Orchard Park, NY (WGR 550) -- With the first game at Ralph Wilson Stadium in the books, one of the most important questions for the franchise could have been answered in just one sixty-minute session in Orchard Park.
After missing precious time in training camp and in the first preseason game, quarterback Kevin Kolb had his chance to shine in front of the adoring fans at One Bills Drive. The result? Well, the beginning merely may have been the beginning of the end to any lingering debates.
Stick a fork in it, QB competition is done
- Make whichever argument you'd like in favor of Kevin Kolb. "It was only his first game!" "He was going up against the first team of a good defense!" "He's just coming off an injury!" It really doesn't matter, because in the opinion of many (including your author) the competition to be the Week One starter for the Bills is now a dead issue. Kolb was indecisive, didn't take many chances down the field and missed many of his intermediate targets. His stats, 13-of-21 for 111 yards and an interception make it sound a little better than his day was, but Kolb did himself no favors. Couple that with EJ Manuel's drive to begin the second half where he went 6-of-6 including a touchdown toss to Brad Smith, and the conclusion for many is consistent: the rookie needs to be named the starter this year. He's the best man for the job and has outperformed Kolb throughout training camp and now in an individual preseason game. Game, set, match: Manuel.
Penalties, penalties and more penalties
- The Bills may be 2-0 in the preseason, but Head Coach Doug Marrone will not be happy about how many mental mistakes his team made on the field all throughout Friday night. Whether it was pass interferences, holding penalties or unsportsmanlike conduct calls, the Bills were hit with a little bit of everything from the referees on Friday. Their 14 penalties for 106 yards more than tripled the Vikings' penally yardage total, and more than quadrupled their penalty total. There were just some unintelligent mistakes in bad times of the game that will put some players in a bad light with a head coach that preaches to be mentally strong.
A change in mentality for the better
- It was a small decision, but certainly one that Bills fans and folks that cover the team haven't been used to in quite some time. Here's the scene: Kevin Kolb and the first-team offense have the ball at the end of the first half and they're driving it down the field. With 14 seconds to go, the Bills (who had all three timeouts, mind you) handed the ball off to Tashard Choice for a seven-yard gain and quickly called a timeout. Five seconds evaporated off the clock. What would have happened in past years? Well, from the 17-yard line with nine seconds to go, Chan Gailey and Dick Jauron both likely would have sent Rian Lindell in for the field goal and not risk losing out on the points. It's only preseason, but Doug Marrone had Kolb run a play to the end zone and took a shot at six. The look wasn't there and Kolb threw the ball away, but the willingness to take that shot is a refreshing change.
Colin Brown derailed Kolb's big drive
- The possession before that one, the Bills were actually moving the ball well with Kolb at the helm. He connected on his first five passes for 44 yards and got the Bills down to the 19-yard line. On the ensuing first-down play, Colin Brown got too grabby with his assignment and was popped for an ill-timed holding call. That put the Bills in a 1st-and-17 situation that they couldn't dig out of, and were forced to settle for the field goal. That was Kolb's best chance to salvage a bad start to the game, and it disappeared with the appearance of a piece of yellow laundry on the field.
Ross making strong case for the roster
- Outside of the obvious standout players of the game against Minnesota, one of the most dominant players of the second half was defensive lineman Jay Ross. Currently in a battle with Corbin Bryant, Jarron Gilbert and Torell Troup for a roster spot or two, Ross came out and had perhaps the best games of any defensive lineman Friday. He batted down passes, disrupted plays in the backfield and was just a nuisance to the Vikings' backups throughout the second half. Of the four names battling for a spot, Ross may be the safest bet to hook on with the 53-man roster at this point.
Marcus Easley, what are you thinking?
- For the second straight game, Marcus Easley had a very impressive start to his preseason contest. He proved to be a solid target for whichever quarterback was in the game and ended the day with three catches for 46 yards, including an impressive flag route run to the right sideline. He was his own worst enemy, however. On EJ Manuel's quarterback competition-winning drive to start the second half, his first pass was completed to Easley for a first down. The wideout went to signal a first down, but the problem was a Vikings defender was right in front of him and with the new rules, the referees took that as taunting. Easley was tagged for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for 15 yards and received a tongue-lashing from Head Coach Doug Marrone on the sidelines. He's part of a group trying to make it as the sixth wide receiver on the 53-man roster, and that mental error will not do him any favors.
No Doubtin' Dowtin
- As the game went along in the second half, linebacker Marcus Dowtin made his presence felt. To start, he made a great play to get in the backfield and pressure the quarterback. The only problem was that he had Cassel in his grips and couldn't bring him down. He shook off that play and continued to apply constant pressure as the game went along. On a two-play stretch, Dowtin stuck with the fullback Rhett Ellison in coverage and minimized his gains on a completion to the flat on second down. On the ensuing third down, Dowtin terrorized left tackle Kevin Murphy and got to quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson without even being touched to bring the passer down for the sack. Dowtin will be on the 53-man roster, without a doubt.
Da'Rick in Dog House?
- Many things have been written about wide receiver Da'Rick Rogers since the Bills signed him as an undrafted free agent after the 2013 NFL Draft. Fans were fascinated by his abilities and potential, but teams were scared to draft him for some reason. If Friday was any indication, it seems where Rogers stands with the coaching staff is fairly obvious. Even with both Stevie Johnson and T.J. Graham sidelined for the contest, Rogers was the second-to-last wideout to get an offensive rep on the roster. His first play came with 9:18 to play in the fourth quarter, after Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin, Chris Hogan, Brad Smith, Marcus Easley, Brandon Kaufman and DeMarco Sampson all got ample time on the field. Rogers is a potential guy all the way with a skill-set many will drool over, but his playing time shows that he's in the dog house with the coaching staff right now. To his credit, he made a very nice catch on one of his two targets were he had to extend his body and make the catch while falling to the turf. However, it seems he's been passed by by both Kaufman and Sampson, not just Hogan and Easley. If he doesn't turn it around quickly, there could be a very real possibility Rogers gets cut.
Bills' MVP: LB Jerry Hughes
- Without a doubt, the star of the show on Friday was outside linebacker Jerry Hughes. He started off the game at Ralph Wilson Stadium with a bang, by roasting former top-five selection and left tackle Matt Kalil for a sack on the opening defensive play for the Bills. He went on to provide numerous pressures on whichever quarterback was in the game, and even brought down the signal caller for a second time as well. Hughes got the start in place of Mario Williams who did not take a snap during the game, and really showed he could do well with the extended playing time. It's a big 'if', but if Hughes can transition all this solid play in the spring and summer into the fall, the Bills will have stolen him from the Indianapolis roster for an inside linebacker battling to make the Colts' roster.
Bills' LVP: CB Jumal Rolle
- This could have gone to Kevin Kolb because he essentially lost the job on Friday, but instead it will go to a player that was picked on continuously through the second half. Rolle made a nice play against Indianapolis on his interception, but has been a constant target by Bills' quarterbacks throughout training camp. Against Minnesota, the Vikings found Rolle to be a similarly easy target. Leading to the Vikings final touchdown in the fourth quarter, McLeod Bethel-Thompson went after Rolle for two straight plays that resulted in two receptions, 43 yards gained and a touchdown. On the two-point conversion attempt, they went after Rolle again and he was nailed for a defensive holding penalty. It was just a bad day for the small-school, undrafted free agent rookie.
-Saturday, August 24 on the road against the Washington Redskins at 4:30 pm for the all-important third preseason game.
- For good or bad, it's become painfully obvious who the starting quarterback of the Buffalo Bills should be when the team hosts New England on September 8. EJ Manuel hasn't been spectacular compared to the great quarterbacks of the league, but he's been spectacular in comparison to Kevin Kolb and that's all that matters in Buffalo at this point. It's been a few months and regardless of the venue -- whether it's practice or a game -- Manuel has been superior to the veteran Kolb. In the opinion of at least one, the future of the Buffalo Bills should start in Week One of the regular season.