Defensive end Boogie Basham, cornerbacks Christian Benford and Kaiir Elam, safety Jaquan Johnson, linebackers Terrel Bernard and Baylon Spector. All younger players on the Bills’ defense shined in their first preseason game against the Colts.
Rookie cornerbacks Kaiir Elam and Christian Benford each had very solid first games in a Bills uniform. Both contributed big pass breakups in critical situations against the Colts’ starting wide receivers, including Elam’s against Michael Pittman on a critical fourth down early in the game. Something we all love to see from the young cornerback against one of the top wide receivers in the game.
Basham recorded a strip sack of Nick Foles in the second quarter that was scooped up by Bernard and ultimately returned 69 yards for a touchdown giving Buffalo their first points of the game. Baylon Spector added a sack while making some very nice plays against the run and Jaquan Johnson had a big interception that got everyone fired up.
While it was only the first game of the preseason, it is a great sign to see these young players having early success, and some of it coming against the starters of the Colts as well. The one thing these pre-season games do is it gives these guys a chance to showcase their skills against NFL caliber players in real game situations, which has a very beneficial impact on their development.
Week Two of the pre-season has the Denver Broncos visited Highmark. Broncos’ head coach, Nathaniel Hackett already said that quarterback Russell Wilson will not play in this preseason game; however, it’s likely the starting wideouts and offensive lineman will be suiting up to take some snaps. So, it’ll be nice to see the rookies with another opportunity to showcase their skills against some great competition and wideouts, such as Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton. I’ll be having my eye on the young cornerbacks, Elam and Benford, to see if they can repeat the success, they had last week against the Colts.
Terrel Bernard also had a big game last week and I’m looking forward to seeing if he can have a solid performance once again, keeping the pressure on Tremaine Edmunds. Bernard looked like a natural linebacker, as he was able to shed blocks and get a read plays as they developed. An instinct you need from your middle linebacker.
I’m hoping for increased reps from this young defensive line such as Greg Rousseau, Boogie Basham, AJ Epenesa, and Ed Oliver. Hopefully, they can put to the test some of the knowledge and experience they learned this offseason from future Hall of Famer Von Miller. Going against a starting offensive line, they can put various techniques to use and see what they need improvement on and what skills they can home in on as well.
Bills Rookie – Khalil Shakir
While I’m primarily focusing on the defensive side of the ball in this article, I do want to give a shout out to Bills rookie wide receiver, Khalil Shakir. Shakir had five receptions for 92 yards in his first game as a Bill, catching passes from both Case Keenan and Matt Barkley. I’m hoping to see him get reps with the first-team offense this week and see if he can handle the heat that Allen puts on his passes.
Throughout camp and into that first pre-season game Shakir has made some incredible catches and ran some very crisp routes. He is already looking to be a very capable wide receiver. While it is early and he has a lot to learn, you have to be excited about this kind of production early on.
I’m sure many of us are going to be tuning in tomorrow to watch the Bills take on the Broncos, and those are just a couple of things you should keep your eyes on. While I do wish Wilson was going to be starting for the Broncos so we can see how the young defensive guys can keep up with him running the offense, it’ll still be interesting to see if they can keep up their impressive start to the season thus far against the skill positions of the Broncos.
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