The Buffalo Bills came up short in their preseason opener, falling to the Carolina Panthers, 28-23. The result of these games are not as important as the regular season, with the focus mainly on fringe players making a case to be on the 53-man roster come September. Overall, I was impressed by how the Bills played, and the performance started the season off on a good note. Here are some of my observations and opinions on the game.
The first-team defense looked impressive in the short amount of time they were on the field. The Bills secondary is going to cause opposing quarterbacks fits this season. Most of the Cam Newton’s competitions were checkdowns to the running back or full back, who were covered by a linebacker. Vontae Davis looked strong and healthy, and should be a competent second cornerback alongside Tre’Davious White. I look forward to seeing what the secondary can produce this season, and expect multiple Pro Bowl appearances from its ranks.
The defensive line is also much improved from last season. Shaq Lawson kept the momentum from a strong training camp going and batted down a pass to force a punt. Rookie Harrison Phillips also recorded a sack after beating his man one-on-one and getting into the backfield. I am looking for a much more stout run defense this season, as well as a revitalized pass ruch with a lot of new blood on the line.
Marcus Murphy was a standout from the running back position. He made plays all night, catching screen passes and running for a touchdown. If he can keep up this level of production, Chris Ivory could have some competition for the backup running back position. Also, Kelvin Benjamin balled out in his limited playing time. There are parts of his game that worry me, like his likeness to bobble passes and the fact that he really only ran two routes (hitch, go). Nevertheless, if he can stay healthy he could be a real asset to the Bills this season.
Nobody can argue that Nathan Peterman did not looked impressive, going 9 for 10 with a touchdown and an interception. He connected with Benjamin on many different occasions, including his touchdown pass.
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First touchdown of the preseason…
— Buffalo Bills (@buffalobills) August 9, 2018
However, I think that his statline is misleading to those who did not watch the game. He only threw one incompletion, but it was an interception. His first pass could have easily been picked off if pass interference hadn’t been called, plus 8 of his 9 completions were on passes inside of 5 yards. This concerns me because I do not think that this style of offense will work in the regular season and against teams who have good secondaries.
A.J. McCarron was equally as impressive in his Bills debut. He did things that Peterman did not and looked to be more comfortable under center. Where Peterman looked to be playing it safe in order to not lose his job, McCarron took risks and moved the ball down the field in order to win the job. McCarron worked the pocket to create more time for his receivers to be open and looked down the field and over the middle. I am not sure if the plat calls were different for the two quarterbacks, but it looked like the plays were either better for McCarron, or he simply made more plays down the field than Peterman. If it was up to me, McCarron would be the starter come Week 1 because I think he offers a lot more versatility from the position.
After his second half performance yesterday, a something about Josh Allen became clear to me. First, he is very talented and is the future starter for the Bills, but is not ready to be the guy yet. He needs to be coached up and learn timing as well as improve his knowledge of the game before he takes over. The future of the Bills is based on his growth and development, and giving him some time to take in the game and learn from McCarron and Peterman could be incredibly helpful down the road.