Tyrel Dodson

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.

Bills Have “Open Competition” For QB2 Role

The Bills have an open competition for the backup quarterback job behind Josh Allen, as head coach Sean McDermott confirmed after the team’s first preseason contest yesterday (Twitter link via ESPN’s Alaina Getzenberg). Matt Barkley, who remained with Buffalo via a reserve/futures deal he signed in January, will battle free agent signee Kyle Allen for the QB2 gig.

Kyle Allen, 27, spent the 2022 season with the Texans and has also seen action with the Panthers and Commanders. Last year, he started two games in relief of the struggling Davis Mills and did not perform particularly well, completing 59% of his passes for two TDs against four interceptions (Houston lost both contests). In his pro career, Kyle Allen has a 7-12 record as a starter to go along with an 82.2 quarterback rating.

Barkley, who will turn 33 next month, has just seven career starts to his name, the last of which came in 2018. He spent the 2018-20 seasons with the Bills and saw some action as a fill-in for Josh Allen during that time, and after stints on the Titans’ and Panthers’ taxi squads in 2021, he rejoined Buffalo last March. However, Case Keenum operated as Josh Allen’s backup in 2022, and Barkley spent the year on the Bills’ p-squad.

Kyle Allen got the starting nod in yesterday’s 23-19 victory over the Colts and largely struggled, completing eight of 15 passes for 122 yards and an interception. Statistically, Barkley had the superior outing, as he completed 14 of 15 attempts for 172 yards and two TDs, though it should be noted that his efforts came against Indianapolis’ third-stringers. While acknowledging that Barkley may have gained a slight advantage over Kyle Allen, Joe Buscaglia of The Athletic notes that Barkley did not have much zip on his throws and would not have been as successful against better defenders (subscription required).

Interestingly, Buscaglia believes the player who will ultimately serve as Josh Allen’s clipboard holder may not be on the roster yet. After Kyle Allen’s unimpressive camp and underwhelming preseason performance, and given the lack of speed on Barkley’s passes, GM Brandon Beane may seek a more compelling option to hold the fort in the event of a Josh Allen injury in 2023. Buscaglia names the 49ers’ Sam Darnold as a possible trade target.

There are, of course, other position battles worth monitoring in western New York. Per Buscaglia, Tyrel Dodson appears to be the favorite to win the starting inside linebacker job next to Matt Milano in the wake of Tremaine Edmunds‘ free agent defection to Chicago. Dodson’s primary competition, Terrel Bernard, suffered a hamstring injury in practice last week and did not play against the Colts. And, although second-year pro Baylon Spector got first-team reps in one practice at the end of July, he has not seen another opporunity with the top unit since then. He worked exclusively with the third-string defense in the preseason opener.

Meanwhile, rookie right guard O’Cyrus Torrence played the entire first half against Indianapolis, though Buscaglia suspects incumbent Ryan Bates will get his chance with the first team when the Bills take on the Steelers in their second preseason contest. Offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey recently dubbed the competition between Torrence and Bates “really close” (h/t NFL.com), and it appears the battle remains too close to call.

AFC East Notes: Pats, Dolphins, Hamlin, Bills

The Patriots will join the list of teams to lose OTA days due to minor violations. The NFL docked the Pats two OTA sessions, Mike Reiss of ESPN.com tweets. New England did not practice Wednesday and will see another of its sessions nixed next week. The violation is believed to stem from the NFLPA expressing concern about the Pats’ meeting schedule. A 15-minute special teams meeting appearing on the team’s internal schedule was deemed mandatory in nature, and not voluntary, by the union, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk notes. Bill Belichick incurred a $50K fine, Greg Bedard of the Boston Sports Journal tweets, noting Joe Judge was involved in the violation as well (Twitter links). Pats players were aware they were being asked to stay longer than allowed, per veteran reporter Mike Giardi (on Twitter), with Reiss adding the team was fully cooperative with the NFL inquiry.

While on-field contact has triggered these penalties at various points in the recent past, the Pats’ violation is believed to pertain to only the meeting issue. This punishment certainly can be interpreted as steep for the reported infraction, though the NFLPA made reduced offseason work a key component during the 2011 and 2020 CBA talks.

Here is the latest from the AFC East:

  • Austin Jackson is back at work for the Dolphins, per the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson, participating in OTA sessions after undergoing reconstructive ankle surgery (Twitter link). Jackson did not undergo surgery upon initially injury his ankle — in Week 1 — as Miami’s starting right tackle attempted to return in Week 12. Jackson played 70 offensive snaps in that December game but did not suit up again last season. The Dolphins said before the draft they are planning to give Jackson another shot as their top right tackle, though they subsequently passed on his fifth-year option.
  • Miami did not draft a tackle, but the team did add ex-New England starter Isaiah Wynn. The former first-rounder is working at multiple positions during OTAs, Mike McDaniel said (via Jackson). League rules prohibit media from reporting which positions Wynn is playing, but the former Patriots left tackle did play guard for three seasons at Georgia. Wynn has spent most of his NFL time at left tackle and struggled on the right side following a 2022 position switch. The Dolphins have Terron Armstead locked in at left tackle, but the ex-Saints blocker has run into numerous injury issues during his career. He missed four games last season. Wynn’s Dolphins path could feature a starting right tackle role, a spot as the team’s swingman or potentially a guard gig. Left guard Liam Eichenberg has not solidified his position like right guard Robert Hunt has.
  • Damar Hamlin has made remarkable strides in his recovery and is fully expected to resume his career this season. But the Bills are playing it cautiously. Hamlin received full clearance to return and has worked out with teammates this offseason, but The Athletic’s Joe Buscaglia notes the third-year safety is not yet participating in OTAs (Twitter link). Hamlin’s progress continues to be a situation to monitor in Buffalo, considering the historically rare circumstances he encountered after making a routine tackle in January.
  • A year after re-signing Matt Milano, the Bills let Tremaine Edmunds walk in free agency. The five-year starting linebacker signed a monster Bears contract and left a hole in the Bills’ lineup. Buffalo is likely to look in-house to replace Edmunds, with WGRZ’s Vic Carucci indicating Tyrel Dodson and 2022 third-round pick Terrel Bernard will compete for the middle ‘backer job. A former UDFA, Dodson made three starts last year. He played 220 defensive snaps. Starting one game as a rookie, Bernard played 110. The Bills also brought back veteran A.J. Klein, who has 82 starts on his resume (16 with Buffalo), in April.

Minor NFL Transactions: 3/14/23

Today’s minor transactions:

Arizona Cardinals

Baltimore Ravens

Buffalo Bills

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Houston Texans

Las Vegas Raiders

New England Patriots

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tennessee Titans

NFL COVID List Updates: 12/23/21

We’ve compiled a list of players who were placed or activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list today. In some instances, players activated from the list remain on IR:

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Buffalo Bills

Carolina Panthers

Chicago Bears

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Houston Texans

Kansas City Chiefs

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Rams

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

New York Giants

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

Pittsburgh Steelers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Washington Football Team

Minor NFL Transactions:  12/13/21

Today’s minor moves:

Buffalo Bills

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Kansas City Chiefs

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

San Francisco 49ers

Washington Football Team

Minor NFL Transactions: 12/12/20

Here is Saturday’s usual barrage of minor moves:

Buffalo Bills

Carolina Panthers

Cincinnati Bengals

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Kansas City Chiefs

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

Los Angeles Rams

  • Placed on reserve/COVID-19 list: LB Jachai Polite; Polite tested positive for the coronavirus, according to ESPN.com’s Field Yates (via Twitter)

Minnesota Vikings

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tennessee Titans

Washington Football Team

Minor NFL Transactions: 10/24/20

Here is another spree of Saturday minor moves:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Buffalo Bills

Carolina Panthers

Chicago Bears

  • Moved from IR to reserve/COVID-19 list: CB Michael Joseph

Cincinnati Bengals

Dallas Cowboys

Green Bay Packers

Jacksonville Jaguars

Kansas City Chiefs

Las Vegas Raiders

  • Promoted: CB Dylan Mabin

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

New York Jets

  • Activated from IR: OL Cameron Clark
  • Promoted: K/P Sergio Castillo, LB Bryce Hager

Pittsburgh Steelers

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Tennessee Titans

Washington Football Team

NFL Practice Squad Updates: 11/6/19

Today’s practice squad moves:

Baltimore Ravens

Buffalo Bills

Detroit Lions

Jacksonville Jaguars

  • Signed: DE Chuck Harris

Kansas City Chiefs

Minnesota Vikings

New York Jets

  • Signed: OL James Murray

Pittsburgh Steelers