Dane Jackson

Bills Announce Winners Of Position Battles

The Bills have been monitoring a number of position battles this preseason and, with tomorrow night’s season-opener approaching, it’s about time we learned who the winners are. Head coach Sean McDermott spoke with the media and let them know just who’s going to be starting against the Jets on Monday Night Football.

The only job that went as was predicted was right guard, where, according to Jay Skurski of The Buffalo News, rookie second-round pick O’Cyrus Torrence has earned the starting nod over incumbent starter Ryan Bates. Bates got his first action as a full-time starter last season, playing in 15 games, and while he’s performed admirably for Buffalo over the years, Bates has never been considered a top option at the position. Now, the rookie out of Florida will get a chance to line up between center Mitch Morse and right tackle Spencer Brown, while Bates will serve as a primary backup at all three interior offensive line spots.

In a huge shock on defense, last year’s sixth-round draft pick Christian Benford has won the starting outside cornerback position opposite veteran Tre’Davious White, per ESPN’s Alaina Getzenberg. Benford did start five games last year for the Bills as a rookie, but the 22-year-old was certainly not a favorite to win the starting job this season.

Buffalo really hoped to see last year’s first-round pick Kaiir Elam take control of the position in 2023. Elam started six games in 13 appearances as a rookie but failed to stake his claim as a permanent starter heading into his sophomore season. Benford also had to beat out incumbent starter Dane Jackson, who started 14 games at the position last year. Everything pointed to one of Jackson or Elam starting with White this season, but Benford beat the odds and will line up with the first-team defense tomorrow.

Finally, on the defensive side of the ball, Terrel Bernard has joined Benford as a surprise winner of a starting gig, earning the honors of starting at middle linebacker next to veteran Matt Milano, according to Skurski. Another draft pick from the 2022 Draft, Bernard beat out presumed favorite Tyrel Dodson for the starting job left vacant by the exit of Tremaine Edmunds in free agency.

Dodson has started five games over his first three seasons in the league but has really only come in on rare occasions on defense or for special teams. Despite not winning the starting job, Dodson should still get plenty of run as he and Tyler Matakevich are the only healthy backup linebackers on the roster. Bernard, though, will be the one to take the field with the first-team defense alongside Milano and third-round rookie Dorian Williams.

There you have it. A couple of surprises join with an expected result to put three young players in the starting lineup for tomorrow night’s game. Torrence will get a chance to start in his NFL debut, while Benford and Bernard will take the step up into starting roles to begin their sophomore seasons.

DB Rumors: Elam, Panthers, Bolts, Bucs

The Bills have hoped to plug Kaiir Elam into their starting lineup opposite Tre’Davious White, but the 2022 first-rounder remains in a position battle. Elam is battling 2022 sixth-rounder Christian Benford and veteran Dane Jackson for the boundary job opposite White, Joe Buscaglia of The Athletic notes (subscription required). Elam played 477 defensive snaps as a rookie, but even as White did not debut until Thanksgiving, the younger Buffalo Round 1 corner only started six games. Benford started five of the nine he played, while Jackson led Bills corners with 14 first-string appearances in 2022. The Bills would clearly prefer Elam seize the role, but for now, the Washington product has not distinguished himself as a surefire starter.

Here is the latest from NFL secondaries:

  • Asante Samuel Jr. resides in a similar boat, needing to fend off a lower-profile challenger. Thus far, it appears Samuel has fallen behind Ja’Sir Taylor for the Chargers‘ slot cornerback role. As it appeared in June, Taylor looks to be the favorite to open the season as the Bolts’ slot player, Daniel Popper of The Athletic notes. Samuel’s shaky run defense has concerned the Bolts, per Popper, with Taylor — a 2022 sixth-round pick — seeing time ahead of the second-generation pro as an outside corner last year due to tackling ability. With primary 2022 slot defender Bryce Callahan unsigned, Taylor and Samuel are battling for the position. Despite Samuel’s experience (27 starts) and draft pedigree (Round 2), he may well open the season as the top backup behind a Taylor-J.C. JacksonMichael Davis trio. Having Samuel as a depth piece would certainly benefit the Chargers, with Jackson attempting to come back from a ruptured patellar tendon.
  • The Panthers have played without first-round pick Jaycee Horn for extended stretches, and the 2021 top-10 pick spent time rehabbing another injury this offseason. Horn did not say how he injured his foot this spring, but he is 100% early in Panthers camp. Ditto Donte Jackson, who missed eight games last season due to an Achilles tear. Both starting corners have received full clearance, GM Scott Fitterer said recently.
  • Although the Buccaneers have re-signed Carlton Davis and Jamel Dean in free agency over the past two years, they let Sean Murphy-Bunting leave in March. Murphy-Bunting, who had spent time in the slot in Tampa Bay, left for Tennessee. The Bucs are holding an expansive slot competition in training camp. Zyon McCollum, Dee Delaney, Josh Hayes, Christian Izien and Anthony Chesley are all vying for the gig, Todd Bowles said (via Buccaneers.com’s Brianna Dix and Scott Smith). Delaney and Chesley have both bounced around the league, while Hayes and Izien are rookies. Some of these players will not end up on the Bucs’ 53-man roster, but it is interesting to see a five-man competition for this role. A 2022 fifth-round pick who played 277 defensive snaps last year, McCollum may have the lead here. Bowles expects the second-year cover man to play a big role in the nickel spot, Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times tweets.

Bills Notes: Cook, Cornerback, Ateman, Coaching Staff

The Bills have done some work revamping their running back depth chart this offseason, but the team’s main holdover believes he’s ready to secure the starting gig. During an appearance on The Rich Eisen Show, James Cook made it clear that he’s ready to be the team’s top running back.

“Obviously, RB1,” Cook responded when asked about his role in 2023 (h/t Ryan Talbot of NewYorkUpstate.com). “So you know, just come in and do what I do. Change the game with my versatility. Catching the ball out of the backfield. Pass blocking. Just try to do what I can do to help the team win games and ultimately win the Super Bowl.”

The Georgia product was a second-round pick by the Bills last offseason and ended up getting into 16 games as a rookie. While he played second fiddle to Devin Singletary, Cook still finished the season with 687 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns. Singletary is now out of the picture, although the Bills did bring in Damien Harris and Latavius Murray for some extra depth.

Even with the additions, Cook is confident that he’s prepared to be the starter, and the second-year player sounds like he’s ready to stand alongside his brother, Dalvin Cook, when it comes to the league’s top running backs.

“My goal is to be an All-Pro or Pro Bowler like my brother,” Cook said. “Hopefully be in the Pro Bowl with him one day.”

More notes out of Buffalo…

  • It’s uncertain who will start opposite Tre’Davious White at cornerback, but Joe Buscaglia of The Athletic believes the gig will ultimately come down to three players. Dane Jackson, Christian Benford, and 2022 first-round pick Kaiir Elam will “likely remain in a battle” for the CB2 gig once training camp opens, according to the writer. Buscaglia notes that the coaching staff has been adamant that the role won’t be influenced by contract or draft pedigree, meaning the competition is truly wide open for all three players.
  • The Bills added Marcell Ateman earlier this month, and Aaron Wilson of ProFootballNetwork.com tweets that the receiver inked a one-year, $940K deal. The wideout played for the St. Louis BattleHawks in the XFL this season, totaling 259 yards while not scoring a touchdown. The Oklahoma State product was a seventh-round pick by the Raiders in 2018, and he compiled 20 receptions for 270 yards and a touchdown through his first two seasons in the NFL. In Buffalo, he’s expected to be a special teamer and end-of-the-depth-chart option at WR.
  • The Bills announced yesterday (via Twitter) that they’ve promoted Eric Washington to assistant head coach/defensive line coach. The veteran coach joined the organization in 2020 as their DL coach, and he earned a promotion to senior defensive assistant before last season. He had previous stops with the Bears and Panthers, including a one-year stint as defensive coordinator in Carolina.
  • The Bills have some extra depth on the edge, meaning they could look to move on from one of their former second-round picks. Earlier today, our own Adam La Rose explored the trade candidacy of Carlos Basham Jr..

Minor NFL Transactions: 3/17/23

Here are today’s minor moves from around the league:

Atlanta Falcons

Buffalo Bills

Carolina Panthers

Green Bay Packers

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

Miami Dolphins

New England Patriots

New York Jets

Washington Commanders


Board is a strong special teamer, signing a two-year, $5MM deal with New England, according to Ben Volin of the Boston Globe. The contract reportedly includes incentives that can push the deal to a maximum value of $6.7MM.

Colon-Castillo reportedly visited the Falcons today, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL Network. Despite the visit, he decided to sign with the Jets.

RFA/ERFA Tender Decisions: 3/15/23

Today’s tender decisions from around the NFL:






RFA/ERFA Tender Decisions: 3/14/23

Today’s tender decisions from around the NFL:






Bills Place CB Xavier Rhodes On P-Squad Injured List

The hits keep coming for the Bills’ secondary. Veteran cornerback Xavier Rhodes, who signed with Buffalo just a few days ago, has been placed on the team’s practice squad injured list (Twitter link via ESPN’s Field Yates). Head coach Sean McDermott said that Rhodes sustained a hamstring injury (Twitter link via Chris Brown of OneBillsLive).

Buffalo’s top corner, two-time Pro Bowler Tre’Davious White, began the season on the PUP list and will therefore miss at least one more game as he continues to recover from an ACL tear. Fellow starter Dane Jackson suffered a neck injury in Week 2, and rookie Christian Benford fractured his hand during last Sunday’s loss to the Dolphins. That is not to mention safety Micah Hyde‘s season-ending neck injury or safety Jordan Poyer‘s foot ailment, which kept him out of the Miami contest and which rendered him questionable for the Bills’ Week 4 matchup against the Ravens.

The practice squad injured list operates under the same rules as the injured reserve. In other words, Rhodes will be forced to miss at least the next four games, at which point there may no longer be a roster spot for him. Indeed, Jackson returned to practice this week and is expected to suit up for the Baltimore game, as Joe Buscaglia of The Athletic tweets. The hope is that White will return shortly, and while Benford will miss time, he could nonetheless beat Rhodes back to the field.

Furthermore, even though Rhodes is on the taxi squad injured list, his activation from that list would still count as one of the Bills’ eight “return from IR” designations. It is possible that the team would elect against using such a designation on a player that had minimal practice time and never appeared in a game.

Rhodes, therefore, could be a free agent again in a few weeks and could be of interest to another team in need of secondary depth.

AFC Injury Updates: Bills, Raiders, Leonard

As the Bills head to South Florida for a noon matchup against a red-hot Tua Tagovailoa and the Dolphins, they have seen a tough challenge get tougher. Buffalo released an injury update on its website today reporting that the team expects to be without four starters: two in the secondary, in safety Micah Hyde and cornerback Dane Jackson, and two defensive tackles, Ed Oliver and Jordan Phillips. Jackson, Hyde, and Phillips all left Monday night’s game with injuries, while Oliver will miss his second straight contest.

Jackson left the game last week after a collision that forced his head backwards in a scary-looking neck injury. He was taken off the field in an ambulance, but, luckily, avoided any major injury. Unfortunately, Jackson hasn’t been able to practice at all this week but has been able to be around the team at the facilities.

Hyde also suffered a neck injury, albeit a far less severe-looking injury than Jackson’s, that held him out of practice this week. Phillips left the game Monday with a hamstring injury and also was unable to practice this week. Oliver has been dealing with an ankle injury that held him out last week, as well.

Missing three starters in the secondary (cornerback Tre’Davious White remains on injured reserve) makes the prospect of facing Tagovailoa a bit more cumbersome one week after he threw for 469 yards and six touchdowns against a banged up Ravens secondary. They’ll turn to rookies Christian Benford and Kaiir Elam to fill in at cornerback with help from veteran Bills cornerbacks Taron Johnson and Siran Neal. Damar Hamlin and Jaquan Johnson will be asked to step up in Hyde’s absence, as well.

With both Phillips and Oliver out on the defensive line, it’s a good bet that the Bills will mirror their gameday practice squad call-ups from last week in defensive tackles C.J. Brewer and Brandin Bryant.

Here are a few more Sunday injury statuses we learned about today, starting with a couple of big starters out in Sin City:

  • The Raiders are set to face off against the Titans this weekend without two Pro Bowlers as wide receiver Hunter Renfrow and linebacker Denzel Perryman are officially out, according to Adam Hill of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Hill also reports that, after missing two practices with an illness, running back Josh Jacobs is questionable to play this Sunday.
  • Despite initial reports in the preseason that Colts star linebacker Shaquille Leonard would not miss any time, the 27-year-old is set to miss his third straight game after being ruled out against the Chiefs this week, according to Mike Chappell of Indianapolis Fox59. Head coach Frank Reich told the media, “Deep down it’s the player. Deep down the player has to know he can play winning football and help this team win. That’s where we’ve got to get to.”

Latest On Bills CB Dane Jackson

Last night’s Titans-Bills game featured a frightening moment when Bills cornerback Dane Jackson collided with teammate Tremaine Edmunds and suffered a neck injury in the process. He was ultimately taken off the field by an ambulance, leading to concerns about his short- and long-term health status. Encouraging reports have since come out on that front, however. 

Last night, NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero tweeted that the 25-year-old underwent a CT scan and X-Ray, adding that he experienced full movement in his lower extremities. Adding to the positive news, Pelissero’s colleague Mike Garafolo reports that Jackson walked out of the hospital this morning, and there is a belief that a major injury has been avoided (video link).

A team update indicates that he will undergo further evaluation today to determine the length of his absence. That will become an important piece of information, given the fact the Buffalo is already without No. 1 corner Tre’Davious White. He remains on the reserve/PUP list, having been placed there last month; that move ensured that the All-Pro would be sidelined for at least the first four games of the season while he continues to recover from a torn ACL.

That made Jackson’s role even more important for a Bills secondary which faced questions at the CB spot entering the season. The former seventh-rounder logged a 97% snap share and recorded an interception in Week 1, and was in line to continue operating as a full-time starter until the injury. Especially until White returns, Buffalo will lean heavily on rookies Kaiir Elam and Christian Benford.

In other injury news, Pro Bowl safety Micah Hyde also left the game with a neck injury, as detailed by ESPN’s Alaina Getzenberg. His status will be worth monitoring, as will that of Jackson, who very much appears to have avoided the worst-case scenario in his situation.

NFL Reserve/Futures Contracts: 1/26/21

Here are Tuesday’s reserve/futures deals:

Buffalo Bills

Green Bay Packers

Las Vegas Raiders

Miami Dolphins

New York Giants