The preseason is finally here and the Buffalo Bills have one game officially under their belts. While there was quite a bit of rust that needed to be kicked off, the team brought both positive and negative plays to the table for their first contest.
Who stood out for positive play and who needs a better preseason game number two on Friday? Here are some reactions from the game that was:
It wasn’t great, it wasn’t terrible… EJ’s day just was.
- The anticipation for EJ Manuel’s first game of the 2014 preseason was in full force with many hoping that he would eradicate the negative aspects of his game in one fell swoop. Those hoping for that type of day likely weren’t satisfied by his 2-of-7 performance that resulted in just 19 total passing yards. Despite the statistics, there was at least a pair of good things that came from Manuel’s performance. First, he was decisive on Sunday. Of the many things his coaches are trying to instill in him for the upcoming season, having that trait is distinctly among them. He also gave Mike Williams the chance to make a play on a jump ball in the end zone, another need area for him to progress. The other pockets of his game that beg for improvement are still a work in progress, however. They limited his time in the pocket during his two possessions and he got the ball out rather quickly. The problem, though, is the defense read him pretty easily on three separate occasions. The defensive line of the Giants batted down two passes and the defense very nearly intercepted one attempt when the Bills were knocking on the door deep in New York territory. So, as the title of the paragraph indicates, it wasn’t his best or worst day…. it was just a day.
Woods doesn’t play with the 1s
- One of the more intriguing aspects of the game was in regards to the usage of Robert Woods. Coming into training camp, the second-year wideout was thought to be one of the key contributors to the Bills on offense and the running mate to rookie Sammy Watkins. Except, that wasn’t the case on Sunday night. Mike Williams got the start along with Watkins and camp standout Chris Hogan took reps in the slot, relegating Woods to duties with the second-team offense. This could just be a case of getting other players looks with different teammates, but for it to come in their first preseason game is something worth monitoring as the next few practices come and go. It even took EJ Manuel by surprise, saying as much when he was asked about it after the contest. When Woods was in the game though, he made his presence felt with a few catches and the team’s lone touchdown. All eyes will be on the wide receiver rotation in the next two days of practice and the upcoming game with the Carolina Panthers.
Bradham shines versus the run
- From what it looked like in his three defensive series on the field, Nigel Bradham is doing quite well in his role as the team’s starting weakside linebacker. The Giants ran the ball for most the time that Bradham was on the field, and it seemed like the third-year linebacker was always around the carrier to bring him down. The weakside linebacker is a role that is a very high profile one in Jim Schwartz’s defense and the Bills have been speaking in a glowing manner about Bradham since training camp has begun. Despite the one-game suspension he’s facing at the beginning of the season, Bradham looks primed to be the team’s starter barring an injury or an unexpected string of poor performances.
Tuel the second-team quarterback
- The battle to be the backup to EJ Manuel is on and Jeff Tuel was the surprise second entrant into the team’s game against the Giants. The second-year, former undrafted player has been splitting second-team series with Thad Lewis during training camp, and he’s apparently outperformed Lewis to the point where he was the man getting the second-team reps versus New York Sunday. After a so-so performance by the first-team offense, Tuel entered the game, hit a few passes and started building some enthusiasm into their offensive output. Despite his interception, which was more of a bad luck deflection than anything, Tuel had a relatively solid day going up against the second and third-team defense of the Giants. And more importantly, he outperformed Lewis yet again due to another poorly thrown turnover by the latter. Lewis is losing this competition with each day he continues to play below Tuel’s level.
Seantrel has solid debut
- It was a bit surprising when after the game head coach Doug Marrone said that rookie left tackle Seantrel Henderson had a lot of work to do as an offensive tackle in the league, because from the press box perspective it seemed as though Henderson was having a solid debut. He looked under control and thwarted the efforts of Jason Pierre-Paul on the few series that they were matched up. The Bills even gave Henderson an extended look on the field, playing him into the second half to give him some additional experience rather than having him come out with the other starting players. Despite what Marrone said, it looked like Henderson had a good debut given that he’s a seventh-round pick. If there’s one thing for certain, he was infinitely better than the other tackle the team drafted in 2014.
Kouandjio has anything but
- When Marrone made his comment about Henderson, he was also asked about second-round pick and rookie tackle Cyrus Kouandjio at the same time, and he felt the same way about both of those players. Kouandjio certainly deserved that criticism after an abysmal start to his professional career. The second-round pick entered the game at right tackle with the second-team offense and promptly had two plays blow up in the backfield due to his poor execution. The first, Kouandjio misidentified who he was supposed to block and ended up taking on the same defender out wide as right guard Kraig Urbik, leaving the inside wide open for the run play to be stuffed. On the next play, Kouandjio’s balance wasn’t there and defensive end Damontre Moore made him look absolutely inept for an easy sack of Jeff Tuel. After Kouandjio ran off the field, offensive line coach Pat Morris immediately went and spoke with his rookie tackle to try and calm him down because it was really the roughest of rough starts. On his next series, he played with a bit more poise and control, but still wasn’t as effective as Henderson. Kouandjio has had a rough training camp and start to his professional career, but the Bills are in no position to give up on a player with as much talent as they saw in him at Alabama. He’s just a bit more raw than they were expecting.
Bills’ MVP: DT Kyle Williams
- The biggest play of the game in favor of the Bills was from the doing of one of their best players, and one of their defensive mainstays. Kyle Williams whipped around his man and got to Eli Manning for the sack and forced the fumble all in one play. The Bills were able to recover and were in fantastic position to put the ball in the end zone all because the disruptive Williams was able to have his way again, just as he has so many times in his career.
Bills’ LVP: CB Michael Carter
- No one person is to blame for the preseason loss because so many players made their way on to the field on Sunday. However, one play put the Giants up on the scoreboard for good, and it was a very long play that did it. Backup quarterback Ryan Nassib saw wideout Corey Washington beat Bills cornerback Michael Carter deep down the right sideline and was able to feed it to his target for a 73-yard touchdown. Carter, who has struggled at camp with both coverage and in not being able to avoid the temptation of grabbing the jersey of receivers, didn’t see the field again after that bad, bad beat.
Up Next: The Bills travel to Carolina for their second preseason game. They’ll take on the Panthers on Friday night.
- It’s still early into the process for the preseason and the Bills have more time than any team to work out all the kinks. It appeared as though their first-team defense was solid for the entirety of their time on the field, and now it’s about getting EJ Manuel to the point in which they believe he’s ready to win them games in bunches. He’s not there yet, but the team believes he can get there. It’s one very small step in the long journey that will end at the conclusion of the month of August. However, the Bills have their feet wet and now are on the same playing field as the rest of the National Football League: four more preseason tilts until the games start to mean something.