The third preseason game is in the books. The Buffalo Bills lost to the Cincinnati Bengals, 26-13. After another important game to determining starting positions and spots on the 53-man roster, here are the guys who helped their cases and the ones who may be in trouble after a bad performance. With that, I give you the Bills’ preseason week 3 ‘Studs and Duds’, Bills Mafia:
RB Marcus Murphy
Every week it’s the same thing with Marcus Murphy. The running back was the offense’s bright spot yet again, running for 58 yards on 11 carries, receiving two passes for seven yards, and acting as the primary punt returner on the day, with two returns for 6 yards. A roster bubble guy at the beginning of the training camp, now Murphy is a lock to make the team and a real option to take some of the weight off of LeSean McCoy’s back when the season begins. He’s the pleasant surprise of this year’s preseason.
LB Tremaine Edmunds
Hughes blows up the TE and Edmunds fills. Same plays I showed you this morning (pin and pull) pic.twitter.com/1aA0jVoSun
— Cover 1 (@Cover1) August 26, 2018
In his third game, Edmunds finally looked more comfortable playing his central role in the Bills’ D. Edmunds was trusting his instincts, making the right reads and shutting the gaps quickly, blowing some Bengals run plays up before they even started. He had seven combined tackles credited to his name, was seemingly always around the ball, and almost grabbed a pick-six. The rookie first-rounder still has to improve in coverage and not let the opposing QB’s eyes or the play action fakes fool him consistently, but it was a promising showing.
DE Shaq Lawson
We still couldn’t see Lawson’s improvement rushing the passer, which is concerning, but oh boy, the guy is becoming really disruptive stopping the run. Shaq was credited for only one tackle in the game, but that doesn’t tell the true story. The former Clemson star looks faster and quicker than before, playing with intensity and living in the opposing backfield on running plays. He offers nice value to the Bills in this role, and despite still not being a feared threat rushing the passer, he can play the rush DT position on passing downs and be dangerous on stunts or simply bull-rushing opposing guards.
Honorable mention: TE Jason Croom, QB Nathan Peterman, LB Matt Milano
RG John Miller
Awesome inside pass rush by Jordan Willis here
Push-pull doesn't work so he tries it again to the other side… Success pic.twitter.com/dvvpQgR2iS
— Matt Minich (@CoachMinich) August 26, 2018
The entire OL was a mess, killing any shot Josh Allen had to win the job in one fell swoop. But the guy who was the most depressing today was John Miller. The fourth-year offensive guard showed up to OTAs in amazing shape, won his RG job back, and was having a solid preseason overall. It looked like the up-and-coming John Miller from two years ago was back, but last week the concerns started, and yesterday, they were confirmed. Miller struggled not only protecting Allen, but also on the mental aspect of the game, committing costly false start penalties. He was replaced midway through the second quarter but was back in the lineup after a couple of series. With the ineffectiveness of the OL, it’ll be interesting to see if, for the first time since the training camp’s start, the coaching staff tries new players along the starting unit.
CB Vontae Davis
The veteran former pro-bowler came to Buffalo to replace good but oft-injured EJ Gaines as the starting CB opposite Tre’Davious White. Coming off of an Achilles injury that resulted in his release from the Indianapolis Colts, Davis wasn’t a lock to be an upgrade over Gaines, and Bills fans took his signing with a grain of salt. He wasn’t exposed until today when, on the very first Bengals offensive play, John Ross burned him for a 57-yard touchdown catch. Davis continued to struggle through the first half and eventually was benched in favor of Phillip Gaines for the final series in the second quarter. He came back onto the field after halftime and rebounded nicely, showing the level of play the coaching staff expects from him. Davis needs to find some consistency or he will be targeted at every opportunity as the weakest link in this secondary.
WR Rod Streater
With cut day approaching, Streater was climbing the depth chart and coming close to securing a spot on the 53-man roster. The problem is, with the awful offensive performance by the Bills’ starters today, Streater was invisible on the field, not ever seeing the ball thrown his way. With Corey Coleman receiving more opportunities, even running a jet sweep, Jeremy Kerley and Ray-Ray McCloud recording catches, and Andre Holmes again playing a key special teams role, the WR spots behind the starting duo of Kelvin Benjamin and Zay Jones are scarce. With Marcus Murphy taking over the punt return duties and McCloud also receiving time there, I think it’s a Kerley vs. Streater battle for the last spot, with Kerley as the favorite at this point.
Honorable mention: LG Vlad Ducasse, LT Marshall Newhouse, TE Nick O’Leary.