Buffalo Bills: Three position battles to watch against the Bears

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

There are still many jobs still available on the Buffalo Bills roster. Here are three position battles to keep an eye on going into tonight’s game.

If you’re a weird football nerd like me, you’re probably getting pretty amped for this fourth and final Buffalo Bills preseason game.

After four weeks of practice and games, there are many jobs still available.

Here are three offensive position battles to keep an eye on going into tonight’s game against the Chicago Bears.

Who’s the starter?

Traditionally, the starting quarterback only plays one series in the fourth preseason game, and some don’t even play at all. Bills Head Coach Sean McDermott has held his cards close to his chest in this QB battle throughout training camp but tonight may be an indication who the starter will be.

So far through the first three games, each of Josh Allen, AJ McCarron and Nathan Peterman have had their shot to start and have all had varied success. The game against the Bears will be telling to who the Bills may have under center Week 1.

Here are the stats after the first three weeks:

Due to the lack of weapons on the outside and a poor offensive line, my bet is on Peterman. But there’s a case to be made for all three.

Tight end battle

It’s fairly safe to pencil in Charles Clay as the starter barring any injury. In fact, I doubt he sees a snap against the Bears. As for the second and third spot, there has been a healthy camp battle throughout the past few weeks featuring third-year gloveless wonder Nick O’Leary, converted wideout Jason Croom, converted quarterback Logan Thomas and fourth-year journeyman Khari Lee.

O’Leary seems to be the guy a lot of fans are ready to cut bait on, but is management? I think they could be because O’Leary is a Rex Ryan holdover and has no ties to the new staff. However, outside of LeSean McCoy, O’Leary was the third on the team in receiving yards in 2017 and proved to be a worthwhile backup.

Jason Croom seems to be eyeing O’Leary’s spot, however. Croom has ties to Nathan Peterman from his days at the University of Tennessee. And he looked great on a 21-yard TD score last week against the Bengals.

Logan Thomas has the benefit of being an extra QB option if need be, but with three capable quarterbacks on the roster already I’m not sure if this type of position flexibility is as valuable as it was a year ago. Plus, at 6-foot-6, 250-pounds, I think his quarterback days are over.

What he does have going for him is a strong showing this preseason. Thomas is a strong blocking tight end and is second on the team in yards and receptions through the first three games and a big game here against Chicago could earn him a roster spot.

Lastly, Kahri Lee is pushing for a roster spot. Arguably the best blocking tight end on the roster. Lee garnered a 75.2 run block grade and a 61.8 pass block grade from Pro Football Focus in limited action last season.

My guess is the Bills will keep one of Lee or Thomas. Whichever of the two players are still on the field late in the fourth quarter could indicate who the Bills are looking to keep on the roster.

What pass catchers will stick?

Kelvin Benjamin is the number one receiver for the Bills. No question about it. The second option is most likely McCoy, but other than contributions from the running back position who knows how the wide receiver depth chart will shake up.

It’s safe to say last year’s second-round pick Zay Jones is safely on the 53-man roster. I think Jeremy Kerley, a nine-year vet, will also secure himself a spot despite not seeing much game action throughout the preseason.

Other than those three, the final two or three receiver spots are up for grabs. Tonight will be a good battle on the outside with Rod Streater, Andre Holmes, Ray-Ray McCloud, Brandon Reilly, Kaelin Clay and Corey Coleman.

Coleman is an interesting case after being acquired midway through camp for a 2020 seventh-round pick. Because it was such a modest price to give up for the former first-rounder, Coleman is not guaranteed a roster spot. However, after finally getting a few weeks of practice under his belt I’d expect Coleman to get a lot of snaps tonight to play himself onto the roster.

In my opinion, Kaelin Clay would have to really impress against the Bears to get himself into the competition. He does hold special teams value as a returner, but the team has a few other options they seem to like over Clay.

McCloud and Reilly are both two young receivers looking to stick with the club. McCloud, the Bills sixth-rounder, started well with a three reception game for 50-yards and a score against the Panthers to open up camp but has been almost nonexistent since.

As for Reilly, he spent a majority of 2017 on the practice squad and has reportedly been playing through a rib injury throughout camp. Both of these players are practice squad eligible so unless they make a splash tonight I wouldn’t expect them on the 53.

As for Streater and Andre Holmes, they are longtime vets and would be solid depth options to fill in should injuries occur. Streater has been efficient catching all three passes that have come his way while Holmes is 2-for-2.

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Expect to hear a lot of names from this article in the game tonight. The fourth preseason game doesn’t typically boast a lot of household names, but it sure can make or break one’s career.