Buffalo Bills training camp is almost two weeks done, and we’re starting to see some of the same faces making big plays day in and day out.
Part of the fun in NFL training camp is getting to see young or unproven players finally get a chance to test themselves against NFL veterans. While it can be a struggle for some, others rise to the occasion and can endear themselves to fanbases early on.
We’re starting to see a little bit of that happening early in Buffalo Bills training camp, both with some highly touted rookies and also some that the fans were less sure of coming into the preseason.
Perhaps the most talked about rookie in Bills camp is fifth-round pick Khalil Shakir. So far this preseason, reports have suggested that Shakir has “good hands,” “quick burst” and strong “run after the catch” ability. In fact, Shakir has stood out at basically all practices except for one. His routes have been smooth and he might have some of the best hands in the Buffalo Bills receiving room.
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Given the draft pick investment in Shakir, he seems like a lock to make the 53-man roster, but his performance in training camp is showing that might be more than just a placeholder 5th receiver but somebody who could work himself onto the field early in his career and be a legitimate option for Josh Allen in four wide receiver sets.
Also drawing praise in training camp has been third-round rookie Terrel Bernard. The linebacker was not a popular pick when the Bills took him, with many fans and analysts thinking that the 6’1″ 225-pound Baylor product was under-sized and far worse than other options on the board.
However, Bernard has impressed by flying all over the field during training camp. His speed and athleticism are evident anytime he’s on the field. Bernard has also flourished in pass coverage as well, which is a welcome sight for the Buffalo Bills given the type of dynamic offenses they will face during the season. Bernard’s ability to fill-in for Matt Milano as that pass coverage linebacker only strengthens his case to be the primary back-up at the second level now that A.J. Klein is gone.
Lastly, while much attention has been paid to the training camp battles between Stefon Diggs and first-round pick Kaiir Elam, another rookie cornerback has been grabbing attention: sixth-round pick Christian Benford. The Villanova product is a big corner at 6’1″ and 200 pounds, which fits the size and length that the Bills look for in corners who can use their long arms to defend passes and keep receivers from getting into their chest.
With Tre’Davious White still working his way back from injury, Benford has gotten some reps against Diggs and Gabriel Davis and shown that he has NFL talent. He reads routes well and has been staying with receivers using good technique and physicality. Obviously, it’s still just a practice setting and the Buffalo Bills will need to see him deliver in preseason games, but having more depth at cornerback would be a great thing with the pass-happy state of the NFL.
Obviously, for all of these young rookies, game situations will be really telling in terms of how quickly they will help Buffalo this season. With preseason games just a few days away, we’ll start to get answers to those questions relatively soon.