Will A Bills Rookie Or The Vet Get The Opportunity For CB2?

September 14, 2022

Going into the season it was presumed that once Tre’ White was back, the Bills would be starting he and Elam on the outside at corner. Now with the emergence of Dane Jackson and Christian Benford, that theory is in question. We’re going to get into the weeds and give an educated guess as to who that will ultimately be.

The Case For Dane Jackson

Dane has been around this Bills team for a few years now and has always caught the eye of Mafia members. He was drafted in the seventh round out of Pittsburgh during the 2020 NFL draft. Bouncing between the practice squad and active roster his rookie season, Jackson showed flashes of the possibility of being the starter opposite Tre White if Levi Wallace eventually left in free agency. In the five games Dane played in that year he had 15 total tackles with one for a loss, one interception which came in a crucial game against the Jets, one fumble recovery, and five pass breakups.

In Dane’s second season with the team, he was promoted to the active roster after a solid rookie campaign being designated as the third CB behind Tre White and Levi Wallace. With the mafia growing stale of average corner play from Levi, Dane was starting to gain momentum from the fans to see him on the field. Unfortunately, he did but at a loss. On Thanksgiving of 2021 Tre White went down with a non-contact injury and his season ended with a torn ACL.

The mafia got what it wanted but at a major cost, now we were all going to see if the hype from the first season was real. He had played in the games previous to Tre’s injury but in a sparing role and on special teams. With Dane in the starting role, there were many questions about whether he would be targeted by opposing offenses. It’s safe to say he wasn’t. Only finishing the season with 41 total tackles and no pass breakups or interceptions.

So why is and was everyone so fascinated by him? A seventh-round pick with average size, athleticism, and ball skills. It’s sort of a remake of the Levi Wallace story. Dane Jackson has always been doubted and looked over. Never thought of being the number one answer at any level but always a backup. He turned that into a fire inside of him. He hasn’t given up any big plays or had any blunders while being a starter in this defense.

Dane does what we were all told to do since our first days of football which is “do your job” and has done that very well. Kicking off this 2022 season with a tough matchup against the Super Bowl champs and the triple crown king in Cooper Kupp. Now we all know there’s no such thing as stopping Kupp, but Dane was at least able to slow him down a bit while along with the other corners shutting down big fish free agent wide receiver Allen Robinson, holding him to only one catch for 12 yards. (For more Dane Jackson stats follow this link: https://www.espn.com/nfl/player/stats/_/id/3895791/dane-jackson)

Bills’ Rookie First Round Phenom

Drafted in the first round of this past draft, Kaiir Elam was figured to be the starting cb2 opposite of Dane Jackson and then the starter opposite of Tre when he was finally back and healthy. The play of Dane Jackson and Christian Benford has put those thoughts to an immediate halt. Throughout the training camp, all we heard was praise for how well Kaiir was doing up against the likes of Stefon Diggs and Gabriel Davis. Then in the pre-season, we saw him be the starter in the “dress rehearsal” against the Broncos.

After that game Bills Mafia figured he had the position locked up but then come the third preseason game, he was back out there playing against second and third stringers, yet again putting a question mark on where he stood on the team. Dane Jackson wasn’t playing in that game, but Christian Benford was the opposite of Kaiir.

In the pre-season, Elam wasn’t targeted many times and totaled only two tackles and two passes deflected while giving up a touchdown in the game against the Panthers starters. He’s a freak of an athlete running a sub 4.40 40-yard dash at the combine and standing at 6’1″. He scored extremely well on all the physical tests the last was the mental side. During a meeting with the Bills before the draft, Kaiir had written out notes of how he could fit into the Bills’ game plan and what he thought could’ve been done differently or better last year on the field for the team. Quite impressive from the rookie.

When Elam was drafted and received the call from Terry Pegula, Kaiir was a man of few words. But of the few words that he did get out, he asked for the defensive playbook to be put on the plane so he could get to work right away while traveling to Buffalo to sign his rookie contract. (See that video here: https://www.buffalobills.com/video/bills-embedded-2022-nfl-draft-put-the-playbook-on-the-plane) From the mental side to the physical ability and being the first-round pick, all signs are pointing toward him being the new cb2 for Buffalo, but not if Benford has anything to say about it.

Bills’ Surprise Sixth Round Pick Christian Benford

Much like Dane, Christian has always been overlooked. Like you’ve read in the previous Wings Of The Week about Benford, he went to Villanova, not exactly a football powerhouse, after not receiving any scholarship offers from a power five school. Not being a freak of nature athletically he makes up for it by being an absolute ball hawk, finishing his collegiate career with 13 interceptions. He’s sticky in coverage and knows how to leverage his body to keep the quarterback guessing whether he is going to break on the ball or not.

After being drafted in the sixth round of this past year’s draft, Benford was a training camp star catching both eyes and interceptions. We heard the rumors he was getting some run with the first-team defense, but most players get that opportunity just to see if there is a diamond in the rough. And would ya look at that, the Bills found one. Benford refused to go away and give up the open position to fellow rookie Kaiir Elam and continues to fight for the cb2 position across the board.

In the season opener, Christian received the nod from McDermott and started over Elam, which is something of note. The two players did platoon every two defensive series throughout the game. Both rookies had their ups and downs giving up plays to Cooper Kupp but for the most part, held their own very well. In the game, he had three total tackles and a pass deflection but in total the ball was not thrown his direction many times. Benford coming from a small school was presumed to have growing pains with such a big jump in surrounding talent but again he hasn’t backed down from the challenge yet.

Where Do The Bills Go From Here?

Looking ahead McDermott has quite the conundrum on his hands. Does he play the more experienced but undersized corner in Dane Jackson or will he go his usual route and play the rookie first-round pick in Kaiir? Christian Benford has probably been the most exciting out of these three players but will the stage be too big for him to overcome? My assumption is Dane leads the way for the cb2 position when Tre can come back. He hasn’t given the coaching staff a reason to take him off the field since stepping on it but will more than likely be on a short leash with the rookies breathing down his neck.

Elam and Benford are fighting for the cb3 spot in case Dane does start slacking and the defense needs a fresh face on the field. First, off the bench should this situation come about would be Kaiir. McBeane believes in fighting through the growing pains, especially with first-round picks, and would love to throw Elam into the fire to get any rookie mistakes out of him. Benford is a great luxury the Bills now have and should any other corner go down I believe he will be the first one off the bench. He has proven himself too much to not be on the active roster whether it’s a reserve role, starter, or finding his way onto special teams.

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