Photo: Kevin Hoffman - USA TODAY Sports

CAPACCIO: Bills-Vikings: Arrow Up/Arrow Down

The good and bad of the first preseason game

Sal Capaccio
August 11, 2017 - 1:50 am

Let's get to my first Arrows of the 2017 season, albeit the preseason. Of course, because the Bills lost, I'll start with my Arrows pointing Down:


ARROW DOWN


Penalties:

There were a lot of things different about Sean McDermott's team as opposed to Rex Ryan's team, even down to the end of the field the team warmed up (the tunnel end for the first time anyone I've spoken to can remember). But, this wasn't one of those things that was too different than what we’ve seen before. Too many times over the last couple years the Bills have hurt themselves with too many penalties. They did again in McDermott’s first game you as head coach, being called for 10 of them for 106 yards. Several were on special teams alone, which was notable. McDermott said after the game he can deal with aggressive penalties but not pre-snap flags. That's were several came from. It will have to be cleaned up.


RB Taiwan Jones and WR Rashad Ross:

Jones committed one of those special teams penalties when he inexplicably hit a punt returner or who had called for a fair catch. Then, in the fourth quarter, he dropped a ball right in his hands on fourth down that would have not only given his team a first down, but he may have even scored the tying touchdown. On that same drive just two plays earlier, Ross also dropped one on second down he should have had. In fact, the ball was in his hands but touched the turf as he fell to the ground. This isn't the way you make the football team.


QB T.J. Yates:

Not a very inspiring performance from the current No. 2 QB. He missed some throws he should've had and got happy feet in the pocket at times. He finishes 6-of-11 for 48 yards with two sacks and a 65.7 QB rating. To this point, Yates has yet to take charge of the backup role. I won't be surprised if rookie Nathan Peterman begins taking some reps in that spot next week.


3rd down offense:

McDermott said after the game good teams don't beat themselves. Obviously, penalties are one way to do that. But another way is by going for 4-of-15 (27%) on third down.
 

OT Seantrel Henderson:

In his extensive work with the first team in place of Cordy Glenn, Henderson had a tough task facing a premier pass rusher in Everson Griffen. Henderson struggled quite a bit. He's suspended for the first five games of 2017, but once he comes back, if he has to play in place of Glenn, he needs to be better than what he was Thursday night.
 

Pass protection:

It just never seemed like Bills QBs got enough time or space to do what they wanted to in the pocket. From Taylor to Yates to Peterman, there were too many times the quarterback was hurried or flushed out of the pocket. They were sacked three times and had five runs combined. None of those were by design. 

 

ARROW UP


Run offense:

The rushing offense pick right up where it left off the past two seasons, gaining 127 yards on 24 carries for a very impressive 5.3 yards per run. A great start for that phase of the offense. 


RB Jonathan Williams:

What a terrific start for Williams, who played in place of LeSean McCoy (rest). He was confident and decisive when he ran. He gained 39 yards on only four carries for an average of 9.8 yards per run.  And the best part of all of that may have been the way Williams secured the ball - using two hands in traffic - after some ball security issues last year.


Tyrod to Sammy connection:

The first three plays of the game for the Bills offense or passes to Sammy Watkins, who looked fresh and healthy. Each pass was completed and gained more yards than the last (5, 11, 14). Overall, Sammy caught four balls for 39 yards. Tyrod knew where he would be, found him, and threw strikes. A great sign. 


DE Eddie Yarbrough:

This guy just keeps making plays every day in camp, and now carried it over into the first preseason game. Yarbrough wound up with three tackles, a sack, a tackle for loss, and two QB hurries. Quite an impressive stat line debut.  With Shaq Lawson out dealing with a groin injury and Ryan Davis sitting with a concussion, Yarbrough not only got work with the first-team but the second-unit, as well. He showed his early production at camp is no fluke.


Run defense:

Only 3.1 yards allowed per carry on 29 runs. Less than 100 yards allowed in a game they were trailing in the second half. One of the things McDermott said his team needed to do better this year was stop the run. They're off to a good start in that department.


QB Nathan Peterman:

The rookie made mostly good decisions and threw some very nice balls, including a beauty touchdown to Dez Lewis on a fade pattern. He showed athleticism and toughness getting out of the pocket and running for 26 yards. He also wasn't helped a couple times by drops. It wasn't perfect by any means for Peterman, who also missed some targets he should have hit. But It was a solid performance.


No injuries:

I’ll end this section with maybe the most important note of all. Preseason games are mostly about getting out healthy and the Bills seemed to do that. RB Jonathan Williams did have a hamstring issue that forced him to leave the game, but he should be fine. LB Tanner Vallejo left with a shoulder issue, but that's also nothing to be too concerned about at this time. Overall, good news on the injury front, and that's the best news of all.

 

THE BIG PICTURE

Hey, one down and only three to go before it really counts. The scoreboard didn't wind up the right way for the Bills, and there were plenty of things for Coach McDermott and his staff to have to go back and correct. But, for the most part, things went pretty smoothly in their first live action. Communication was good, rookies got their feet wet, and as just written above, they got out with no major injuries. All Bills fans should take that for any preseason game. Time to move on to the next one, which will be next Thursday night in Philadelphia against the Eagles at 7 PM.


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