It's almost decision time for the Buffalo Bills. Ahead of the start of the 2018 regular season, the Bills still have to make a final assessment on who will be on the 53-man roster.
Oh, and they have to name a starting quarterback, too. So for head coach Sean McDermott and general manager Brandon Beane, the upcoming weekend will be one that will feature a lot of long hours and tough decisions along the way.
So, ahead of the fourth preseason game, I caught up with Bills GM Brandon Beane to discuss many of the big talking points that have to do with his roster. You can watch the full interview above, but if you don't have the 15 minutes, you're in luck.
My five biggest takeaways from a one-on-one chat with the GM of the Bills:
1) The Peterman love continues
- For much of the buildup to training camp, the camp itself, and now life after St. John Fisher College, the tone about Nathan Peterman has always remained constant. Because Sean McDermott has been the one fielding all the questions through the summer, it's hard not to notice his adoration for Peterman and the job that he believes the second-year quarterback has done. Just like the head coach, Beane traveled down the same path in regards to the former fifth-round selection. When the fateful five-interception performance in Los Angeles was brought up, Beane quickly defended Peterman saying "not all of those interceptions were his fault." Both Beane and McDermott are steadfast in their belief that Peterman doesn't get enough credit for how he played in the first half of the snow game against the Indianapolis Colts. And on top of it all, you can hear it when they talk about the quarterback -- their real opinion oozes out. They love how he prepares, his intelligence, his work ethic, and as Beane put it, they have "comfort" in him as a second-year player that they may not have with their rookie quarterback Josh Allen. While this wasn't an outright admission that Nathan Peterman will be the starter to open up the 2018 regular season, his performance combined with every bit of information we've gotten from the Bills when they speak makes him the favorite to be the guy in Baltimore.
2) But wait, what about Josh Allen?
- The only thing that gives me pause about just coming right out and writing that it would be a surprise if Peterman didn't start the 2018 season is the Josh Allen factor -- and most notably, what Beane had to say. When asked of Allen's progress, the GM led with the phrase, "he's feeling his way," which isn't the strongest of statements, but given the most recent performance against Cincinnati, it can't be unexpected. However, as Beane continued to weave through his answer, he didn't leave it at just that. The GM continued to push forward that Allen remained in the mix. And perhaps most interestingly, Beane said of Allen, "He's done enough to warrant an opportunity to start." When it comes to Allen, all bets are off, especially if they genuinely believe that the rookie quarterback has done enough in these three preseason games to "warrant" the start. I still think that Peterman remains the favorite, but it just depends on what school of thought the Bills believe in most. If they got the Cam Newton route in Carolina, Allen might end up being the guy in Baltimore. That statement from Beane makes the quarterback decision cloudier than it was on Monday, though if I had to guess, I think they'd delay the start of the Josh Allen era just a bit -- at least as of Thursday, August 30 ahead of the Bears game.
3) Beane on Coleman: "He's trying"
- When the Buffalo Bills went out and acquired wide receiver Corey Coleman in the middle of training camp, the initial thought was that the player would slot in as a guaranteed fifth wide receiver on the roster. However, after seeing what we've seen in the two games Coleman has been active and then hearing what Beane had to say, that safety is not a guarantee for the former Cleveland Browns first-round pick. When asked what he's seen from Coleman, Beane's immediate response is the title you see above: "He's trying." Now, Beane went on to discuss how hard it is to come in that late and acclimate yourself and to play as fast as you are. However, those are just an extended number of reasons that could ultimately lead to Coleman being off the roster if he doesn't perform well enough against the Chicago Bears on Thursday. The simple fact is Coleman, despite getting some chances in his two preseason games, has failed to make a discernible difference. He needs to show the speed he has and show a better grasp of the playbook. Otherwise, he might not make it through the weekend. Remember, he's not a first-round pick to the Bills. They owe him nothing but a chance in the preseason, and that's precisely how they should treat it if he doesn't earn a spot on the 53-man roster
4) Bills are holding out hope Murphy can play Week One
- Since training camp has begun, the Bills have tried to be as careful as they could with defensive end Trent Murphy. They had him at the start, injured his groin, slowly worked him back into the thick of things during camp, only to see the defensive end re-injure the groin, and they've sat him down since. For someone that's coming off a year-long injury as he is, that can't be the way he envisioned his Bills career and 2018 season getting started. However, he's been working along the side with strength and conditioning staff at each practice and has improved steadily. And in the interview with 7ABC, GM Brandon Beane said there is "a chance" that Murphy will be ready for the first game of the season in Baltimore. That's the most significant indication that we've received since Murphy injured himself that he might be closing in on a return soon, which would infinitely help both the Bills' pass rush rotation and their decision making with the 53-man roster.
5) When Beane expects a jump from Edmunds
- One of the things fans have tracked quite closely through the preseason has been the play of rookie linebacker and first-round pick Tremaine Edmunds. The locked in starter at middle linebacker for 2018, the 20-year-old rookie has seen his fair share of struggles since the preseason began. Edmunds started off slow in the first game of the year, against the Carolina Panthers -- though you could see there was at least a couple of signs of where he recognized the play and knew where he had to be. In the second game, he looked a bit more comfortable in his reads but didn't react quickly enough to make a tackle at or behind the line of scrimmage. In the third game against Cincinnati, he showed his most comfort on defense of the summer, looked instinctive against the pass and showed more signs of trusting what he saw against the run. However, even though the trajectory seems favorable for the Bills, the GM Beane is still expecting bumps in the road because of both Edmunds' age and inexperience against NFL type of offenses. However, Beane pointed to the "second half of the season," as the time of year in 2018 that he expected to see Edmunds take off and to acclimate to the game entirely. My main hesitation with that is the instincts of linebackers usually comes naturally. Of all of these signs, I'll have my eyes peeled to see if Edmunds progresses rapidly in that part of the game. If he does, the Bills could have a real player on their hands. One thing we know for sure, he'll have plenty of time on the field to show it.