Buffalo Bills Training Camp: 4 Takeaways From Preseason Loss To New York Giants

The Buffalo Bills fell short to the New York Giants during Sunday’s Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio, but there was a lot to take away from a new look defense and a revamped offense. I went back to watch the full broadcast of the game in order to get a closer look at some players and trends that stood out to me throughout the game.

Exhale, Bills Fans…Jim Schwartz’ 4-3 is NOT Dave Wannstedt’s

The Buffalo Bills' defense lined up in a "Wide 9" alignment for the first snap
The Buffalo Bills’ defense lined up in a “Wide 9” alignment for the first snap

With Jim Schwartz serving as the Bills’ third defensive coordinator in as many years, most fans were apprehensive to hear that the team would be returning to a more standard 4-3 defensive front after Mike Pettine’s hybrid scheme generated 57 sacks last season.

The Bills' nickel defensive alignment- Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams both playing "3 Technique"
The Bills’ nickel defensive alignment- Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams both playing “3 Technique” with Nigel Bradham lining up over the center

While not as aggressive blitz-wise as Pettine, it’s safe to say that Schwartz is capable of showing multiple looks out of a four-man front, that can successfully generate pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

As initially believed, Schwartz employed his “wide 9” look early and often, lining up right defensive end, Jerry Hughes, at the “Nine-Technique” or outside a tight end’s shoulder. This maximizes his speed by giving him more space against an offensive tackle.

snap 4 mario 5 robey nickel
Mario Williams played the 5, 7 and 9-techniques
Bills’ Linebackers roamed up and down the line of scrimmage throughout the game.

Schwartz showed that he wasn’t just going to rush his four defensive linemen and rely on the back-seven to cover, as he shifted fronts, moved linebackers closer to the line of scrimmage, and even drew up a zone-blitz, which had Mario Williams dropping into coverage.

Seantrel Henderson Proving to be a Steal

Seventh-round draft pick, Seantrel Henderson has made the most of his unexpected opportunity throughout training camp, as starting left tackle Cordy Glenn has been out with an undisclosed illness. Henderson has taken nearly every first-team rep at left tackle, and put on a clinic against one of the better defensive ends in the National Football League, Jason Pierre-Paul.

Henderson showed good balance in pass protection, while using his size and length to his advantage when running the ball.

Henderson held his own throughout his 30 snaps at left tackle, and looks as good as advertised. 

Battle for Final Wide Receiver Positions Up For Grabs

Chris Hogan has been making headlines throughout training camp again, and earned first-team reps over Robert Woods in the slot. Hogan caught just three balls for 12 yards, but showed his uncanny ability to gain separation on several occasions.

Behind Hogan, T.J. Graham (26 snaps), Marcus Easley (18 snaps, 10 ST snaps) and Kevin Elliott (25 snaps) are all fighting for jobs, and each made cases to see extended looks. Graham was targeted six times, but caught just two, while dropping one and having another intercepted. Elliott was targeted twice, catching a 10-yard pass on a comeback, and dropping the other. Easley made the most impact, though, proving his special teams’ prowess by blocking a punt.

Offensive Line Jobs Up For Grabs

Seantrel Henderson was the most consistent of the offensive linemen, but Cyrus Kouandjio, aside from two sacks that were remembered, showed flashes of power and dominance that made him worthy of a second-round pick.

Cyril Richardson, who has reportedly looked pretty inconsistent in practice, had a good game and showed the ability to get to the second level in the run game.

Kraig Urbik and Chris Hairston are also battling for a starting job, while Chris Williams shouldn’t be seen as a “lock” to start at left guard.

Final Thoughts

The Bills were pretty inconsistent in their first live action of the season, which is to be expected. You never want to overreact to one game, especially one where coaches are feeling out bottom of the roster players, but there were some common themes (Offensive line combinations, wide receiver snaps, etc.) that occurred throughout the contest that are at least worth keeping an eye on throughout the next week or two.