The Buffalo Bills lost their first preseason game of the 2018 season, but that's not what matters. What really counts is how these players looked in their first real action.
Here are five observations from the Buffalo Bills' first preseason game:
(1) Quarterback play. The biggest question mark entering the 2018 season is who the starting quarterback will be. The Bills seem content with letting Josh Allen develop. That leaves A.J. McCarron and Nathan Peterman to battle it out for the starting job.
Peterman got the start and did not disappoint. He completed nine of his 10 passes for 119 yards and a touchdown. He threw an interception, but it wasn't completely his fault. He threw a short pass that was slightly behind Chris Ivory, but it was still catchable. His rapport with No. 1 wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin didn't go unnoticed. Peterman looked his way often and his only touchdown pass went to Benjamin.
McCarron posted good numbers, too. He completed seven of 10 passes for 116 yards. His best play came on a 59-yard pass to wide receiver Brandon Reilly. The long play set up a Marcus Murphy touchdown run.
Allen was the least consistent of the three, but that shouldn't be a surprise. He made some good throws and missed a few. His touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter was a beauty. He also showed off his scrambling ability. He is a solid runner and that was on display Thursday night.
(2) Bills' running back depth behind LeSean McCoy. Two guys who stood out against the Carolina Panthers: Marcus Murphy and Keith Ford. Murphy is a known commodity. He is a versatile running back who can run and catch. Ford is a better runner than pass catcher. His 12-yard run was his best and it showcased his shiftiness and power.
Chris Ivory had one rush, but his best play came on a 29-yard reception. He's going to get a lot of opportunities in the passing game.
With the Bills resting (protecting?) McCoy, the running backs behind him got an opportunity. The Bills need that depth at running back. Ivory's pass catching ability will help ease the burden on McCoy. And if Ford and Murphy both make the team, they can pick up some carries.
(3) Harrison Phillips. In limited action, Phillips had the Bills' lone sack. He also made a great play chasing down former college teammate Christian McCaffrey. It wasn't a great moment for the Bills' defense because McCaffrey had a big gain, but Phillips showed off his athleticism. He has the potential to be a great defensive tackle in this league.
(4) Kelvin Benjamin is the No. 1 receiver. There was no doubt before. Benjamin caught four passes for 59 yards and a touchdown in his limited time. The rapport with Peterman is important. If Peterman ends up being the starting quarterback, they will need to be on the same page. With a limited playbook, they had no trouble connecting.
(5) Who else stood out? There were some plays he might want back, but Mike Love had two tackles for a loss against the run. His work off the edge was solid. If he cleans up his game, he could be a great reserve defensive end this season. He doesn't have a strong pass rush, but he's good against the run. That can be an asset for a team that had one of the worst run defenses last season.
On offense, Ray-Ray McCloud made a nice catch over the middle and caught Allen's touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter. The competition at wide receiver is, well, wide open. McCloud faces a tough fight for a roster spot, but games like this will help him make his case.