The Bills have played 2 preseason games which means they finally played enough to have a large enough sample size to be properly judged (though that didn’t stop the overreactions, which were ubiquitous). Now here is the Good, Bad and Ugly of the 1st two preseason games.
The Good: The Bills defense is legit
Interesting stat, through the 1st three series, the Bills defense allowed 4 total yards. The largest reason was because of a front four which has the likes of Kyle Williams, Mario Williams and Marcell Dareus who is now in shape. Those four have fit perfectly in the scheme of Jim Schwartz where they are able to cause as much pressure as possible on the offensive line and hopefully Quarterback. Stephon Gilmore has played pretty well minus a play where Kelvin Benjamin (who the Bills should have drafted) made a ridiculous catch. The linebackers look good enough with Spikes being very good in the run and Nigel Bradham has filled in well for Kiko and Keith Rivers is serviceable. The only concern is the safety position opposite Aaron Williams but if the front four does its job, that should mask that glaring hole.
Another Good: Sammy can catch everything he can get his hands on
1st round pick Sammy Watkins has been a internet sensation during practice. During the games he may not have been as legendary but his catching ability has been as good as advertised. During the Panthers game Watkins caught three passes for 21 yards. Two of them were off-target but that did’t stop him as he caught those with ease. The best catch was on 1st down in the red zone where Manuel threw it behind him. Instead of turning around to catch it, Watkins just stuck his hands out and caught it without turning his head. That is encouraging as it doesn’t force EJ Manuel to have Tom Brady accuracy.
The Bad: Passing Game could use some work
EJ Manuel is in a crucial year, with a new ownership in the horizon, him and Coach Dough Marrone are in a win or go work for ESPN kind of year. Last year Manuel struggled with accuracy as he underthrown deep balls, threw sideline passes into the press box (slight exaggeration) and lot of his passes were thrown where the defender could make a play. So far his accuracy has looked better, he is throwing it where only his receiver can make a play and outside of a pass thrown to the Giants linebacker, every pass was thrown where the defender couldn’t make a play. However the concern is his progressions. At this stage, Manuel is still a one read QB, if his 1st read isn’t open, he either stares at the 1st read, or scrambles when pressure finally comes. It is very common in young QBs, especially the athletes playing QB such as Colin Kaepernick, Cam Newtwon and Robert Griffin III. While he is getting better and is able to progress to his 2nd read, he still has the habit of locking on to his 1st read and maybe checking down. It is an area where he is slowly but surely improving but considering the cornerbacks he will be facing, it is something he needs to get better on. Good news is he has a receiver that can do this.
The Ugly: The offensive line is horrible
The Bills offensive line has been playing pretty badly so far. The only player who is playing well is center Eric Wood. Left Guard Chris Williams has been a disaster, the dual right tackles of Erik Pears and Cyrus Kouandjio has struggled in pass protection and the right guard duo of Cyril Richardson and Kraig Ubrik has been meh. The only promising player is Left Tackle Seantrel Henderson who minus a play where he forgot to block Jason Pierre Paul, has been playing well enough that he should be starting right tackle when Cordy Glenn comes back. The worst moment came in their 1st series against the Panthers where they were on the goal line and ran it up the gut 4 times and were unable to get any push into the end zone. Overall the run blocking has been bad and the the quick strike pass game has masked the poor pass protection. So far things don’t look good, the only saving grace is Cordy Glenn has been cleared to return which means hopefully their top 10 LT will be back week 1 to protect Manuel’s blindside.