The Buffalo Bills (0-1) didn’t have many highlights to discuss following their lackluster Week 1 performance against the New York Jets (1-0), however, if head coach Sean McDermott could pick an outstanding moment to go viral, it would be cornerback Christian Benford’s big play.
The Bills sixth-round pick from the 2022 NFL draft chased down running back Breece Hall’s explosive 83-yard run from the opposite boundary, which kept the Jets to a field goal instead of a touchdown.
During a press conference on Wednesday, September 13, McDermott was so effusive in his praise for Benford, who won the starting job over their 2022 first-round pick, Kaiir Elam, it seemed to cement the latter’s role on the bench.
“I mean, you wanna talk about a play that should be shown on ‘SportsCenter,’” McDermott said. “And we’re trying to teach our kids habits and proper habits, and those are the plays to me that need to be shown to kids when you’re trying to teach them, hey, this is how you play the game. This is how you live your life.”
“He outworked people and the result of it was it saved us four points at the end of the day… I think that’s what should be written about. That’s what should be on television if we’re teaching our kids and society the right way.”
Between Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ season-ending injury on the team’s first offensive drive, Garrett Wilson’s insane touchdown catch while completely covered by Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White, and of course, Xavier Gipson’s walk-off punt return score in overtime, Benford’s play didn’t make the rounds.
Kaiir Elam Was a Healthy Scratch Ahead of the Bills’ Season Opener
It wasn’t a huge surprise to see Elam inactive for the season opener, as the cornerback competition to start opposite White quickly became a battle between Benford and Dane Jackson during training camp, however, it was no less disappointing.
When Buffalo traded up to land Elam as their No. 23 overall pick last year, they didn’t envision him being a healthy scratch on game day, especially in his sophomore season.
Elam, who signed a four-year, $13.6 million rookie contract with the Bills last year, appeared in 13 games with six starts in 2022, recording 41 tackles and 2 interceptions. Benford, who missed time due to an oblique injury, appeared in nine games and started five, tallying 24 tackles and an interception.
Elam had a chance to reclaim his role as a starter during the preseason, but ultimately fell further down the depth chart. Syracuse.com‘s Ryan Talbot suggested the Bills cut their losses and trade Elam while SI’s Mike Fisher concluded it might not be worth it.
“Elam’s value at this moment could not possibly be lower,” Fisher wrote on August 26. “Is he a ‘bust,’ as guys in this spot are so frequently labeled? Is he a bad fit in this system? (If so, shame on the Bills.) Is he salvageable in a way that makes a former first-round pick, who is still just  years old, worth way more than the junk pick that would surely be offered in trade?
“That last answer seems like the best one… with the Bills owing it to themselves to continue working toward the selection of Elam having a positive outcome.”
Christian Benford Played Every Single Defensive Snap in Week 1
The Bills are clearly not heeding Fisher’s advice. With Elam inactive, Benford participated in all 54 defensive snaps in Week 1, per The Buffalo News, which shows McDermott isn’t planning to rotate at the position.
The Villanova alum participated in 27 coverage snaps, per Pro Football Focus, recorded 4 tackles, and was targeted twice, allowing just 1 reception for 14 yards.
When asked about McDermott’s comments on Wednesday, “It means a lot to see that,” the second-year corner said. “The honor and respect. It’s a wholesome thing. It’s good to hear him say that.”