So, what did we learn from the Buffalo Bills 44-20 preseason opening romp at Indianapolis on Sunday? Not much, of course.
It’s ridiculous to put a lot of stock into a contest where only one of the teams participating seemed interested in having more points on the scoreboard. Buffalo’s starters played far longer than the Colts, and their game plan was unquestionably more aggressive. For the record, the Bills should be completely unapologetic for it. They have a brand news staff and doing everything in their power to change the culture of the franchise.
But meaningless exhibition or not, there’s things that must have fans excited. The Bills youngsters were on display for the first time in NFL game action, and overall they were extremely impressive. Two rookies quarterbacks got their first taste against live opponents, while our third-rounder strongly resembled Usain Bolt returning kicks.
It took less than three hours Sunday afternoon to conclude these aren’t the Buffalo Bills you’ve seen over the last half decade. Whether that translates to more wins when the games count, we’ll find out soon enough.
In completely random order, here’s the good, bad and ugly I took away from the Bills first preseason game.
♦ Every move E.J. Manuel makes—or doesn’t is going to be overanalyzed to death. I’m not going to do that, at least not today. There’s some things about his game that unquestionably need improvement. He’s young, raw and that’s to completely be expected. But the two minute drive at the of the first half was impressive, and I don’t care if he was playing against ninth stringers—he’s still a rookie and was playing in his first live NFL action. The decisiveness and zip on the touchdown pass to Dorin Dickerson was great to see, and the 29-yard run in the first quarter is a reason he has a chance to become the face of the franchise for years to come.
♦ It was assumed, widely at the start of training camp that Jeff Tuel at best would be snuck onto the practice squad and hopefully develop, in time into the primary backup quarterback behind E.J. Manuel. People may be a tad over excited about how Tuel played yesterday, but at this rate the Bills may need to keep him on the 53-man active roster or they’ll lose him to another team. I hardly think the Bills are ready to cut Kevin Kolb due to Tuel’s early success, but there’s no denying the kid looks really good. Completing 19-of-23 passes for 212 yards and two scores is impressive, regardless of the competition Indy’s defense was offering.
♦ Marquise Goodwin has looked rather studly in camp and took his (return) game to another level Sunday. If Goodwin stays healthy there’s no way he’s not a factor from the opening kick in Week one.
♦ Crezdon Butler has looked terrible throughout most of the early portion of training camp. He redeemed himself Sunday. Forget the interception on a Manny Lawson tipped pass—Butler looked very good in coverage and in the open field during his time on Sunday. With Ron Brooks looking shaky Sunday. and Leodis McKelvin still not fully healthy, Butler is going to get every opportunity to earn a spot on this team. For one game at least, he took full advantage.
♦ So much for the Bills not using a fullback. Frank Sommers got the start in the backfield and also had an important role in both of Goodwin’s long kick returns on special teams. Those are the kind of things that will earn him a roster spot. Coincidentally he’s wearing uniform No. 38 and at times Sunday I swear I thought the Bills still had Corey McIntyre.
♦ If it’s a foregone conclusion Marcus Easley will eventually get cut, he never got the memo. Easley had seven catches for 94 yards in the second half and could’ve easily had more. He also saw action on special teams, a factor that could matter heavily come final roster decision day. At this point if the Bills choose either Da’Rick Rogers or Chris Hogan over Easley, I’d be shocked if Easley doesn’t immediately catch on with another team.
♦ I’ve been pretty hard on Aaron Williams throughout his short Bills career and I’ll admit moving him to safety didn’t excite me. But he’s looked very good camp and took that momentum into Sunday’s game and played well. He doesn’t look a bit out of place in the secondary right now and frankly, looks a lot better than Da’Norris Searcy. Whether Jairus Byrd makes it back for the season opener or not, I’m thinking Williams is going to be in the starting lineup.
♦ Dorin Dickerson may have become a forgotten man in this offense, so he really needs an impressive preseason to show the coaches he’s worth keeping around. He certainly did his part Sunday, catching two passes for 25 yards including the 17-yard touchdown. The feeling here is Dickerson may have to jump either Mike Caussin or Lee Smith to make the roster, and possibly both. Sunday was a very good start.
♦ Really liked the game speed Kiko Alonso played at. It remains to be seen what kind of success he has, but he’s already entrenched as a starter and his speed looks miles ahead of what the Bills had at the position last year.
♦ Lastly, I loved Doug Marrone getting in David Snow’s face shortly after he botched a snap in the third quarter. It’s clear as day that these are no longer your reserved, Chan Gailey or Dick Jauron coached Bills.
♦ The play of Da’Norris Searcy isn’t making the team miss Jairus Byrd any less. Searcy got lucky with a fumble recovery stat to his credit, but his coverage was poor, particularly on Coby Fleener. Assuming Byrd eventually returns, it could be Searcy falling behind Williams, and maybe others on the depth chart.
♦ Staying with the safety position, Jonathan Meeks had two opportunities to haul in an interception, one that would’ve surely resulted in a touchdown, and he blew them both. He’s no lock to make the team and whiffing on gift wrapped, game-changing plays isn’t going to help his cause.
♦ Rian Lindell didn’t do anything wrong, but Dustin Hopkins getting first crack at handling kicking duties (he was shaky) in the first half doesn’t bode well for Lindell’s chances of making the team.
♦ During camp last week the Bills flirted with moving Cordy Glenn to guard and giving Thomas Welch first-team reps at left tackle. They may rethink that this week, as Welch was awful against the Colts. Two holding penalties and being responsible for the sack-fumble that led to a Colts touchdown surely has the staff uncomfortable this morning.
♦ David Snow snapped a ball thinking Tuel was under center. Unfortunately Tuel was in the shotgun and the botched play killed a drive and led to only a field goal attempt. Not a good look for Snow.
♦ The good Da’Rick Rogers caught a touchdown pass in the third quarter that showed why he was once a big time college prospect. The bad Da’Rick Rogers essentially stood around when the Colts picked up a fumble and ran it back for a touchdown, reminding many why he went undrafted. He’s going to be a tough decision for the Bills regardless which way they go with him. Rogers has undeniable talent and upside, but his attention and focus… or at lack thereof at times, could still lead him to the unemployment line before final cuts are over.
A home contest against Minnesota Friday evening is next on the slate.