Bills Players to Watch Ahead of Preseason Week 1

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistAugust 11, 2021

Bills Players to Watch Ahead of Preseason Week 1

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    Joshua Bessex/Associated Press

    The Buffalo Bills do not need a full complement of preseason games to sort out the top of their offensive depth chart. 

    Josh Allen, two running backs and at least four wide receivers had their positions settled before training camp. 

    That leaves a few spots on the active offensive roster up for grabs as the Bills start their preseason schedule against the Detroit Lions on Friday night.

    Buffalo has some healthy competition for the No. 3 running back spot, and it has a few players fighting to be the fifth and sixth wide receivers on the gameday roster.

    Defensively, the Bills will use preseason to sort out some roles in each of the three layers. The most intriguing battle comes at cornerback, where Levi Wallace and Dane Jackson are fighting for a starting spot. 

Matt Breida

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    Joshua Bessex/Associated Press

    Matt Breida could be one of the most-watched running backs in the NFL preseason.

    At the moment, the former San Francisco running back is fighting to be the No. 3 running back in Buffalo behind Devin Singletary and Zack Moss. 

    At minimum, a strong preseason would allow Breida to secure a roster spot with the Bills and earn carries in some spots to take pressure off the two younger running backs. 

    Breida could be watched by other teams as well. If another team needs to fill a need at the position, Breida could be one of the veterans available. 

    Breida produced 2,156 rushing yards in four seasons with the 49ers, but he was one of the odd men out from that loaded running back room in the offseason. Tevin Coleman also departed for the New York Jets

    If the Bills feel comfortable enough with Singletary and Moss splitting the bulk of the carries, they could make Breida available on the trade market and pick up a late-round draft pick in exchange for him.

    Even if Breida has a strong preseason, his time in Buffalo could be limited because Josh Allen is involved in the rushing attack as well. 

Isaiah McKenzie

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    Joshua Bessex/Associated Press

    Isaiah McKenzie should have the inside track to land one of the last offensive spots on the roster. 

    The speedy wideout is stuck in an unenviable situation for a young player since the Bills have four players at the position they will trust to catch a majority of Allen's passes.

    McKenzie still carries value in the Buffalo offense because he can be used in gadget plays in the red zone or on deep balls. He should also be the team's top return man. 

    McKenzie can make a case to earn more offensive snaps throughout the preseason since the workload for Stefon Diggs, Emmanuel Sanders, Cole Beasley and Gabriel Davis should be limited. 

    If McKenzie performs well alongside Buffalo's backup quarterbacks, he should fend off any challengers for one of the final spots on the finalized roster. 

    In the best-case scenario, McKenzie could impress with his route running and pass-catching skills to make a challenge to cut into snaps for Beasley and Davis, but that situation is more likely to develop later in the season if one of those players fails to live up to expectations. 

Levi Wallace

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    Joshua Bessex/Associated Press

    Wallace earned 28 starts over the last two seasons, but he is still fighting for his spot in the starting lineup. 

    Wallace's latest competition for the starting gig is Dane Jackson. Tre'Davious White is already locked into the one starting cornerback role on Buffalo's roster. 

    The fourth-year defensive back did not appear to be bothered by the competition when he was asked about it at training camp, per Sal Maiorana of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: 

    “I feel like (it's) the same question every year; we're competing. I'm in the most competitive job in America. If you're not out here competing, if you're not out here having fun, what are you out here for? Dane's a great corner, so is Cam Lewis, so is Nick (McCloud), so is OG (Olaijah Griffin). There's so many guys that they brought in, there's so many talented guys, you're out here for one reason and one reason alone, to compete.”

    Wallace's positional battle with Jackson will be under close watch throughout the preseason since it is one of the few starting spots being contested across the entire roster. 

    Jackson was a seventh-round pick out of Pittsburgh in the 2020 NFL draft, and he played in five games as a rookie.

    The second-year player displayed enough improvements to be considered for the starting job, but if Wallace performs well in preseason, he should retain the job.


    Statistics obtained from Pro Football Reference.