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Posted: Wednesday, 11 September 2013 12:09AM

Upon Further Review: Bills vs Patriots



(WGR 550) -- The first week of the regular season is in the books and the Buffalo Bills are about to move on to their upcoming contest against the Carolina Panthers. But before the channel gets changed from the Bills' last minute loss to the New England Patriots, first is a detailed analysis of each player that took an offensive and defensive snap for Buffalo.

Every week, with the help of the All-22 film available through NFL.com's Game Rewind package, WGR will provide the standouts, the duds and everything in between from the game that was.

For each player that appeared in the game on offense or defense, you'll see their name in bold, with a set of numbers in parenthesis. Example: Tyrion Lannister (54, -2, 2.7). The first number (54) represents the snap count of that game, the second (-2) represents the individual players plus-minus of positive plays to negative plays in that game. The third number (2.7) represents the weighted Grade Point Average assigned to that player by the author. In future editions, there will be a fourth number that will represent a player's season-long GPA.

OFFENSE (63 total plays)

Quarterback
The highly anticipated debut of first-round pick EJ Manuel (63, +2, 3.0) got off to a slow start, hit it's climax in the third quarter and then dipped back down during the home stretch of the contest.

Early on, Manuel was doing the little things correctly. In the first quarter, defender Rob Ninkovich correctly identified the read-option and stayed home, running with Manuel as he rolled out. Manuel changed the angle of his throw and found Scott Chandler for a smart dump-off throw. The rookie was almost intercepted three times in the first half. The first was on a fly route to Robert Woods that was the correct read, but Manuel did not throw it far enough, making it into a jump ball situation with cornerback Alfonzo Dennard.

After a couple more near turnovers, he hit is stride at the end of the first half with a 19-yard completion to Chandler in which he threw the tight end open up the seam in the middle of zone coverage. On the same drive, he recognized cornerback Aqib Talib's hesitation in zone coverage and found Woods for his first career touchdown.

In the second half, Manuel found open running room for the first time on a scramble, getting outside the pocket for a 19-yard gain. That happened to be on the Bills' first drive of the second half, which also was the same series that Manuel completed his best pass of the day. Placing it perfectly between the cornerback in coverage and the safety coming over the top, the first-round pick arced it into the grasp of Stevie Johnson for his second touchdown toss of the game. Manuel overcame breakdowns from his offensive linemen in the third quarter as well, even pulling a spin move to escape the pocket, roll out and find a receiver down the field to avoid a sack.

In the fourth quarter, Manuel struggled to find the touch he had near the middle of the contest. He missed badly on a fly route down the left sideline to T.J. Graham, who had a step on his man in 1-on-1 coverage with no safety help. The rookie's throw was too long and way out of bounds. He also missed badly on two throws during the team's final drive of the game in which they had the lead, and then settled for a four-yard throw on a 3rd-and-10 situation. On that same play, had Manuel waited an extra second, Graham was coming free on an 11-yard out route.

The rookie took no sacks in his first game, fortunately limited his turnovers and had a respectable stat line. The playbook featured mostly short throws that didn't leave him in the pocket for a long amount of time. As the season progresses, that trend will likely change as Manuel grows more and more comfortable.

Running Back
It was an inauspicious debut for C.J. Spiller (37, -1, 2.3), who came into the season billed as one of the top breakout candidates in the NFL. An early fumble on a sweep to the left set the tone for his day. The bigger problem was his inability to take the cutback lanes that were given. Spiller did not look like he did in 2012, lacking the explosion and burst that made him a household name in fantasy football circles. Fred Jackson (26, +4, 3.3) wasn't expected to have quite as big a role as he had on Sunday, but the veteran flourished with the chance. Opposed to Spiller, Jackson was taking the cutback lanes for solid yardage. He also showed well in pass protection, even knocking defensive end Chandler Jones on his back on one play.

Wide Receiver
The day of the receivers will be headlined by the fourth quarter drop by Stevie Johnson (62, 0, 2.7). It was a play that needed to be made in a crucial moment, but one that shouldn't define his day completely. Although not a huge day from a statistical standpoint, Johnson had a good feel early on when he shook off a jam attempt and got to the middle of the field for a big gain. His play of the day was the touchdown catch feathered to him from Manuel, sprawling out to secure the reception in the end zone. Johnson was brought into the slot and even served as an important blocker on some run plays. He missed two key blocks that could have led to bigger gains; one on a reverse and the other on a cutback. Rookie Robert Woods (61, +1, 2.7) had only one reception, but it was fairly important considering it was the first touchdown pass of EJ Manuel's career. On one of the few shots taken down the field, Woods beat Alfonzo Dennard on a 1-on-1 opportunity in which the ball was not placed well by Manuel. T.J. Graham (60, 0, 2.3) had a quiet day. His only noticeable play on the field was a 1-on-1 opportunity on a fly route down the left sideline where his quarterback missed badly. He also ran a reverse and had a holding penalty which was declined. Rookie Marquise Goodwin (9, -1, 1.67) fumbled on his only reception of the contest, leading to fantastic field position for New England. He left the game with a fracture in his hand and will miss some time.

Tight End
Unlike the last regime, Doug Marrone and Nathaniel Hackett did not utilize many two tight-end sets. Scott Chandler (57, -2, 2.3) saw the most action and had a poor start to his day. On the C.J. Spiller fumble, the tight end lost his block that contributed to the breakdown. He also had a pair of penalties early on (false start, block in the back) and a drop on what could have been around a 27 yard gain if he completed the over-the-shoulder catch. On the first of the team's touchdown drives, Chandler had a key 19-yard catch over the middle of the field where he found the soft spot in zone coverage. On the lone scramble made by EJ Manuel, Chandler provided a very good wedge block to give his quarterback an easy path to the sidelines and to not take a hit from an oncoming defender. Lee Smith (2, 0, 2.3) spent very little time on the field on offense. He was in on consecutive plays in the first half when the Bills were backed up to their own goal line.

Offensive Line
For the most part, the offensive line had a solid day.  Unfortunately for the Bills, the play of their left guard Colin Brown (63, -10, 0.7) made him the worst player on their sidelines, and it wasn't even close. In his defense, Brown did draw the toughest assignment perhaps of any player, having to block Vince Wilfork almost every play. However, it didn't matter if it was in the run game or in pass protection, Brown was often seen lunging from a missed block to try and recover. Too many plays of the Bills were broken up because of his poor play. His performance must pick up or the Bills could potentially look elsewhere to shore up what is mostly a solid unit. Left tackle Cordy Glenn (63, +2, 3.3) had the most impressive day. His assignment was mostly second-year player Chandler Jones, and he performed very well showing quick enough feet throughout the game. Glenn did take a penalty for illegal hands to the face on a potential 19-yard gain, though. Center Eric Wood (63, +1, 3.0) did well against stunts and in combo blocks with some of his teammates. He was late on one play where he had to pull, and the man he was supposed to block ended up making the play. Right tackle Erik Pears (63, +1, 3.0) capably used his size to help keep a quicker Rob Ninkovich away from the quarterback for the most part. Pears did allow Manuel to get hit by Ninkovich on one play in the third quarter. The right tackle was most effective in the run game. Right guard Kraig Urbik (63, 0, 2.7) was up and down in a tough matchup against long-time Oakland starter Tommy Kelly. Urbik's ability in the run game was his most impressive.

DEFENSE (91 total plays)

Defensive Line
The quartet of defensive linemen that rotated through was led by the efforts of Marcell Dareus (72, +3, 3.3) who actually had one of the worst starts to the game of anyone on the team. He had an early penalty call and was getting pushed around with ease early on. However, once the game got to the second half Dareus started to take over. He was getting penetration on run plays and using his athleticism to run on a horizontal plane when runners bounced it out wide. When Dareus is on, he can be dominant. When he's not, he disappears completely, which is exactly what the Bills have to figure out with him. Kyle Williams (65, +2, 3.0) didn't have a flashy first half and then made his presence felt in the fourth quarter. His sack on third down in the red zone could have been one of the key plays to a potential Bills victory, but we know how it all turned out. Alex Carrington (57, -1, 2.3) was the weakest of the starters. Contrary to the day Dareus had, Carrington started off very strong and was getting pushed around more as the game progressed. He had an especially rough fourth quarter in the run game where the Patriots found some success running to his side. Reserve Alan Branch (33, +2, 3.0) found much success in a limited role. He had a pair of very nice pass rushes and blew by Logan Mankins on one play to disrupt a Stevan Ridley first quarter run in the backfield.

Rush Linebacker
Although the spotlight isn't quite as bright in 2013 as it was in 2012 for Mario Williams (73, +1, 2.7) fans are still expecting a big impact from the $100 million man. Williams did not register a sack but showed well in containing the edge against the run in the early going. He also pressured the pocket a few times that helped force a premature throw from Tom Brady. The edge contain was not as good in the second half, registering almost as many negative plays as he had positive in the first half. Jerry Hughes (62, +1, 3.0) provided three different pass rushes that forced Brady to hurry up a throw, move around the pocket and he even got there quickly enough to put a hit on the quarterback after he delivered his pass. Hughes was called for two offsides penalties, both of which were declined.

Middle Linebacker
The debut of rookie linebacker Kiko Alonso (91, +3, 3.3) was a mostly solid one. Although he got caught being a bit too aggressive at times, Alonso showed poise in both run support, in coverage and also displayed natural instincts. The best plays of his afternoon all came in clutch moments in the second half. He used his quickness to get sideline to sideline and force the speedy Shane Vereen back inside for no gain on a third quarter play. With the Patriots on the door-step on 3rd-and-goal in the third quarter Alonso stuffed the running back at the 1-yard line, which set up for Brady's eventual fumble that the linebacker recovered on 4th-and-goal. On the negative side, he showed a tendency to over-pursue at times and was even a tad hesitant in coverage a couple of times. All in all however, Alonso had a strong debut. Arthur Moats (24, +2, 2.7) showed well in a limited amount of time on the field. His best play was a tackle for loss of LeGarrette Blount where the Patriots missed a blocking assignment and Moats had a free shot at the runner. His lone negative play was in over-pursuit of a first quarter run. He followed the fullback instead of tracking the runner and it contributed to a 20-yard gain on the ground.

Weakside Linebacker
In a mild surprise, second-year linebacker Nigel Bradham (19, +2, 2.7) didn't get nearly as much time on the field as expected. Bradham was more of a sub-package player and contributed most in the coverage aspect of the game. He displayed good man coverage on a pair of plays in the red zone in the fourth quarter. Jamaal Westerman (3, 0, 2.0) was brought out to be a pass rusher on three individual plays, and didn't provide anything noticeable for either good or bad reasons.

Strongside Linebacker
Although he isn't the hell-raising pass-rusher that San Francisco hoped he would have been when they took him in the first round back in 2006, Manny Lawson (37, +3, 3.3) has carved a niche as a fantastic defender against the run. He uses his length so well to help contain the edge and give his teammates an opportunity to make a play. For being such a lanky player, Lawson is able to change directions quite well. His best example was a play where he started moving right, shifted left to avoid a block, and then continued right to bring down the ball carrier for no gain. The Bills' run defense will be improved this season, and he deserves some of the credit.

Cornerback
With the absence of second-year player Stephon Gilmore, the Bills depended on Leodis McKelvin (90, +2, 3.0) and Justin Rogers (87, -3, 2.0) to pick up the slack. McKelvin had the more impressive game of the two, sticking with his assignments in man-to-man coverage throughout much of the game. His biggest problem area was staying with the receiver on comeback routes. He was burned twice along the sideline by that route in particular. He prevented a touchdown in the back of the end zone by pushing an airborne Kenbrell Thompkins out of bounds before he could get both feet in for six points. Rogers played off-man most of the game, and it really hurt him early on. You can't give quick-twitch receivers like Danny Amendola or Julian Edelman too much of a cushion or else they'll burn you. While Rogers made some solid plays in run support and had a gift of an interception, he let up some big plays. In the fourth quarter, Rogers was beaten by Edelman on a post route and then missed the tackle which allowed a 35-yard gain. There were also times that Rogers got beat clean off the line of scrimmage, but Brady didn't see them and made his throws elsewhere. Nickel cornerback Nickell Robey (67, +2, 3.0) played very well for an undrafted free agent rookie. He overcame his size and stayed right with his assignment for the entirety of the game. He has already shown potential to be a solid solution at nickel, provided he stays healthy. Ron Brooks (10, +1, 2.7) formerly held that job but still got a handful of snaps for the Bills. Brooks made a big open field tackle in the fourth quarter on Shane Vereen before being diagnosed with a fracture in his left foot after the game.

Safety
Making his first start at safety, Aaron Williams (91, -3, 2.0) was one of just two players to play every snap on defense against the Patriots. He got caught cheating a couple of times and the experienced Tom Brady looked to take advantage on both occasions. Williams must be careful, especially when he's in a single-high safety look, to not take too many false steps and open up an opportunity that wouldn't normally be there. That's part of the learning curve for him this season. Da'Norris Searcy (60, +2, 3.0) had the strongest game of the three main safeties that got time on the field. When going to a nickel look, Searcy dropped down into the box to become a de facto linebacker. It was there he showed his abilities as an instinctive defender against the run. In coverage though, Searcy still leaves a lot to be desired. He was beat badly on a double-move by Shane Vereen, and was lucky Brady's throw to the runner was out of reach or else it would have went for a big play. His fumble return for a touchdown was his headlining play, but his instincts made his game a rather solid one. Jim Leonhard (57, -2, 2.3) got a lot of time on the field considering he hadn't even been with the Bills for a week. Brady threw his first touchdown pass over Leonhard to Julian Edelman, which left the safety twisting in the wind. There were also a couple of missed tackles on big gains in the rushing attack during the fourth quarter that plagued Leonhard. The Bills are patiently waiting for Jairus Byrd to be healthy so Searcy can return to more of a situational role and Leonhard wouldn't be as big a part of the defensive game plan. Rookie Duke Williams (4, -1, 2.0) played, and was flagged for being the extra man on a too many men penalty call.

'Upon Further Review' Game MVP: DL Marcell Dareus
'Upon Further Review' Game LVP: LG Colin Brown

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

All photos courtesy of AP
Do EJ Manuel's performances at training camp matter at all?
  Yes. If he's going to be better in year 2, it starts now
  No. I wouldn't start evaluating him until the pre-season games
 
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