MINNEAPOLIS -- In the Buffalo Bills' second preseason contest, the end result was not indicative of how well the team played as a whole.
Just like with any exhibition game, there was a bit of a disjointed momentum for the Bills as they continued along their preparations for the regular season.
There were some solid performances, and there were certainly some that a few would like to have left in Minnesota at the Metrodome.
Here are some of my reactions from the Bills' second straight preseason loss:
- When the Buffalo Bills signed Vince Young in the off-season, they did and said all the right things. They told the media that it would be a competition for the backup role, even though most, if not all, believed they were looking for a reason to give Young the number-two job. They split reps by days with the two men for fairness' sake. I think the time for giving both players an equal shot is now over and done with. Fans were looking for that one moment of clarity with Young, one that they didn't get through training camp and against the Redskins. And there it was to start the second half. With a simple flick of the wrist that looked effortless, Young completed a deep pass to rookie T.J. Graham which will be the highlight of his preseason. The play gained 64-yards, but the trust level gained by fans to know he's capable of those types of plays will mean significantly more. Three plays later, the Bills were in the end zone. The backup job, for my money, has been decided. The second team will barely get any time in the third preseason game. Combine Young's drive with Thigpen's day, I think this one's over.
- It actually started off as an okay performance for Thigpen. They kept it short and simple for him as he was trying to move the third-team offense along. Thigpen was hitting on quick little routes and moving the chains. Once he started to open it up a bit, his accuracy dipped significantly. It led to the first of the two Audie Cole interceptions that were returned for a touchdown on consecutive plays. Cole read his eyes the whole way as a rookie third-string linebacker who is a liability in coverage. I'm sure that's not the impression he wanted to leave the coaching staff with considering Young's final drive was his most impressive as a Bill.
- Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick had a bit of a better day against the Vikings than in the first preseason game. He was able to find some of his receivers in stride and build a little bit of a head of steam. It wasn't a perfect day, but hitting throws like the one to Stevie Johnson over the middle (that he fumbled) and then the touchdown to Donald Jones were the highlights of his performance I thought. It's a good stepping stone performance.
A couple of things from that point:
- Stevie Johnson cannot hold the football like a loaf of bread. Chris Cook came over and stripped him clean because he didn't tuck the ball in to his body. Lucky for him it's just the preseason and he can correct that without it actually hurting his team.
- Donald Jones had a big grin on his face after the game in the locker room when he was talking about his touchdown. Considering all the ankle problems he went through last year, he said the touchdown felt great. He had a bit of everything rolled in to one. Fitzpatrick hit him in stride over the middle, he broke a tackle and then sped his way to the goal line and even dove in to the end zone. That play is exactly what the Bills like about Jones all rolled in to one. His physicality to go over the middle, break a tackle, and then get away from defenders with his speed -- if his hands are consistent, he could be in line for a solid season.
- It was a ho-hum day for the running game as far as the first team is concerned. Fred Jackson ended the day with five carries for 27 yards, whereas C.J. Spiller had two carries for negative-3 yards. Chan Gailey admitted after the game that a block was missed on a Spiller run that led to a huge loss (-8) and his average to really suffer. It's still a work in progress at this point with the offensive line still trying to get fully healthy.
- Speaking of that offensive line, the day of Cordy Glenn was only okay. Glenn started at left tackle and took all the first team reps there. Glenn had a holding penalty, along with a false start that will garner some flack from the coaching staff. But he also looked solid against a wide rush from Everson Griffen on one play in particular. That's thought to be the weakest part of his game at this point, and he showed the feet to stick with it and stay right there with his man. Also, on a run play, Glenn had his man on the ropes and could have finished off his block, but instead just gave a half-hearted shove. He got the job done, but I like when linemen have that killer mentality to punish a guy when he gets off-balance. As a whole though, Glenn was solid but not spectacular.
- It was nice to see the defensive line finally start to get some pressure and bring down the quarterback in the first few series. Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus got the sacks, but I thought the best defender on the first team was Mark Anderson. He played his role very well against the run, attracted both blockers on a stunt with Kyle Williams which led to his sack, and was just flying all over the field.
- The Bills are really going to have to consider keeping a fourth safety on their 53-man roster if undrafted free agent rookie Delano Howell keeps it up. Howell was solid in run support all game long in his first game with the second-team defense. In fact, that was the first time I'd seen him worked in with the two's all throughout training camp and the preseason. He stepped up in a big way. Now he just has to continue it if he wants to make this team.
- The last bit I'll leave you with is about Kelvin Sheppard. The middle linebacker had a two-play stretch where a couple of big plays happened that were his fault. On a big run play by Toby Gerhart, he allowed his blocker to eat him up which opened up the hole to gaping status. The next play, he had Gerhart in coverage and let him get the inside, and then lost him completely. Sheppard needs to keep getting more and more reps to become the linebacker the Bills think he can be. That's likely why you saw him in there so often with the second-team defense as well.
MVP: S Delano Howell -- The safety caught the eye of the coaching staff with five tackles and a fumble recovery. For someone that was thought to be dead-in-the-water in terms of being cut, that's the best thing he could ask for.
LVP: QB Brad Smith -- Interception on his first pass play, and it wasn't even close. Yeesh.
Up Next: Saturday, August 25 vs. Pittsburgh at Ralph Wilson Stadium.