The Buffalo Bills (1-1) appeared to have righted the ship following their disastrous season opener, bouncing back big time in Week 2 to defeat the Las Vegas Raiders 38-10, and they did so without cornerback Kaiir Elam.
Elam, whom the Bills traded up to land with the No. 23 overall pick in the 2022 NFL draft, was a healthy scratch in Week 1, during which Buffalo suffered a demoralizing 22-16 loss to the New York Jets in Week 1. While some head coaches make adjustments after such a defeat, head coach Sean McDermott rolled with the same lineup in Week 2, and Elam remained on the bench.
Unless one of the starting cornerbacks gets injured, it appears Elam’s inactive role will remain permanent. However, the 22-year-old told The Buffalo News that he’s committed to getting back out there. As for his relationship with the team, Elam said that’s not an issue. “Of course,” he answered when asked if he’s still looking to make things work in Buffalo.
“It’s the team that drafted me. I love (general manager) Brandon Beane and his belief in me and I love the town of Buffalo. The people here, I’ve never been anywhere like this, where the people really care. I’m going to continue to work my butt off. This is the team that took a chance on me, believed in me, and drafted me. I think I can help us win. I just have to keep competing.”
As Buffalo prepares to take on the Washington Commanders (2-0) on Sunday, September 24, the second-year cornerback, who was only a health scratch once last season, opened up about trying to stay positive this season.
“I would just say believing in myself, going out there, and putting out great film in practice – the same thing I tried to show in training camp,” he said. “Continue to make plays and continue to find something I can get better at.”
Amid the adversity, Elam looks to be inactive again in Week 3, he’s grateful for his family’s support. “My loved ones, I’m always checking on them to make sure they’re good, but at this time, my mom and dad are checking in on me and making sure I’m good,” he said.
Kaiir Elam Is Working Hard to Stay Ready
When Elam entered training camp, the starting corner position was his to lose after recording 41 total tackles, four passes defended, and two interceptions, along with a third pick in the playoffs.
The 22-year-old seemed a bit confused about his demotion since he “definitely, for sure, without a doubt” showed improvement throughout the preseason. “I think I made a lot of plays on the ball with the 1s (starters) and 2s (backups) and I didn’t give up anything deep.”
Christian Benford, the Bills’ sixth-round pick from the 2022 NFL draft, won the starting job opposite cornerback Tre’Davious White, while Taron Johnson plays in the nickel slot. With cornerback Dane Jackson’s ability to contribute on special teams, Elam, who signed a four-year, $13.69 million contract last year, is the odd man out.
In the meantime, Elam is focused on improving his game. This past week, “I’ve been on the scout team so enhancing my technique,” he said. “Washington plays a lot of ‘off’ (coverage) so I’m trying to make plays in (that coverage) and staying square and getting in and out of my breaks.”
Sean McDermott Gushed Over Christian Benford’s Performance in Week 1
While there were few highlights from the Bills’ loss in Week 1, Benford chasing down Jets running back Breece Hall’s explosive 83-yard run from the opposite boundary, which kept their opponents to a field goal instead of a touchdown, stood out.
During a press conference on September 13, McDermott was so effusive in his praise for Benford as an all-around player, it must’ve been tough for Elam to hear.
“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.”