Studs and duds from Bills preseason win over Lions


Ladies and gentlemen: they’re back. The Buffalo Bills took care of business in their 2021 preseason opener against the Detroit Lions, winning the contest by a score of 16-15 thanks to a late 42-yard pass from Jake Fromm to Marquez Stevenson and a subsequent game-winning field goal from Tyler Bass.

A number of Buffalo players shined in the win, while a few others failed to make the impact they had hoped. With that said, here are four studs, and three duds, from the Bills’ preseason opener.

Stud: DE Greg Rousseau

Though there’s certainly been a fair amount of hype surrounding Greg Rousseau in recent months, immediate expectations for Buffalo’s first-round pick in the 2020 NFL draft have largely been tempered. His level of talent has never been questioned, but given the fact that he’s been removed from the game of football for over a year (and only has one year of experience playing at defensive end), many have wondered just how impactful he can truly be in his rookie season.

If the first week of the preseason is any indication, those worries were largely misplaced.

Rousseau was incredibly impactful in Buffalo’s win, showcasing every bit of his 6-foot-6 height and 83-inch wingspan as a pass-rusher. He got into Detroit’s backfield early, using his length and power to push past Penei Sewell and take Jared Goff to the turf on Detroit’s third offensive play.

If you don’t remember, Sewell was selected with the seventh-overall pick in April’s draft.

Rousseau made his presence felt yet again in the second quarter, combining with A.J. Epenesa for a bone-crunching hit on Lions’ signal-caller Tim Boyle after using his hands to get past Detroit’s tackle. Boyle ultimately made a short completion, but the Epenesa-Rousseau combination was certainly the most impressive part of the play.

Though Rousseau finished the game with just one tackle, his length was constantly present. His pass-rush repertoire is still unrefined and he’s still far from a finished product, but it’s becoming more and more clear that he can be impactful from day one.

Bills DE Greg Rousseau electric in preseason debut vs. Lions

Dud: DE Carlos Basham

While one rookie defensive end flashed, another fizzled.

Carlos Basham wasn’t necessarily poor in his debut, he was simply underwhelming. Buffalo deployed him at a number of positions, as he took some snaps at both defensive tackle and defensive end, but he wasn’t impactful from either spot. He consistently tried to showcase his spin-move, to middling results.

Basham didn’t ultimately show on the stat sheet, and while statistics are not always indicative of impact, they largely are in this case. He didn’t excel against the pass or against the run, from the inside or from the outside, or on special teams. There’s certainly plenty of time for the second-round pick to improve, but that doesn’t change the fact that his debut left a bit to be desired.

Stud: LB Andre Smith

If you didn’t know who Andre Smith was before Buffalo’s preseason opener, you certainly do now.

The fourth-year linebacker played throughout the majority of the game, a strange occurrence for any player in the preseason. Perhaps Buffalo’s brass wanted to see if he could handle a full game load; perhaps they simply could take him off the field.

He was impactful throughout the entire contest, a rangy, sideline-to-sideline backer who impressed both in coverage and as a tackler. He showcased his speed and athleticism by consistently chasing Lions to the boundary and making tackles for minimal pickups. He was oft-targeted in coverage, and when he did allow a reception, he was right there to make the tackle.

Smith finished the night as Buffalo’s leading tackler with eight, but his most impressive play didn’t even show up on the stat sheet. There was a stellar play in the third quarter when he read the route of a nearby receiver, inserted himself into the passing lane, and came down with a beautiful interception. The play was ultimately called back a roughing-the-passer call.

Though the play didn’t count, the point stands – Smith was impressive. He’s always been an under-the-radar candidate to crack the Bills’ 53-man roster – and now he’ll be a more popular choice.

Dud: CB Siran Neal

Siran Neal is one of the more recent recipients of the quote-unquote ‘offseason rub.’ Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer both referred to the fourth-year defensive back as one of the most athletic players they’ve ever played with at the starting of training camp. Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier has even told reporters that the team has been trying to figure out a way to get him involved defensively.

If we learned anything from the first week of the preseason, it’s that Neal’s involvement shouldn’t come in the form of covering shifty slot receivers.

Neal struggled to cover rookie receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, specifically in man coverage. St. Brown often beat him off the line of scrimmage and rarely had trouble positioning himself against Neal. He gave up receptions of 13, nine, and three yards to the rookie, the longest of which was called back due to a holding call.

It may be a bit unfair to criticize Neal’s performance, as covering agile slot receivers is not something he’ll be asked to do in the regular season. Should he ultimately have a defensive role, he’ll likely be asked to cover tight ends, serving as the team’s ‘big nickel.’ The 6-foot tall, 197-pound St. Brown certainly isn’t the type of player that Neal will typically be asked to cover.

That being said, he still struggled, and thus, has to end up on this list.

Instant analysis from Bills’ preseason victory vs. Lions

Stud: RB Devin Singletary

Devin Singletary’s still got it.

Sure, you’d never expect a 23-year-old to lose ‘it,’ it’s just been a while since Buffalo fans have seen Singletary excel. After a promising rookie season in which he averaged 5.1 yards per carry, Singletary took a slight step back in his sophomore campaign, finishing the 2020 season with 687 yards on 156 carries, an average of 4.4 yards per attempt.

Though he hasn’t been an after-thought through training camp thus far, it’s been Zack Moss who has taken the vast majority of the reps of the first team. With Moss missing Friday’s game with a hamstring injury, Singletary had the opportunity to prove that he is capable of being the 1A in the Bills’ backfield.

He didn’t disappoint.

Singletary shined in Buffalo’s preseason opener, showing off a new burst and the vision that made Bills fans fall in love with him in the first place. He finished the game with 42 rushing yards on eight attempts, good for 5.25 yards per carry. He even caught a touchdown pass, a six-yard score toward the end of the first half.

Singletary’s roster status was never in jeopardy, but at times, it looked as though he had fallen behind Moss in the running back competition. It’s safe to say the competition is a bit closer now.

Dud: OT Bobby Hart

Bobby Hart started the game at right tackle for the Bills and took a holding penalty on his first play. He would later shift to the left side of the line, where he was consistently treated as a revolving door by Lions defenders. He didn’t look particularly great on any rep, but looked especially poor on a snap against Julian Okwara with five minutes left in the contest. The second-year defender dominated him, just running past Hart and pushing him down en route to a sack on Jake Fromm.

Simply put, Hart didn’t look like an offensive lineman that a team with Super Bowl ambitions should hold onto.

5 biggest takeaways from Bills’ 16-15 preseason win vs. Lions

Stud: OG Cody Ford

After missing the vast majority of the 2020 season with a leg injury, Cody Ford showed that he still has some upside in Friday’s win.

He impressed at right guard, particularly in run protection. He pulled off a number of strong pull blocks that opened up lanes for his running backs, whether that be Singletary or Matt Breida. He was arguably Buffalo’s best offensive lineman in the contest, and though he was likely already a favorite to win one of the team’s starting guards now, his hold is now a bit more secure.