We all know that what you see in the preseason often isn’t worth much more than a penny or two, but there are certainly some things that are worth noting. I saw a few things from the Bills on Sunday that give me hope that when the regular season comes we won’t be seeing the “same old Bills.”
“Flashy” Special Teams Play
The Bills special teams played very well except for a couple of missteps that cost them some field position. They made up for these mistakes by stopping the Colts return man four times inside the 15 yard line. Obviously the most impressive part of this Buffalo Bills special teams unit was the legs and vision of Marquise “Flash” Goodwin. We all knew that he had speed, especially when all the draft commentary about him revolved around his Olympic appearance. I think everyone knows now that he is a football player through and through. Using great field vision as well as his speed he had two great returns. The first for 53 yards setting the Bills up with great field position, and allowing them to put their first points on the scoreboard this season. The second being that 107 yard bolt to the end zone that is sure to help fill highlight reels!
Defensive Mean Streak
After last year, seeing just about anything good on defense would be a breath of fresh air, and the first glimpse that we got at Mike Pettine’s new Bills defense was just that. We only saw a pure starting defense for a couple of series, but throughout the game we saw a scheme that is much more aggressive. Not only was the system aggressive, but the players matched that style with aggressive play, and hard hitting. I have to think that this defensive unit actually believes in what Pettine is trying to accomplish, and how he is trying to do it which is a stark contrast to what we saw a season ago.
QB Play: More than one good “Tuel” in the Box
EJ Manuel started out shaky in his first drive as he completed only one of his three passes for negative yardage, but as the first half went on he started to find his form. He ended it with a beautiful 92 yard, two minute drive where he completed eight of nine passes and capped it with a touchdown pass to Dorin Dickerson. The coaches set him up for success with a lot of safe short passes over the middle, and Manuel executed them with confidence. Also worth noting is that he was without two players who would have been big targets: Stevie Johnson and Scott Chandler.
I also loved that Marrone and Hackett allowed Manuel to play for the whole first half. The experience is extremely valuable not just for Manuel in his progression as a quarterback, but also for the coaching staff in their evaluation of the quarterback battle. Every piece of information they can get is worth it’s weight in gold.
Jeff Tuel impressed me a lot in the second half; actually much more than Manuel did in the first. Yes, I know that he was playing against second and third string defenses, but he was also playing with second and third string players around him. Tuel made good decisions and was able to hit a couple receivers downfield. Marcus Easley was the biggest target for him, but he threw two touchdown passes to Rogers and Kaufman. In the end he ended up going 19-23 for 212 yards and the two touchdowns which is a really good day for the undrafted free agent from Washington State.
There were definitely some sloppy plays from the Bills including a dropped interception, a couple pretty poor throws, and a fumble on a handoff to CJ Spiller. If we were four or five weeks in the future all of these things would worry me, but in the first real live action of the year it is a pretty normal thing. All these things obviously need to be cleaned up, but it’s still a long road to the regular season, and there is a lot of time to get where we need to go!