The Bills finished their 4th and only important preseason game with a 27-14 loss to the Tampa Buccaneers. It was a disaster the first half as the officiating thought throwing flags was “in” and the offensive line and secondary was too busy at Dave and Busters. Here is a recap with a focus on some of the key storylines.
1) The offensive line is offensive
The offensive line started with 2 guys starting at new positions in Erik Pears and Seantrel Henderson, 1 guy coming back in Cordy Glenn and rookie Cyril Richardson starting at LG due to Chris Williams being hurt. What unfolded was a disaster of epic proportions. The line struggled in pass protection as even the front four of the Bucs was able to have their way, particularly Gerald McCoy. In run blocking they were for the most part getting no push and runs were getting stuffed minus the occasional big gain by CJ Spiller. The biggest dud of the line was Cyril Richardson who really really struggled in pass protection, most of the pressure came from that one spot. Seantrel Henderson however looked really good minus a missed assignment here and there. Pears looked meh but meh is good enough compared to the other guards. Glenn looked really rusty and Wood looked like he had to take up the slack for Richardson. It was a flat out disaster and the guards are the most concern and considering the number of quality DTs the Bills will face, it is a cause for grave concern.
2) Sloppy Sloppy Sloppy
It was an extremely messy game. It began in the very first series when Scott Chandler slipped on the ground right when EJ Manuel threw him the ball, causing an interception. It continued two series later when CJ Spiller fumbled the ball to the other team. The lone drive in the first half where the Bills actually did something, it was negated by back to back penalties where it became 1st and 30 and that drive went nowhere. Players on both side were slipping everywhere and it led to wide open guys and what looked to be bad throws but were in fact a product of the slipping. Overall the Bills had 12 penalties and it seemed that every big play was negated by a penalty. While some of the calls were questionable, the fact is the Bills should have not been playing that sloppy in their tuneup game.
3) Manuel looked good….when he actually had time
EJ Manuel had a rough first half. His 1st series was going so well until his tight end decided to slip right when he threw it, resulting in an interception. On a side note, Scott Chandler has been awful, the Bills should have addressed the tight end position in the draft. His offensive line barely gave him more than two seconds to throw the ball, and the pressure was clearly messing him up, resulting in some wildly inaccurate passes (the worst being a wide open Robert Woods that Manuel misses to the right by two yards). It wasn’t all bad as he made a nice play while escaping the pocket to his right and instead of checking down to Spiller, he throws a 20 yard laser to Mike Williams. He finished the 1st half 9/18 for 67 yards.
In the 2nd half however he looked really good. In his two series he was 10/10 for 131 yards and a TD. What changed? It was still the same QB in the first half, but what happened? The big change was he actually got time to make his reads and diagnose the defense. He was going through his reads and instead of running or quickly dumping it off to avoid a hit, he stood tall in the pocket and delivered strike after strike after strike. While it wasn’t the entire first team defense for the Bucs (McCoy was thankfully already out) it was something encouraging to see against guys who will play some during the regular season for the Bucs.
Overall it was a bad game but it was also preseason. The Bills were running the exact same 4-6 plays over and over because they were keeping things very close to the chest. The Legend of Sammy wasn’t playing and the starting left guard was out too, both guys figure to be important parts of the offense. Outside of the offensive line and how unathletic Scott Chandler is, nothing really jumps out as a major concern. The good news is less than two weeks before the NFL regular season begins and College Football is right around the corner.