Despite sloppy loss, Kelvin Benjamin gives Bills reason for optimism

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Kelvin Benjamin had a jersey and pads ready for him at his MetLife Stadium locker stall Thursday night, and when the Buffalo Bills' wide receivers ran through their initial pregame warm-ups about two hours before kickoff, Benjamin was part of that group.

Yet when the Bills took the field for what became a 34-21 loss to the New York Jets, Benjamin was on the sideline. There simply was not enough time to integrate him into the offense after a surprising Tuesday trade that plucked him from the Carolina Panthers in the middle of the season and landed him in Buffalo.

"He really only had a short amount of time to get up to speed," coach Sean McDermott said after the game. "The guys that did play put in time during the week, and so we wanted to do things the right way as far as that goes."

Unless Benjamin could block for LeSean McCoy (held to 25 rushing yards), keep pass-rushers off Tyrod Taylor (sacked seven times) or tackle Jets ball carriers, it is not likely the fourth-year wideout being active would have made much of a difference in what was a total team loss for the Bills.

However, Benjamin's addition to the lineup Nov. 12 against the New Orleans Saints at New Era Field can be viewed as a silver lining for a Bills team, now 5-3, that was embarrassed on national television Thursday.

Not only will be Benjamin be in the Bills' lineup, but there is a chance top tight end Charles Clay will play in Week 10 for the first time since tearing the meniscus and spraining the MCL in his left knee in an Oct. 8 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.

Clay had a timetable of four to six weeks to return from the injury, but he made an appearance at practice last week before the Bills hosted the Oakland Raiders. Clay, who remains the Bills' leading receiver (258 yards) despite missing the past three games, was put through a workout by trainer Shone Gipson and strength and conditioning coach Eric Ciano not long after the Bills arrived at MetLife Stadium on Thursday evening.

The Bills' problems against the Jets extended well beyond their passing offense. In fact, the normally maligned phase of Buffalo's game was a relative bright spot, outside of the problems with pass protection and fumbles by Taylor, tight end Nick O'Leary and wide receiver Jordan Matthews.

Taylor completed 29 of 40 passes for 285 yards and two touchdowns, his highest yardage output of the season. Part of that can be attributed to Taylor's 122 fourth-quarter passing yards as the Jets defense dialed it back with a comfortable lead. But Taylor completed 71 percent of his passes and averaged 7.8 yards per attempt through the first three quarters and avoided throwing an interception the entire game.

How you label Taylor's overall performance depends on which quarterback statistic is deemed important. Taylor finished the game with a 108.9 passer rating, his second-best of the season. Yet his Total QBR was a below-average 47.2, his second-worst of the season.

There is much intrigue about how Benjamin will affect Taylor's performance the remainder of the season and his fate next offseason. Having a legitimate No. 1 wide receiver is also expected to help the Bills' chances to make the playoffs.

Despite Thursday night's sloppy loss, Benjamin serves as a 6-foot-5, 245-pound reminder that hope still exists for Buffalo this season.