The pretend games are finally over. The Buffalo Bills capped off their 2021 preseason slate with a 19-0 win over the Green Bay Packers on Saturday, improving to 3-0 to finish off August football.
The team looked strong in the shutout victory, with a number of starters flashing in what was their first (and only) outing of the preseason. A few depth players also bettered their fortunes in the win, while an, albeit small, number of players on the roster bubble struggled to make up any ground.
Here are the studs and duds from the Bills’ preseason finale.
Stud: QB Josh Allen
Did you expect his preseason debut to go any differently?
It shouldn’t come as a shock, but Josh Allen was stellar in Buffalo’s win. The quarterback didn’t miss a beat in what was his first game since January, completing 20 of 26 passes for 194 yards and two touchdowns.
He picked up where he left off last season on the team’s first drive, constructing a methodical 12-play, 80-yard series in which he completed 10 passes to five different receivers. He capped off the drive with a 31-yard dart to Gabriel Davis for the score.
Allen stayed in throughout the vast majority of the first half, ending his day with a red zone touchdown throw to Zack Moss. This throw came shortly after an incredible 21-yard pass to Cole Beasley in which Allen rolled out to his left and threw behind his body over the middle of the field.
The signal-caller made a few errant throws on Saturday, but that’s perhaps to be expected out of a quarterback playing in his first game in eight months. Whatever rust had built up throughout the year, it looks as though Allen worked it off against the Packers.
There’s no need to fear, Bills Mafia – Allen looks more than ready for Week 1.
Allen finds Beasley for 21 yards pic.twitter.com/i4gbIyx76w— smart football guy (@billsfilmstuff) August 28, 2021
Dud(s): Depth CBs
With Levi Wallace and Dane Jackson missing the game due to injury, the cornerbacks at the bottom of the team’s depth chart had the opportunity to flash, to show Buffalo’s brass that they should consider carrying a sixth corner.
Unfortunately, they failed to do so.
Nick McCloud and Cam Lewis both saw time on the boundary, and both largely struggled. McCloud gave up a 27-yard pass to Malik Taylor on a free play before giving up another nine yards to Taylor on the very next down. Lewis, who got the start opposite Tre’Davious White, was also oft-exposed in coverage, especially on a first-quarter play in which he was turned around and burnt for a 29-yard Reggie Begelton reception. He eventually saw time in the slot, where he’s primarily played throughout his professional career, but mostly struggled there, as well.
Neither were entirely bad, but their lowlights largely overpowered their highlights. Both McCloud and Lewis are still favorites to make Buffalo’s practice squad, but neither did themselves any favors in terms of making the team’s 53-man roster on Saturday.
Stud: DT Star Lotulelei
Though he didn’t really show up on the stat sheet, Star Lotulelei flashed in his first professional football game in over one year.
He got the start at defensive tackle alongside Ed Oliver, ultimately tallying one tackle. He first made his presence known on a goal-line stand in the first quarter, blowing up the middle of the line and clearing a path for linebacker A.J. Klein to make a tackle at the line of scrimmage on a third-and-one. He later got some pressure on the quarterback, combining with Greg Rousseau to rush Jordan Love and force a throwaway.
He wasn’t necessarily a worldbeater, but he looked strong in Buffalo’s preseason finale, as though this wasn’t his first time playing a professional football game since January 2020. That, obviously, is reassuring to see.
Stud: Siran Neal
After constructing a preseason that was full of peaks and valleys, Siran Neal put together his most consistent game Saturday.
As has come to be expected out of the fourth-year defender, Neal shined on special teams, making a few key tackles, the most impressive of which being an open-field takedown of Amari Rodgers on a punt return. For the first time this preseason, he shined defensively, starting with a nice tackle on Green Bay’s first drive. He shed a block to meet Packers’ running back Kylin Hill near the sideline and hold him to a minimal gain, the first of his team-leading six tackles on the day.
He wasn’t perfect, showing a few lapses in coverage, but it was a relative return to form for a player who had been the recipient of a fair bit of hype throughout training camp.
Dud: QB Davis Webb
As one could expect in a 19-0 victory, few Buffalo players were visibly bad on Saturday.
Davis Webb certainly falls into this category. He wasn’t necessarily poor – he didn’t check into the game until there were six minutes remaining, and he threw just six passes – but he didn’t look great in limited action. He had a few overthrows and completed just 50 percent of his passes, not looking particularly great in a game in which Jake Fromm – whom Webb is competing with for a roster/practice squad spot – played his most consistent, and arguably best, football of the preseason.
Between his usage and on-field play, it looks as though Webb is now the clear odd-man-out in Buffalo’s quarterback room. Unless the team moves Fromm for a day-three draft picks or opts to keep two quarterbacks on its practice squad, Webb may be in search of another job next week.
Stud: DL Boogie Basham
After being overshadowed by the likes of Greg Rousseau and A.J. Epenesa in the first two weeks of the preseason, Boogie Basham finally stole some of the shine in the preseason finale.
Basham, Buffalo’s second-round pick in the 2021 draft, only tallied one tackle, but boy, was it noticeable. He came up with an impressive stop on a Green Bay fourth-and-one in the fourth quarter, quickly shedding off a block to meet Dexter Williams outside the hashes and hold him to no gain.
It was one of the strongest plays of the preseason for Basham, who needed a strong preseason finale in order to work himself into a regular-season role. General manager Brandon Beane praised the rookie during an appearance on the broadcast, applauding his recent development before stating that he’ll likely have a role in the team’s defensive line rotation in the regular season.
If this was the case entering the preseason finale, Basham only solidified it with his outing on Saturday.
Boogie Basham run stop pic.twitter.com/6DlLeMXDxP— smart football guy (@billsfilmstuff) August 28, 2021