The Buffalo Bills have whittled down their roster to 53 players, made some additional moves over the holiday weekend and have plenty of intrigue heading into their Week One matchup.
Having a handful of players that are dealing with concussions, the Bills are delicately trying to balance seeing if they’ll be ready, and getting their contingency plans in place should they not be ready.
Sean McDermott’s press conference on Monday to open up the week certainly had a lot going on. What did we learn? Five takeaways from the Bills head coach:
1) Tyrod Taylor “up in the air”
- The biggest decision that will need to be made this week is something the Bills have no control over whatsoever. Their starting quarterback, Tyrod Taylor, is still in the concussion protocol as the Bills start the week of work ahead of their upcoming game against the New York Jets. As for what stage of the five-step process it takes to return from concussion protocol to this point, that is unclear and we’ll learn more on Wednesday. And that has led to Sean McDermott, who really doesn’t have any say in the matter, to affirm that Taylor is “up in the air” for Sunday’s contest. McDermott did add that he believes the quarterback is getting better, but with concussions, there really is no way of knowing when a step forward or a step back might occur. So for the Bills, they are preparing as though they’ll be without the starting quarterback for the time being, which means the focus now gets placed on rookie quarterback Nathan Peterman.
2) Bills believe Peterman is “ready”
- In the event that Taylor cannot play, which it appears as though they’ll be cutting it close as it is even if he’s ready to go, the Bills will need to turn to Nathan Peterman and they have the appearance of confidence in the rookie. McDermott said he believes Peterman “is ready” for an enhanced playbook and the nuances that go into game planning for a specific opponent. Through four preseason games, Peterman has provided some flashes but mainly played at an average level. However, with LeSean McCoy fully healthy and ready for the start of the season, I would expect the Bills to lean quite heavily on the running game to get through the Jets game — and really through much of the 2017 season. In the event that Peterman does have to start, and with T.J. Yates also in the concussion protocol, the Bills picked up quarterback Joe Webb from — you guessed it — Carolina on Monday.
3) Jordan Matthews, Cordy Glenn trending up
- When the Bills take the field against the New York Jets on Sunday, they might just have both of the players they were worried about through much of the preseason. Wide receiver Jordan Matthews continues to be trending in the right direction, and the Bills have been optimistic all along that he’d be ready for the start of the season after dealing with a chip fracture in his sternum. How much he plays, though, will all be up in the air — as they likely don’t want to put too much on him too quickly. Left tackle Cordy Glenn seems to be in an even better situation than Matthews, after having gotten some work in in the preseason finale. The way McDermott spoke on Monday, he seemed confident in having Glenn for Week One, which means the ankle must have reacted well to game action. While the quarterback situation remains murky, these are two positive signs heading into the Jets game.
4) Leaders at starting battles announced
- The Bills had a trio of starting battles heading into the preseason finale, and it appears that two of them have been decided at this point. At right tackle, as it was expected due to rookie Dion Dawkins moving to the left side in the middle of the preseason, Jordan Mills will be the starter on opening day for the second straight year. At right guard, through a summer-long battle between Vladimir Ducasse and John Miller, Miller has emerged victorious for the time being. McDermott proclaimed that the two will continue to battle, but did say that Miller will get the start on Sunday. As for the starting right cornerback job, that does not have a firm winner for the time being. However, McDermott did admit that E.J. Gaines has the upper hand heading into practice this week over Shareece Wright. Gaines does make the most sense due to his play in the preseason. However, I wouldn’t rule out Wright, or even Greg Mabin to get some starting reps down the line in the event that Gaines struggles.
5) Compensatory pick formula still in focus
- The Bills declined through their original roster cuts to go after the third round compensatory selection for cornerback Stephon Gilmore. In order to have done that, they would have needed to release the trio of wide receiver Andre Holmes, defensive end Ryan Davis, and guard Vladimir Ducasse. They have until Week 10 to do so, and now with all three players shifting into backup roles heading into the start of the 2017 season, it’s still something that’s very much on the minds of the decision makers at One Bills Drive. General manager Brandon Beane is aware of the measures they would need to take to get that extra third round pick and now, so is Sean McDermott. When asked about that matter, McDermott said that they’ll see how the next few weeks play out — which isn’t ruling out anything. With what they’re likely to be this year, the Bills should likely take advantage of this opportunity with all three playing behind starters.