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Bills Today: Wide receiver battle going down to the wire

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1. Wide receiver battle going down to the wire

The battle between wide receivers didn’t cool off in the third preseason game against the Lions. Receivers Duke Williams and Isaiah McKenzie were bright spots in the passing game. Receiver Ray-Ray McCloud III also made his share of plays offensively.

“Good competition,” head coach Sean McDermott said. “I know this about our guys they love to compete. You know to your point one guy made a play and another guy feels like he has to make a play.”

Williams, who received some first-team reps, scored his second touchdown of the preseason on a 16-yard pass from quarterback Matt Barkley. Williams pulled down the contested catch using his sheer size and strength to get into the endzone.

“You know it all starts with practice," Williams explained. "Coach gave me the opportunity to make plays and I’ve been doing that in practice and it carried over to the game. We are a hard-working team. We all work, but without our goal line and Barkley putting it in a place where I can catch it, none of that would be possible.”

“He’s earned that [first-team reps and more snaps] and we wanted to see him some more, added McDermott. "Some with Josh [Allen] and some with Matt [Barkley] again like we did last week. Obviously, he made a big play and we’ve got to look at the rest of the tape to see what was going around that in terms of the plays that happened both run and pass.”

McKenzie scored early showcasing his versatility on a six-yard run in the second quarter. It won’t be easy for Sean McDermott and general manager Brandon Beane to trim the fat in the wide receiver room with eight receivers, including returner Andre Roberts, consistently making plays.

“At the end of the day, I’m just trying to earn myself a position on this team," Williams said. "I’m not trying to make anything bigger than what it is, I still have a week left to prove to these coaches that I want to be here.”

Williams finished the night catching three passes for 15 yards. McCloud III caught two passes for 29 yards.

2. Defense has strong first half performance

The defense had a solid performance in the first half against the Lions in the third preseason game. One of the leaders of the night was defensive end Shaq Lawson who started at right end in place of starter Jerry Hughes. Lawson had one sack for a loss of nine yards. Rookies made plays as well. Safety Jaquan Johnson stripped a ball and recovered the fumble in the fourth quarter.

“You see Quan [Jaquan Johnson] make the play in the fourth quarter,” said McDermott. “Some young guys stepping in and making the most of the opportunity, which that becomes a mindset with our football team so that was good to see.”

Linebacker Deon Lacey also recorded a sack. Linebacker Tremaine Edmunds finished the night with a team-high eight tackles. Safety Micah Hyde spoke to the talent of the defense while he was interviewed by CBS’ Melanie Collins during the game.

“We know we are overlooked,” Hyde said. “We feel like we don’t get enough credit, but at the end of the day it’s the NFL, you’ve got to work each and every week and you’ve got to prove yourself.”

In quarterback Matthew Stafford’s first preseason appearance, Detroit went two for 13 on third down. A good stat but McDermott thinks the defense could have had a better night overall.

“Not good enough,” McDermott explained. “It wasn’t ideal field position, but I thought we held them to some field goals and got off the field on that fourth down there in the red zone. Overall we’ve got work to do.”

3. Josh Allen sees positives and learning lessons in third preseason game

Quarterback Josh Allen received the most preseason playing time yet against the Lions. Allen was on the field for seven series, which lasted until the end of the second quarter. The quarterback finished the night going three of six for 49 yards, adding 17 yards on the ground.

Allen’s lesson of the night came on a second-and-four play in the first quarter where Allen was flushed out of the pocket and decided to throw across his body into tight coverage. The pass was intercepted by linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin, intended for receiver Robert Foster. Lucky for Allen, the Lions received a roughing the passer call on the play.

“Obviously I wish I was a little smarter with the football tonight,” Allen said. “There was one play in particular we got bailed out there. It’s just something that I just can’t do and I know I can’t do that, but I’m glad it happened in the preseason. Just a reminder of what I can and can’t do. I understood that we wanted to run the ball and I wanted to take a shot and I can’t go in with that mindset. I’ve got to be smarter with the football there.”

Allen was pleased he remained in the game for two quarters. The quarterback was a part of a little more than a two-minute drive which resulted in a Devin Singletary touchdown.

“Doing all this stuff that we are doing in preseason helps us prepare for the first game and going into the regular season,” Allen said. “We understand that these reps are super valuable, going out there and getting in sync. Like I said, I’m trying to be on the same page with our receivers, communication with myself, the linemen and the running backs. Just seeing different things, it’s all football at the end of the day. We are still playing on the same field so we have to go out there and execute the best we can.”

Head coach Sean McDermott said Allen was impressive in the two-minute drill but needs to make smarter decisions with the football.

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