day?
Now we get to put the false flag microscope on how Allen interacts with Ken Dorsey and others during the game. It’s always fun creating our own conspiracies out of fractions of time given to us by network television.