The Buffalo Bills haven’t been shy about pointing out that young players have been getting a lot of work for them in 2018.
Coach Sean McDermott mentions it weekly. According to the team’s media-relations department, the Bills rank fourth in the NFL with 33.8 percent of their offensive and defensive snaps being taken by rookies or second-year players.
At times this season, pointing that out felt like excuse-making for ugly performances. After Sunday’s win, however, it’s easy to spin it as a sign of brighter days to come. Rookies and second-year players shone in a 41-10 victory over the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium.
“It was good to see us get going early, opening it up early. I thought it was also good to see a lot of our young guys make significant contributions, whether it was on the offensive side, defensive side, special teams,” McDermott said. “It was a good team win overall.”
Here’s a look at the number of snaps played by rookies or second-year players Sunday on offense: Dion Dawkins, 73; Wyatt Teller, 73; Zay Jones, 72; Jason Croom, 44; Robert Foster, 33; Ray-Ray McCloud, 19; and Isaiah McKenzie, 7.
And here’s the numbers on defense: Levi Wallace, 56; Tremaine Edmunds, 53; Tre’Davious White, 52; Matt Milano, 44; Harrison Phillips, 21; Eddie Yarbrough, 18; Deon Lacey, 12; Taron Johnson, 12; Ryan Lewis, 6; and Siran Neal, 4.
“We got four or five, and at times five or six, first- and second-year players playing at the same on the field on the defensive side,” McDermott said. “So it is good to see.”
Teller and Wallace each made their first career start and took every snap.
“I made sure I kept my jersey and everything,” Teller said. “I'll give that one to my mom. It was a blessing. ... It's nice to come out healthy and happy and with a win.”
Teller was part of an offensive line that had its best showing of the season. The Bills were able to run the ball almost at will, and quarterback Matt Barkley had enough time to make plays.
“We ran the ball early and often and got it going,” Teller said. “LeSean McCoy had an amazing day. You can do that when you get your running backs some space. When you get the job done, it's pretty.”
Dawkins, the team’s second-year left tackle, was impressed with what he saw next to him.
“He played extremely well and I'm proud of him,” he said of Teller. “He played hungry, and I would say, like a wild man. Just running around and being a dog.”
Teller got his first taste of game action in Week 9, and he did enough to earn the promotion to starter. The fifth-round draft pick had been inactive for the first eight weeks of the season.
“The biggest thing is trusting our technique. It takes a while to develop and play against these guys,” he said. “Even today, it was sloppy. It just shows me where it can be and how good it can be. It gives me optimism, it gives me hope, but it's also ... you know what you've got to work on -- being on the ground too much today. You want to be a mauler, but you don't want to be crazy and out of your mind and on the ground. That's not helping anybody. There's a couple plays I wish had back, but that's the mindset of getting better.”
Wallace, meanwhile, went from the practice squad straight into the starting lineup and was part of a secondary that gave up just 135 passing yards.
“I'm pretty excited about it. I'm just trying to go out there and play the best for my teammates, really,” he said. “The coaches let me know a couple days ago that I was going to start. I just wanted to give a good performance, mostly for them, not for me. … We played good as a whole defense, and I'm just glad to be a part of it.”
Wallace, a former walk-on at Alabama, has been on the practice squad since the start of the regular season.
“He wants us to compete whether we're active or not,” Wallace said of McDermott. “Anything can happen. It's a long season. I think they liked my competitiveness and they happened to make the move. They told me it could be any day, and I just had to be ready.”
He said he didn’t have any nerves before his first professional game.
“I’ve played on big stages before in college, so that didn’t intimidate me at all,” he said.
The Bills dropped to sixth in the draft order by improving their record to 3-7. They are behind Oakland, the New York Giants, San Francisco, Arizona and the New York Jets.
Stat of the game: 313
That's the number of yards piled up by the Buffalo offense in the first half, producing four touchdowns. That's the most by the team since 2000, when it had 332 yards and four touchdowns against Seattle. For the game, the Bills outgained the Jets, 451-199. Buffalo went 8 of 16 on third downs, while the Jets were just 1 of 12.
Game ball: Matt Barkley
The journeyman quarterback, signed less than two weeks ago, played the game of his career. Barkley went 15 of 25 for 232 yards and two touchdowns (it was almost three, but Zay Jones fumbled at the 1-yard line). Barkley's touchdown pass to Jones in the second half was as good as it gets. He stepped up in the pocket, avoided the rush, kept his eyes downfield and delivered a strike. Barkley finished the game with a passer rating of 117.4.
Quote of the day
“I've seen him practice well. The biggest thing that I really appreciated about Matt was the way he led the football team. He had good energy during the week, and the look in his eye today was a good one. He brought a good energy to our offense and gave the receivers a chance to make plays on the ball. At the end of the day, he took care of the football, which we haven't done to this point of late. When you take care of the football, you give yourself a chance to win." — McDermott on Barkley's first start.
Snap count notes
1. Jason Croom took over as the primary tight end with starter Charles Clay out because of a hamstring injury. Croom, who recovered Jones' fumble for a touchdown, took 44 offensive snaps, 60 percent of the team total. Logan Thomas, who executed a perfect fake punt, played 30 snaps on offense (41 percent) and 22 on special teams (71 percent.
2. Wide receiver Terrelle Pryor's workload decreased sharply. After taking 75 offensive snaps (82 percent) in his first game with the team, Pryor was on the field for just 31 snaps Sunday.
3. Linebacker Matt Milano played 44 defensive snaps (79 percent), missing the final 12 after getting hurt early in the fourth quarter. With Milano out, Deon Lacey got 12 defensive snaps to go along with the 22 he played on special teams.
4. Rookie linebacker Tremaine Edmunds played 53 of 56 defensive snaps in his return from a one-game absence because of a concussion. He sat out the Jets' final drive with the Bills holding a big lead, leading to former Jets linebacker Julian Stanford getting three defensive snaps against his old team.
5. A shoulder injury limited rookie cornerback Taron Johnson to 12 snaps. That meant more work for third safety Rafael Bush, who stepped in to take 36 defensive snaps.
The Bills enter their bye week in a good mood. The team will get a chance to rest and recover before hosting former head coach Doug Marrone and the Jacksonville Jaguars on Nov. 25 at New Era Field. The Jaguars are struggling a year after making the AFC Championship Game, with a 3-6 record. Jacksonville has a tough game against Pittsburgh in Week 11.
Story topics: Charles Clay/ Deon Lacey/ Dion Dawkins/ doug marrone/ Eddie Yarbrough/ Harrison Phillips/ Isaiah McKenzie/ Jason Croom/ Julian Stanford/ Logan Thomas/ Matt Barkley/ Matt Milano/ Rafael Bush/ Ray-Ray McCloud/ Robert Foster/ Sean McDermott/ Taron Johnson/ Terrelle Pryor/ Tre'davious White/ Tremaine Edmunds/ Zay Jones