Bills rookie could steal veteran’s job based on play vs. Steelers (Encouraged/worried)

The depth of the Buffalo Bills was on display against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 5.

Buffalo entered the game down multiple starters, but you would never have known it watching the game. On defense, players like Tyrel Dodson, Damar Hamlin and Jaquan Johnson flew all over the field while making numerous plays.

The same could be said for an offense that was down their top two slot receivers and starting tight end. Rookie Khalil Shakir stepped into the starting lineup for the first time in his career and made three big plays for the offense. Needless to say, it won’t be his last start and he could be well on his way to taking one veteran’s spot.

Veteran Isaiah Hodgins also played well in his first extended NFL action with four catches for 41 yards and Quintin Morris also stepped up at tight end. Although he had one lost fumble in the matchup, Morris should have good hands and the ability to lay out for passes on his way to a three catch performance.

It’s good to have excellent depth, but Buffalo also seems to be getting healthy at the right time. With a big matchup looming against the Kansas City Chiefs, the Bills could get a few of their starters back for the game.

Before looking ahead to this week’s game, here are reasons to be encouraged and worried about Buffalo following their 38-3 win over the Steelers.

ENCOURAGED

Khalil Shakir

Khalil Shakir had to wait for his opportunity, but he’s running with it.

After the team lost Isaiah McKenzie and Jamison Crowder, Shakir found some playing time in Week 4 against the Ravens. He recorded two receptions with both going for first downs.

This week, Shakir was in the starting lineup in the slot and performed well. Shakir recorded three catches for 75 yards and one touchdown. His first target, a catch where he was surrounded by three defenders, was Shakir’s most impressive reception of the game.

In addition to stepping up in the receiving game, Shakir showed what he could do as the team’s kick returner. Shakir’s lone return went for 34 yards.

Shakir is only going to get better with more playing time. Buffalo can certainly find ways to utilize Shakir and Isaiah McKenzie at the same time, but the rookie could end up taking over Jamison Crowder’s role.

Tyrell Dodson

Tremaine Edmunds has been excellent this season so there was some concern when the linebacker was on the team’s inactive list. Any concerns were quickly erased by the play of Tyrel Dodson against the Steelers.

Dodson was excellent against the run and recorded one of the team’s three sacks on Kenny Pickett. Dodson finished the game as Buffalo’s leading tackler (11).

Dodson stepped up in a big way on Sunday.

Damar Hamlin

Speaking of stepping up, Damar Hamlin seems locked in as one of the Bills’ safety options for the remainder of the season. Hamlin looks comfortable in Leslie Frazier’s defense, is making plays every week and has been one of the team’s best tacklers.

On Sunday, Hamlin recorded eight tackles (1 TFL). Teammates are taking note of his play.

“He’s been great,” Bills cornerback Taron Johnson said. “There’s no drop off with both safeties. It’s a testament to who (Brandon) Beane’s brought here and the coaching staff. They do a great job developing players and you can see obviously they’re supposed to be out here.”

Josh Allen

Josh Allen threw for 424 yards and four touchdowns and added 42 yards on the ground against the Steelers. The scariest part? Allen missed a few throws and he didn’t even play for most of the fourth quarter.

Allen is playing on another level right now and as some defenses just aren’t going to be able to stop him.

Bills OL

Maybe the line is finally gelling.

Multiple offensive linemen missed time at training camp and there have been some injuries early in the season as well. On Sunday, however, the unit looked the best it has to date.

Against the Steelers, Buffalo’s offensive line allowed just one QB hit and did not give up any sacks. In the run game, the unit put up their best blocking performance to date as well. All three backs were able to average seven yards per carry or more on the ground against Pittsburgh. In all, Devin Singletary, James Cook and Zack Moss combined for 80 yards and one touchdown on 11 carries.

Stefon Diggs/Gabe Davis

Buffalo’s 1-2 punch had their way against the Steelers.

Gabe Davis stole the show with a 98-yard touchdown reception and a 62-yard score in the first half of Buffalo’s matchup against Pittsburgh. He finished with 171 yards and two touchdowns on just three receptions.

Stefon Diggs did not finish with as many receiving yards as Davis, but he was Allen’s favorite target and went over 100 yards on the day. Diggs finished with an 8-102-1 stat line on 11 targets.

As long as this duo can stay healthy, Diggs and Davis will be one of the best receiver duos in the league.

Bills run defense

Buffalo was able to make the Steelers somewhat one-dimensional in their blowout win, but yards were hard to come by when the Steelers’ backs were given the ball. Najee Harris averaged under two yards per carry in the loss (11-20) while Jaylen Warren added 24 yards on the ground in the game.

James Cook

James Cook’s rookie year got off to a slow start, but he made a big play in the second half of Sunday’s game. Buffalo’s rookie back showed off his vision and burst on a 24-yard touchdown run against the Steelers.

If he can continue to break away from the opposition and make big plays for Buffalo, Cook’s role will grow.

WORRIED

Cairo Elam

Kaiir Elam did record an interception on Sunday so things were not all bad for the rookie cornerback. That said, Pittsburgh’s game plan involved throwing at the rookie early and often and the team had plenty of success.

In the win, Elam allowed 10 receptions to Steelers receivers for 126 yards.

Kansas City will certainly take note of Elam’s struggles and throw at him plenty on Sunday. Buffalo will need the rookie to have a much better outing on Sunday if the team hopes to knock off the Chiefs.

Leaving points on the field

Buffalo didn’t need them against Pittsburgh, but the team left points on the field against the Steelers.

Josh Allen missed what should have been a touchdown pass to Stefon Diggs early in the game and had another drive end on an interception in the end zone. Missing out on 14 points to the Steelers is one thing, but if they leave that many points on the field against the Chiefs next week, the team will probably find themselves on the losing end of the matchup.

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