The cornerback depth chart is something for Buffalo Bills fans to keep a keen eye on heading into 2022’s training camp. As the Bills enter training camp, several positions—many of them apparent and beyond questioning—aren’t a concern for the coaching staff. As stated numerous times already, this team is expected to compete for both the AFC and Super Bowl crowns this season, and there’s no reason to think that won’t be the case.
Even so, cornerback appears to be one of the positions at which the Bills do not have clear-cut starters. Therefore, it will be a position that receives strong attention in the coming weeks and months before the regular season’s opening.
Everyone who reads this post will surely know that the Bills selected Kaiir Elam out of the University of Florida with their first-round pick in this year’s NFL Draft. Elam will be the source of much of the generated curiosity surrounding the cornerback position heading into training camp.
The Athletic makes mention of his presence thus far in voluntary OTAs. And though his struggle against Stefon Diggs, one of the best wide receivers in the NFL, is both expected and not the least bit surprising, fans should be excited about the enthusiasm and comfort he’s already known to show on the field.
At this point, it seems reasonable to expect that Tre’Davious White will have a starting spot at the cornerback position. Rightfully so, as he’s been a featured starter at the position for the last four seasons. Ourlads.com states White has a “[g]ood blend of skills, size, and speed.” But after missing a number of games last season, some attention has been brought to his ability to stay healthy throughout the now 17-game NFL season.
After all, ACL tears are nothing to take lightly and can drastically impact the career of those who suffer them. The best-case scenario, at just 27-years-old, is that he can return to 2019 form when he led the league in interceptions. What’s the worst-case scenario? Well, likely that his injury further inhibits him this season. All will be revealed in time.
That’s Gotta Hurt…
One of the outliers to keep an eye on this training camp will be Dane Jackson, who has been a starter on and off again the last two seasons, but who has seen his position as a starter come into further jeopardy upon the arrival of Kaiir Elam. With just one career interception, much has been left in question about what Jackson’s potential may turn out to be.
At any rate, there’s no reason to believe he couldn’t be an essential piece of easing Elam into his role on the defense. If White proves able to settle back into his pre-ACL tear self and the rookie from Florida can fulfill the potential that many believe he has, then Jackson could find himself in just the right position to be a solid third option at the position.
That Other Rookie
One more piece to this cornerback puzzle is another rookie selection from this year’s draft, Christian Benford out of Villanova University. As I mentioned in a previous piece here on Bills Beat, there’s good reason to be in a position of expectation for the rookie. But at this point, there seems to be little to no expectation from him, primarily due to the amount of coverage his rookie counterpart Elam has received and will continue to receive throughout training camp and into the preseason.
His “good size” and “terrific ball skills” could be nurtured and further developed in a system that would foster such a thing. It seems each NFL season, there’s a rookie or two who steps out of obscurity and into the main dialogue of the league. I don’t know if Benford is one of those players in 2022, but I don’t know that he isn’t.
At this point, the basic look and feel of the depth chart is setting itself. Most insiders and analysts expect Elam and White to be week one starters. But there’s enough ambiguity to this depth chart’s precise technical makeup and function to be worth keeping an eye on. If all goes well and all potential is fulfilled, the Bills could be looking at their problems in the secondary being solved. If all doesn’t go well, there seems to be enough to play with as a coaching staff to find out what’s to be done about it.